Saskatoon

James Smith Cree Nation inquest hears from killer's parole officer

The second week of the coroner's inquest into the stabbing massacre that occurred at James Smith Cree Nation in 2022 began Monday.

'We did see that his behaviour evolved over time,' says parole officer Jessica Dix

A teepee with smoke emnating from it sits in front of a building at dawn on a cold winter day.
A teepee outside of the Kerry Vickar Centre prior to the beginning of the opening day of the public coroner's inquest into the mass stabbings that happened on James Smith Cree Nation in 2022. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

The James Smith Cree Nation man responsible for the 2022 stabbing deaths of 11 people had taken programs and improved his attitude while in prison, but was designated a "low" chance of reintegrating into society, an inquest into those killings heard Tuesday.

Myles Sanderson was eventually released from prison, had a warrant for his arrest issued when he violated his release conditions, and committed the murders several months later on Sept. 4, 2022. Family members, James Smith leaders and others have asked why he was released and then not recaptured.

Earlier this week, the inquest heard Sanderson's record and breach of conditions was a concern, but that there were many other cases that were more urgent and more serious.

On Tuesday, witnesses testified about Sanderson's behaviour while in prison in the years and months before the stabbings.

"Mr. Sanderson started out with a very adversarial attitude. He was accusatory. My impression was he didn't want to be told what to do," said parole officer Jessica Dix.

"However, over time … he opened up. He worked with a program elder. He was willing to accept advice in a much healthier way as the program progressed.

"We did see that his behaviour evolved over time."

Sanderson did not get in any fights in prison and passed all drug tests. Security assessments found no evidence he was part of a gang.

When he was granted statutory release, he had initially indicated he would reside at James Smith, located approximately 170 kilometres north of Saskatoon. He met with band leadership and a plan was set up for his release to James Smith, but he decided instead to live with his father in Saskatoon, ending that communication with the band.

He failed to meet with his parole officer. He also violated the order not to contact his partner or children outside of approved programming, the inquest heard. A warrant was issued for his arrest.

WATCH | James Smith health director says local staff contributions not being recognized in inquest testimony: 

James Smith health director says local staff contributions not being recognized in inquest testimony

3 months ago
Duration 1:41
James Smith Cree Nation health director Mike Marion said he has been frustrated by the lack of attention given to local first responders and support staff during the inquest into the massacre that happened on the First Nation in 2022. The province's coroners service says the witness list for the inquest was developed in consultation with the counsel representing James Smith Cree Nation.

Inquest in 2nd week

The second week of the coroner's inquest into the stabbing massacre that occurred at James Smith Cree Nation in 2022 began Monday.

Monday's proceedings included an explanation from RCMP about how their specialized unit was busy pursuing others with far worse criminal records than Myles Sanderson, the James Smith Cree Nation man who was unlawfully at large when he killed 11 people and wounded 17 others in the massacre.

Ryan How, RCMP's Saskatchewan Enforcement and Response Team (SERT) north region manager, testified Monday that there are active warrants for approximately 5,000 people in Saskatchewan at any time and half of those are for violent offences. 

On the day in question, there were 5,468, he said.

WATCH | James Smith Cree Nation massacre inquest enters 2nd week: 

James Smith Cree Nation massacre inquest enters 2nd week

3 months ago
Duration 4:21
The James Smith Cree Nation man who murdered 11 people and wounded 17 others was unlawfully at large at the time of the killings, but an RCMP officer testified Monday that his specialized unit was busy pursuing others with far worse criminal records.

The inquest began last week in Melfort — a small city about 30 kilometres southeast of James Smith Cree Nation — and is scheduled to continue until Feb. 2. Jury members are listening to the evidence and will be tasked with providing recommendations to help prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future.

Chief Calvin Sanderson of James Smith Cree Nation's Chakastaypasin Band said Monday that though it has been a "pretty emotional last week" for the membership, they are looking forward to the recommendations.

"Hopefully it triggers something federally and provincially. So the recommendations will be a key point for our First Nations community," Sanderson said.

LISTEN | Mass stabbing inquest hears horror, heroism:
Less than a year and a half after a mass stabbing devastated James Smith Cree Nation and surrounding communities in Saskatchewan, a coroner’s inquest began last week into how Myles Sanderson killed 11 people and hurt 17 others. What happened in the days prior to the attacks? What do police analysts say the motive could have been? What supports do community members need now? Jason Warick is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon. For transcripts of Front Burner, please visit: https://www.cbc.ca/radio/frontburner/transcripts Transcripts of each episode will be made available by the next workday.

Earlier Monday, the inquest heard details about the emergency response to the tragedy. Dozens of RCMP, conservation officers, highway patrol officers and medical staff all rushed to the scene.


Support is available for people affected by this tragedy. The Hope for Wellness hotline offers immediate help to Indigenous people across Canada. Mental health counselling and crisis support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat at www.hopeforwellness.ca.

You can talk to a mental health professional via Wellness Together Canada by calling 1-866-585-0445 or text WELLNESS to 686868 for youth or 741741 for adults. It is free and confidential.

Talking Stick is a Saskatchewan-based free anonymous chat platform that connects people seeking emotional support to a trained Indigenous peer advocate 24/7.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Warick

Reporter

Jason Warick is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon.

now