It’s been a devastating month for the family of Bonnie and Gregory Burns, whose lives were taken at their home on James Smith Cree Nation during a deadly, mass stabbing on Sept. 4.
Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) Chief Mark Arcand, who is Bonnie’s brother and Gregory’s uncle, says what happened at their home, shouldn’t happen to anyone.
“It was invaded and at the end of the day, she was trying to save her family and was killed doing it,” says Arcand on the latest episode of Face to Face.
Arcand says his sister was the matriarch of the family who took care of her four children and two foster kids. He feels Bonnie should be remembered as a hero.
“She died saving her family. She couldn’t save her oldest boy but to have a woman stand up to grown men in a brutal attack like that, it’s heroism,” says Arcand.
“And people need to look at violence against Indigenous women from Indigenous people. We’ve got to call that the truth and we’ve got to really address that issue because there are women and children that died here.
“For her to be at home with her family, taking care of her kids, and having this situation happen at her house where we all go to bed at night thinking our home is going to be safe and this situation happened and it’s an ugly situation and its ripped our family apart and that’s why we look at her as her protecting her family.”
Police say Myles Sanderson and his brother Damien went on a stabbing spree that ended with 10 people dead and another 18 in hospital.
Damien Sanderson’s body was discovered on Sept. 5 with wounds, police described as, not self-inflicted. Myles Sanderson died shortly after being taken into custody on Sept. 7. His cause of death hasn’t been publicly announced.
Saskatchewan’s chief coroner says two public inquests will be held. One will focus on the 11 deaths, which include Damien Sanderson who was initially named by RCMP as a suspect. The other will focus on the death of suspect Myles Sanderson, who died in police custody.
Arcand says he and his family need to look forward and begin healing.
“We need to take care of the young boys who have seen a lot of trauma,” says Arcand who says one of his nephews was stabbed in the neck and another witnessed everything while hiding behind a high chair.
A Go Fund Me campaign was set up in memory of Bonnie and Gregory to lessen the financial burden on the surviving families.
The money raised will be going toward counselling for Bonnie’s husband Brian and the boys.
“This is something you wouldn’t wish on anybody or any family. It doesn’t matter if you’re Indigenous or non-Indigenous, we need to come together as a province and as a country and show an understanding for this tragedy,” says Arcand.
On the season premiere of Face to Face, Arcand also spoke about the STC’s efforts to help Saskatoon’s most vulnerable.
STC has taken the lead on homelessness in Saskatoon last December when they opened the Emergency Wellness Centre. Arcand says roughly 1,000 different individuals use the 70-bed facility, every month. More than 80 per cent of those accessing the facility are First Nations people.
STC’s efforts have been met with some opposition.
“We think about this as a humanity because it’s about people first and foremost but some businesses were out there, not in my backyard. So I challenged them and said well which backyard? Tell me. Because at the end of the day nobody could come up with a solution,” he says.
“But people always pick at us and say people are coming downtown with all their belongings. Yes, they are. Where are they supposed to go?”
“We have no benches downtown for people to sit on. There’s always a complaint with no solution. And unfortunately, it bothered me because I don’t think we’re doing anything wrong.”
Arcand says STC is looking to open another shelter in the next few months that would house 175 more beds.