Dozens of family members of Bonnie Lee Goodvoice Burns, 48, and her son, Gregory “Jonesy” Burns, 28, packed a Saskatoon conference room to support one another as they told the media about their loved ones.
Burns’ brother, Mark Arcand, the chief of the Saskatoon Tribal Council, today asked that people not refer to him as such and explained, “I’m just a kid from the rez” who is hurting deeply and that his family has “shed a lot of tears in the past couple days.”
Arcand described his sister as a “true matriarch” who died protecting her family and did everything for her kids and others.
He said Burns is “not a victim, she was a hero.”
According to Arcand, Burns was at home with her four sons the morning of the attacks.
Her husband, Brian Burns, was away. He’s a chariot racer and was at an event in another province.
Arcand said his nephew Gregory was a young man with “opportunities,” and was a great kid and did what he could to help his mom and dad, his community and his younger brothers.
He said those are the things they want people to remember his sister and nephew for.
The RCMP say on Sept. 4, Damien Sanderson, 31 and his brother Myles Sanderson, 32, went on a stabbing rampage killing 10 and wounding 17 more.
Damien Sanderson was found dead in the community on Sept. 5. According to police, he had sustained a number of injuries that “were not self-inflicted.”
Myles Sanderson was taken into police custody on Wednesday afternoon.
Describing the day of the stabbings, Arcand, like many people in Saskatchewan, woke up to the emergency alerts that morning and then saw he had several missed calls.
“Driving to the community that day was the longest two hours of my life, not knowing what to expect,” Arcand said. “When I got to the community, I went to the community health center and I asked where.”
A community member told him where his sister was, and Arcand said he was angry, but that it wouldn’t solve anything.
“One of the things that have traumatized me through this whole process is the visual scene that I saw that day. When we got there, it must have been about one o’clock in the afternoon and this incident would have happened about 6 or 7 in the morning.” Arcand said.
“Right outside of her home, she was killed.”
Arcand said a woman in the community came up and told him Bonnie had tried to call for help.
“Bonnie was actually trying to phone her, and Rhonda said I was sleeping. This was early in the morning because Rhonda was part of the community response team that goes to situations that happen like this in the community,” Arcand said.
But Burns couldn’t reach her friend and called another woman, who also became a victim.
Arcand said Bonnie died alongside Gregory and their bodies lay outside the home for the bulk of the day while the scene was being investigated.
Burns’ second oldest child, Dayson, was also stabbed in the neck but survived. He was well enough to attend the news conference. Mason and the youngest Grayson were also in attendance.
Arcand said the children will need everyone’s support going forward.
“These children have seen everything that day. And they sit amongst you as people, and that’s what we want you to know and understand,” Arcand said. “Please leave them out of it.”
Arcand said the children want to continue living in the community, but he said with the amount of trauma at their home, he doesn’t think that’s the best place to live. He said they’ve got to work with the community to figure something out.
He said helping the kids and families get trauma support will be paramount.
“I think we’ll have to look at different avenues, whatever the family chooses, whether it’s elders, western medicine, whatever it may be, we’re going to utilize whatever we can to help the kids and the family get to a healthy place so they can be productive citizens and have a quality of life, and focus on education and build their own families,” he said.
Arcand said he has a lot of respect for the RCMP, the forensic units processing the scene that day, and the coroner’s service.
“They had a big job that day within that community as you’ve all heard, there were multiple scenes,” he said, “I can’t get it out of my head.”
Arcand said when he got home his wife asked him how he was doing and he said he was ‘ok,’ but woke up screaming in the middle of the night.
He said when he thinks about what the future looks like, his sister and her family members would want everyone to move on.
“They would want us to heal but to never forget. Carry love in your hearts, to carry compassion, be united, to think of other people.”
A GoFundMe page “In Memory of Bonnie and Gregory” has been set up by Tribal Council staff.
At the time of this writing, it had raised close to $11,000.00. An earlier GoFundMe page set up by a former Saskatchewan MP raised $106,00.00, and that money is expected to be turned over to the community.