James Smith inquiry calls on police to prioritize court orders for repeat domestic violence offenders

The jury in the inquest into one of Canada’s most brutal mass murders suggested changes to legal release, prison programming and police practices that they say could help prevent future violence.

The coroner’s inquest into the spate of fatal stabbings committed by Myles Sanderson in September 2022 in the communities of James Smith Cree Nation and the village of Weldon was tasked with determining the cause of the 11 deaths and making recommendations to prevent similar atrocities in the future.

Over the past two weeks, the jury heard testimony from 30 witnesses and took hundreds of pages of evidence into evidence. The six jurors charged with making recommendations took about a day to deliberate.

On Wednesday afternoon, Coroner Blaine Beaven acknowledged it has been a difficult road for everyone involved.

“I want to acknowledge that these have been an extraordinarily difficult few weeks. It has been difficult for the jury; it has been difficult for the council. And that pales completely in comparison to the difficulty that must have been felt by the survivors of the attacks, the families of the involved and the community in general.”

Throughout the process, many James Smith residents said they hoped to see substantial changes to address the twin epidemics of drug addiction and violence in their community, better tracking of violent offenders on probation and more efforts to catch those who They violate their conditions.

Recommendations offered by both the jury and the chief coroner on Wednesday came close to those points.

The broad set of recommendations included a call for greater collaboration between James Smith and the RCMP through the development of a community safety plan. They asked that parole officers ensure that an inmate has his medical care transitioned to a doctor in his community once he is released.

The jury also asked the Correctional Service of Canada to assign a single caseworker to monitor an inmate’s progress throughout his federal prison sentence, as the inquest heard Sanderson was moved from worker to worker with little consistency.

Deputy Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore speaks during a news conference at the RCMP “F” Division headquarters in Regina on Sunday, Sept. 4, 2022. Damien Sanderson and Myles Sanderson allegedly stabbed and killed 10 people among James Smith Cree Nation and Weldon, Sask. Sunday morning, and the couple is currently on the run. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Bell

Beaven offered his own list of suggestions, including an expansion of the warrant enforcement team and changes to his risk assessment index so that domestic violence repeat offenders are rated higher.

“Given the testimony that many of those who commit serious violent crimes often have a history of domestic violence, this should be weighted to increase the rating of offenders with that characteristic,” he said.

The full list of findings is expected to be posted online in the coming days.

While their recommendations are not binding, the families of those murdered at James Smith hope to see some real action.

Some attendees, like Kim Beaudin of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, are more skeptical.

Beaudin told reporters Friday that agencies like the federal correctional service and the RCMP have a long history of receiving and ignoring recommendations that could improve the lives of First Nations people.

“Have you published numerous reports over the last five years? And when you look at the recommendations and how they impact indigenous people, they haven’t followed many of them.”

Beaudin said he and others had pushed the federal government for a public inquiry into the killings, like the one held during the 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia, because that process has more powers to enforce its recommendations. .

His requests were denied, he claimed.

A second investigation into the death of Myles Sanderson, who suffered medical problems minutes after being taken into police custody on Sept. 7, 2022, is scheduled to begin on Feb. 26 in Saskatoon.

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