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Jury begins deliberations in Saskatchewan First Nation stabbing inquest

After more than two weeks at the provincial coroner’s inquest into 11 tragic Saskatchewan deaths, the jury was charged for deliberations Tuesday morning.

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

His brother Damien was the first to be killed. Myles Sanderson then went door-to-door on the First Nation stabbing people.

He died in police custody a few days later.

“It is your duty to try and take this tragic event and make something positive from it,” Blaine Beaven, the presiding coroner, told jurors Tuesday morning.

Over the last two weeks, the inquest heard how the rampage unfolded from RCMP officers at the scene, as well as from paramedics and hospital workers who organized the response.

It also heard about Sanderson’s life, personal relationships and prison history.

The killer was on statutory release for several months leading up to his rampage.

Darryl Burns, who lost his sister, Lydia-Gloria Burns, to the attacks, said he’s hoping the recommendations will improve environments for released offenders.

“They are being released into a system that is not prepared to handle them, to assist with their recovery.”

Burns has suggested over the past two weeks that families and Indigenous communities be involved in the programming offenders receive while incarcerated, so the offender can be released into the most supportive environment possible.

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The inquest heard that Sanderson was doing well in cultural programming during his time at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary, that he was sober and eager to break his cycle of crime.

Three months later while on release, Sanderson was unlawfully at large and a parole officer issued a warrant for his apprehension. He was still at large at the time of the massacre.

“To continue the recovery beyond the walls, those same things have to be in place in our communities, and it’s a continuation of the same things they learned in prison,” Burns said.

He is also hoping for better communication between different parties of the justice system.

The inquest heard that during his journey through the justice system, Sanderson was passed from institution to institution, parole officer to parole officer, and program to program.

“When he tells his story, it loses a little bit of emotion or personal feeling for him. When he tells it a tenth time it’s like my story doesn’t matter. No one is listening. No one cares about me.”

Deborah Burns, representing her late father Earl Burns who died during the stabbings, is looking to help the future offenders being released to the First Nation.

“What are we going to do to help this person so that he doesn’t do this?”

She said she would like to see mandatory cultural training and addictions treatment in institutions and within her own community.

“You can take something and not implement it,” said Deborah Burns. “I would like to see mandatory programming within the systems — mandatory, not just recommendations.”

Chelsea Stonestand, representing late Bonnie and Gregory Burns during the inquest, said it isn’t about passing the blame onto one institution.

“The justice system didn’t just fail Myles,” Stonestand said. “Indigenous communities failed Myles. Our community failed Myles. Myles’ family failed him and Myles failed himself.”

Darryl Burns said one of the greatest changes needs to come from Indigenous people to break the cycle of generational trauma.

“My children grew up in a different environment than I did,” Burns said. “They know how to love. They know how to love their children.”

He said many on the First Nation have grown up lacking positive affirmation, love and support from the people around them.

“You look at our society, at the homeless, at the people locked up in the jails, the people that are addicted to substances… that is what they are missing in their life.”

The jury’s recommendations are expected to be heard in the coming days.

— with files from Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press 

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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