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Attacks by James Smith: why was the killer released a second time? | Knife attacks in Saskatchewan

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The last witnesses of the coroner's inquest which began on January 15 were heard this Monday.

  • Vincent H. Turgeon (View profile)Vincent H. Turgeon

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A few months after breaking his statutory release conditions, Myles Sanderson, the perpetrator of the September 2022 attacks in Saskatchewan, was able to return to live in the population. A decision of the Parole Board which was the subject of several questions on this eleventh day of the coroner's inquest.

On September 4, 2022, Myles Sanderson stabbed 11 people, including his brother, Damien Sanderson, and injured 17 others in the James Smith Cree Nation and the neighboring village of Weldon, Saskatchewan. It was the worst stabbing attack in Canadian history.

A hunt ensued. man for three days until law enforcement spotted the car in which Myles Sanderson was traveling on September 7 near the village of Rosthern, 66 km northeast of Saskatoon.

Shortly after his arrest, the fugitive found himself in a state of respiratory distress. Paramedics were called to the scene to take him to a hospital in Saskatoon, where he was eventually pronounced dead.

Incarcerated at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in 2019, Myles Sanderson was initially denied his parole application in February 2021.

He was then eligible for statutory release, a right for inmates to complete the last third of their sentence in the population under the supervision of a parole officer and under certain conditions.

A few weeks later, Correctional Service Canada decided to suspend his statutory release after discovering that he was secretly living with his partner, Vanessa Burns, and their children.

Knife attacks in Saskatchewan

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However, almost three months later, the Parole Board chose to cancel this suspension, despite the opposition of the supervisor of parole officers, Linda Flahr, and the history of domestic violence of Myles Sanderson .

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After the attacks, Myles Sanderson reportedly took refuge near the village of Wakaw. He would have remained there during the three days that the manhunt lasted. (File photo)

In its decision, the agency acknowledged that Mr. Sanders still had much work to do, but that he remained sober during his months of freedom. He found employment, participated in therapy and Indigenous cultural ceremonies.

The Parole Board therefore considered that Myles Sanderson was on the right track towards his social reintegration.

In order to reduce the risks regarding domestic violence, the organization still added a condition to his statutory release: that of not having contact with Vanessa Burns or her children, except in rare cases. circumstances and with the approval of his parole officer.

In addition, the Commission's Deputy Director for Policy and Legislative Initiatives, Monica Irfan, specifies that the leaders of a First Nation are not involved in the organization's decision when it considers the release of an inmate from their community.

She notes that Indigenous leaders can write to the Commission, but that the latter is not obliged to contact them.

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The James Smith Cree Nation is located nearly 200 km northeast of Saskatoon. (File photo)

Monica Irfan clarifies that the decisions of the Parole Board are public and available to everyone.

The organization has 72 members. Nine of them are of indigenous origin.

Two Indigenous elders working for Correctional Service Canada also shared their experiences with jurors.

Geraldine Arcand and Harvey Knight both met Myles Sanderson during his time in the prison system.

I felt that he felt remorse, Ms. Arcand recalled. He spoke to me about his children. He said he wanted to be there for them.

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Myles Sanderson was incarcerated at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in 2019 before being transferred to the Willow Cree Healing Lodge. (Archive photo)

For his part, Harvey Knight stressed that Myles Sanderson attended all the sessions of his program and that he behaved very well. He believes that nothing led him to believe that he would be able to do what he did in September 2022.

The two indigenous elders wanted to emphasize the importance for an inmate to have support from his community once released. According to them, an inmate must feel that someone cares about him, that he is not rejected by his community.

Having started the January 15, the last witnesses of the coroner's inquest were heard on Monday.

Jurors will now have to determine how, when and where each of the victims was killed. They will also have to make recommendations to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

A second inquest into the death of Myles Sanderson is planned for the end of February.

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The performance hall at the Kerry Vickar Center in Melfort has been transformed into a courtroom for the coroner's inquest .

Over the past two weeks, around thirty witnesses have taken the stand.

After explaining the chronology of events, both the moment of the attacks and the comings and goings of Myles Sanderson and his brother in the days preceding the tragedy, the first two police officers to go to the scene were able to describe their arrival in the James Smith Cree Nation.

The detachment commander of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Melfort at the time of the attacks also testified, saying that the day of the tragedy was “the worst thing [he] saw in [his] career.”< /p>

On January 18, the ex-wife of Myles Sanderson, the perpetrator of the attacks, explained to jurors the violent relationship she was in and the distress she felt on September 4, 2022.

The next day, a psychological analysis of Myles Sanderson was presented to jurors.

The manager of the Saskatchewan Response Team of the RCMP's Northern Region, for his part, explained why Myles Sanderson was not actively sought by the police, even if he was found to be illegally at large.

Following the 11 autopsies, the two judicial doctors who carried out the examinations concluded that most of the victims died at the time of the attacks could not have been saved by paramedics.

Ten of them died less than 10 minutes after being stabbed . Only Damien Sanderson potentially suffered from his injuries for more than an hour before finally succumbing to them.

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