‘Dealing with a lot’: Inquest into Saskatchewan mass killing begins


Clive Weighill, Saskatchewan's chief coroner, speaks to media prior to the opening day of the public coroner's inquest into the mass stabbings that happened on James Smith Cree Nation in 2022, in Melfort, Sask., Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. Photo: Liam Richards/The Canadian Press.

RCMP officers who responded to a stabbing rampage on James Smith Cree Nation were to present evidence on the first day of the inquest into the mass killing.

Myles Sanderson killed 11 people and injured 17 others on the James Smith Cree Nation and in the nearby village of Weldon on Sept. 4, 2022.

Sanderson, 32, died in police custody a few days later.

“The objective is to have the story told, honour those victims that died on that day and try to come up with some recommendations that will help prevent this from happening again in the future,” Clive Weighill, Saskatchewan’s chief coroner, said Monday in Melfort, Sask., where the inquest is being held.

A jury can also make recommendations to prevent similar deaths.

James Smith Cree Nation Chief Wally Burns says the inquest will likely bring back trauma for community members, but he hopes it will also help with healing.

“Our nation has went through a lot, is dealing with a lot,” Burns said in a recent interview.

The Saskatchewan Coroners Service has said the inquest, which is before a six-person jury, is expected to last at least two weeks.

Weighill said the jury will be finalized Monday morning before Mounties tell the inquest about the RCMP response.

“They will walk everybody through exactly what happened for the first hours leading up to the event and through the event itself,” Weighill said.

A second inquest focusing on Sanderson’s death is scheduled in February. Public inquests are mandatory in Saskatchewan when a person dies in police custody.

RCMP have described how Sanderson was stealing vehicles, busting down doors and going door-to-door stabbing people during the rampage.

“There’s’ not going to be a trial so this (inquest) is the only way that the family and the public can hear exactly what happened,” Weighill said.

A coroner was in the community last week to prepare families for graphic details expected to be presented during the inquest, Burns said.

The chief said the First Nation is preparing to support community members through cultural ceremonies and will provide other health services they may need.

Burns said he hopes the inquest will provide recommendations about self-administered policing for the First Nation. He added he would like to see First Nations receive a notification when a member is released from prison.

Sanderson, who had a record of violent assaults, had received statutory release earlier that year but was unlawfully at large at time of the killings.

Story by Kelly Geraldine Malone

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