March 1st, 2024

‘Undue risk’: Inquest into mass stabbing in Saskatchewan hears from parole board

By Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press on January 29, 2024.

People enter the public coroner's inquest into the mass stabbings that happened on James Smith Cree Nation in 2022 in Melfort, Sask., Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. The last week of the inquest is expected to hear from elders and the Parole Board of Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards

MELFORT, Sask. – A coroner’s inquest into a mass stabbing on a Saskatchewan First Nation heard Monday about why parole was denied for the man who would later go on to kill 11 people.

Myles Sanderson went on a deadly rampage on the James Smith Cree Nation and in the nearby community of Weldon, northeast of Saskatoon, on Sept. 4, 2022. Seventeen others were injured.

The 32-year-old died in police custody a few days later.

Monica Irfan, a deputy director in policy and legislative initiatives with the Parole Board of Canada, spoke broadly about how it played a role in Sanderson’s incarceration and eventual release. She was not involved in Sanderson’s file.

Sanderson was serving his first federal prison sentence of more than four years, when the board denied his application for full parole and day parole in 2021. It considered his criminal record, including 59 convictions as an adult, his social history and release plans, among other things.

The board found Sanderson “will present an undue risk to society,” Irfan said, reading part of that decision at the inquest.

Sanderson received statutory release in August 2021. Irfan said the board’s role in statutory release, which kicks in when an offender has served two-thirds of a prison sentence, is to impose conditions.

Four months into his freedom, Sanderson was found to have been lying about his living arrangements, as he was staying with the mother of his children, Vanessa Burns. His release was suspended.

The inquest heard Sanderson’s community parole officer had recommended that he not be allowed back out based on his attitude and deceit.

Irfan said the board must look at “all of the factors – positive and negative – to reach a final conclusion.”

In February 2022, the board cancelled the suspension and Sanderson again received statutory release with a reprimand. The board said it believed Sanderson’s risk was manageable in the community.

Three months later, the Correctional Service of Canada deemed Sanderson to be unlawfully at large and a parole officer issued a warrant for his apprehension. He was still at large at the time of the massacre.

The inquest, in its third week in Melfort, Sask., is to establish the events leading up to the killings, who died, and when and where each person was killed.

Testimony is expected to wrap up Tuesday before the six-person jury deliberates on recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future.

A separate inquest into Sanderson’s death is scheduled for February.

Over the last two weeks, the inquest has heard how the rampage unfolded from RCMP officers at the scene, major crimes investigators and health-care officials. It has also heard about Sanderson’s life and prison history from his parole officers.

RCMP said in an overview of the massacre that Sanderson went to the First Nation to sell cocaine. In the days before the killings, he caused chaos with his brother, Damien Sanderson.

Damien Sanderson was the first to be killed. Myles Sanderson then went door-to-door on the First Nation stabbing people.

An RCMP criminal profiler has testified that some victims were targeted because Sanderson had a grievance against them, and others just got in the way of his mission to kill.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 29, 2024.

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