James Smith Cree Nation unveils community alert system

Just weeks after an inquest into the deadly stabbing spree that killed 10 people in James Smith Cree Nation, an emergency alert system in place to notify members if they’re at risk.

The new app, called First Alert, will allow leadership in First Nations communities across Saskatchewan to share vital information about emergency events as they unfold to members of the community.

Robert Head, chief of Peter Chapman Band, one of the three bands that make up James Smith Cree Nation, said this tool can save lives.

“That’ll be a great way for us to have advanced warnings for natural disasters, or missing persons or for any kind of public safety event that’s immediately happening that needs to be broadcast in the membership,” he said at a media briefing on Feb. 14.

Myles Sanderson, 32, killed 11 people and injured 17 others in James Smith and in Weldon on Sept. 4, 2022. Sanderson, who also killed his brother, died in police custody a few days after the rampage.

The inquest heard that the Melfort RCMP detachment, 50 km away from James Smith, first received a report of a stabbing at 5:40 a.m. on the day of the attacks. Officers arrived at 6:18 a.m.

Since the stabbing rampage, leadership in James Smith Cree Nation has pushed for a local police force to be organized. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised in 2020 his Liberal government would bring forward a new First Nations policing law.

The First Alerts app was designated an emergency alerts app by Apple which means that users will receive an emergency notification to their phone despite it being on silent or in airplane mode.

Head was joined by staff from the TryCycle Data, the developer of the app.

Cecile Mckay, provincial director for the app, said she is glad to add this new emergency alerts feature and encourages individuals to reach out to their peer support workers during stressful times.

“Just know that it’s someone like you and me, you know, we’re there to help you along and guide you,” she said.

The app is now available on the app store for both Apple and Android users.

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