A lawyer representing a Saskatchewan First Nation says an investigation into the statutory release of a man who killed 11 people and injured 17 others should be made public ahead of a coroner’s inquest into the stabbing rampage.
The parole board and Correctional Service Canada started the investigation into Myles Sanderson soon after the mass stabbing on the James Smith Cree Nation and in the nearby village of Weldon in 2022.
Sanderson, 32, died in police custody a few days after the killings.
Sanderson, who had a record of violent assaults, had received statutory release earlier that year. The killings raised questions about why he was released and how he managed to remain free in the months leading up to the attacks.
A coroner’s inquest into the stabbings begins Monday in Melfort, Sask. It is to establish the events leading up to the deaths, who died and when and where each person was killed.
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.
Iulia Pescarus Popa with the Parole Board of Canada said in an email that the results of the joint investigation into Sanderson’s release will not yet be made public so as to not interfere with the inquest. The statement did not specify if it was one or both inquests.
Popa said the departments are aiming to share the results and any corrective measures from its recommendations following the inquest.
Keith Brown, the lawyer representing the First Nation in the inquests, said the decision to delay is surprising.
“If the mandate of the inquest is fact finding and really making sure we get to the bottom of what happened and then come up with recommendations, it would be in the interest of all parties to make sure that we have all of the relevant information,” Brown said in a phone interview from Vancouver.
The province did not say whether the Saskatchewan Coroners Service was given access to the joint investigation’s findings. It said in an email that 13 witnesses from the parole board and correctional services are scheduled to provide evidence at the upcoming inquest.
Sanderson’s parole documents show he had a lengthy criminal history, including 59 convictions as an adult. He received statutory release in August 2021 from his first federal prison sentence of more than four years. Statutory release kicks in when an offender has served two-thirds of a prison sentence.
Four months into his freedom, Sanderson was found to have been lying about his living arrangements and his release was suspended.
In February 2022, the parole board cancelled that suspension and Sanderson again received statutory release with a reprimand. Three months later, however, the Correctional Service of Canada deemed him to be unlawfully at large and a parole officer issued a warrant for his apprehension.
After the mass killing, then-public safety minister Marco Mendicino weighed in on Sanderson’s release from prison, saying “there were a number of significant flaws in the system here that have to be addressed.”
A news release in October 2022 said the joint investigation by the Correctional Service and the parole board would help “fully understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy.”
It said the investigation would analyze the facts and circumstances of Sanderson’s release, including whether laws, policies and protocols were followed, adding that the findings and recommendations would be shared publicly.
The Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada said at the time that the departments were committed to “completing this investigation in a timely manner while ensuring that we do not impede any other investigations or the coroner’s inquest currently underway.”
A briefing note previously obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act shows a written report was due no later than March 2023. Both the parole board and prison service said in September that they expected to share the results that fall.
Months later, the report and recommendations have not been released.
“If they have a ready and completed report, in my mind that would easily fall into that kind of a category that it’s something we should have before (the inquests),” Brown said.
Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 11, 2024.
— With files from Stephanie Taylor in Ottawa