MELFORD, Saskatchewan (AP) — A public inquest began Monday into a stabbing rampage that left 11 people dead and 17 injured on a Saskatchewan First Nation on Sept. 4, 2022.
Myles Sanderson, the 32-year-old accused in the attacks on James Smith Cree Nation and in the village of Weldon, died in police custody a few days later.
“The objective is to have the story told, honor 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,” said Clive Weighill, Saskatchewan’s chief coroner.
The Saskatchewan Coroners Service has said the inquest is expected to last at least two weeks.
A six-person jury was finalized Monday morning. Two other people, who will attend the inquest and listen to all of the evidence, were chosen as alternates. A jury can also make recommendations to prevent similar deaths.
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.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have described how Sanderson was stealing vehicles, breaking down doors and going door-to-door stabbing people during the rampage.
“There’s not going to be a trial, so this is the only way that the family and the public can hear exactly what happened,” Weighill said.
Family members of the victims gathered Monday to smudge, a traditional practice for safety, well-being and healing, before the inquest began.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, extended sympathies to all affected.
“Together, as a Nation, we mourn with the people of James Smith Cree Nation,” Chief Bobby Cameron said in a news release.
Wally Bruns, chief of James Smith Cree Nation, said he hopes the inquest will provide recommendations about self-administered policing for the First Nation. He also said 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 the time of the killings.