JAMES SMITH CREE FIRST NATION, Saskatchewan — On Tuesday, Canadian police surrounded a house with weapons on an indigenous reserve where a knife fight broke out over the weekend.
Emergency phones alerted people to take cover, saying the suspect, Myles Sanderson, may have been seen on the James Smith Cree Reservation. An Associated Press reporter heard people screaming and running and saw police surround the house. Police block the roads to the reserve.
It is not yet known whether the fugitive is in the house. Authorities said they believed he was in another part of the province.
His brother and suspect, 31-year-old Damien Sanderson, was found dead Monday near the scene of the stabbings. Police suspect that 30-year-old Myles Sanderson killed his brother.
Leaders of the James Smith Cree Nation, where most of the stabbings took place, blamed the killings on drug and alcohol abuse plaguing the community, which they say is a legacy of the colonization of indigenous people.
James Smith, Cree Nation resident Darryl Burns and his brother Ivor Wayne Burns said their sister, Gloria Lydia Burns, was the first responder killed while responding to the call. Burns said his 62-year-old sister was on the crisis response team.
“She went to a house call and she was assaulted,” he said. “She was there to help. She was a hero.”
He blamed drugs and pointed to colonization for rampant drug and alcohol use on the reserves.
“Three years ago we had a suicide. My granddaughter and her boyfriend. Last year we had a double homicide. Now this year we have 10 more people who died, all because of drugs and alcohol,” said Daryl Burns.
Ivor Wayne Burns also blamed drugs for his sister’s death and said the suspected brothers should not be hated.
“We have to forgive them boys,” he said. “When you’re on hard drugs, when you’re on coke, and when you’re on heroin and crystal meth and other things, you’re not able to feel. You stab someone and you think it’s funny. You stab them again and laugh. “
Blackmore said police were still investigating a motive, but the head of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Peoples reiterated speculation that the injuries may have been drug-related.
“It’s a devastation we face when harmful illegal drugs invade our communities and we’re calling on all authorities to follow the guidance of supervisors and councils and their members to create safer and healthier communities for our people,” said Chief Bobby Cameron .
Blackmore said Miles Sanderson’s criminal record goes back years and includes violence. . In May of last year, Saskatchewan Correctional Services issued a wanted notice in which he wrote that he was “unlawfully at large.”
Before Damien’s body was found, arrest warrants were issued for the suspects, and both men faced at least one count each of murder and attempted murder.
The attack was one of the deadliest mass killings in Canada, where such crimes are less common than in the United States. The deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history occurred in 2020, when a man posing as a police officer shot people in their homes and set fires across the province of Nova Scotia, killing 22 people. In 2019, a man in a van killed 10 pedestrians in Toronto.
Fatal mass stabbings are less common than mass shootings, but have happened all over the world. In 2014, 29 people were stabbed and bludgeoned to death at a train station in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming. In 2016, a mass stabbing at a mental institution in Sagamihara, Japan, left 19 people dead. A year later, three men killed eight people in a car and knife on London Bridge.
Saskatchewan police received the first call about the stabbing at 5:40 a.m. Sunday, and heard about several more minutes later. In all, people were found dead or injured in 13 different locations on the sparsely populated reserve and in the city, Blackmore said. The James Smith Cree Nation is about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from Weldon.
Among the 10 killed was Lana Head, former partner of Michael Brett Burns and mother of their two daughters.
“It’s very frustrating how incarceration, drugs and alcohol can destroy a lot of lives,” Burns told Aboriginal TV. “I’m hurting for all this loss.”
Weldon residents identified one of the dead as Wes Peterson, a retired widower who made himself coffee every morning at the senior center. He enjoyed gardening, picking berries, canning and making jam and cakes, William Works, 47, and his mother, Sharon Works, 64, recalled.
“He’d knock your shirt off if he could,” William Works said, describing his neighbor as a “gentle old man” and “society first and foremost.”
Sharon Works was perplexed: “I don’t understand why they would still target someone like him because he was just a poor, helpless little man, 100 pounds soaking wet. And he could hardly breathe because he had asthma and emphysema, and everybody took care of him because he was like that. He took care of everyone else. And they took care of him.”
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