Blue Line

Workload, training flagged in investigation into release of Saskatchewan mass killer

March 13, 2024  By Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

Mar. 13, 2024, Melfort, Sask. – An investigation into the statutory release of a man months before he went on a stabbing rampage in Saskatchewan has made 14 recommendations, including more time for parole board members to handle cases and domestic violence training for corrections staff.

The joint investigation into Myles Sanderson was launched soon after the mass stabbing on the James Smith Cree Nation and in the nearby village of Weldon in 2022. Eleven people were killed and 17 others injured as Sanderson went door to door attacking people.

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.


The investigation’s final report concluded there were no indicators or precipitating events that could have prompted staff with the Correctional Service of Canada and Parole Board of Canada to act. It also found the overall case preparation leading up to Sanderson’s release was “reasonable and appropriate.”

The partially redacted report did note some deficiencies, including how Sanderson’s mental health was managed and assessed during his time in federal custody.

The correctional service and the parole board said in a news release that the recommendations were accepted and work is underway to address them.

“What these families and communities have gone through is unimaginable,” Anne Kelly, commissioner of the correctional service, said in a statement. “And we know that getting answers on how such a thing could happen is an important part of their healing process.”

Ten of the recommendations were directed at the parole board, including reviewing scheduling guidelines to allow members more time to prepare for hearings and write decisions after.

“Time constraint pressures were identified consistently and presented a theme, which appeared to have become normal and an acceptable work culture,” the report said.

Jennifer Oades, who chairs the parole board, said in a statement that the board has taken steps to manage members’ workload so they have time to write decisions.

Four recommendations were directed at the Correctional Service of Canada, including developing policy to address concerns about suicide for offenders under community supervision and domestic violence training for staff involved in assessing risk levels of offenders.

The report noted the chief of mental-health services at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary said there were not enough resources in place to complete self-injury assessments on every inmate who needed one.

The report also recommended the correctional service consider the possibility of reinstating the community corrections liaison officer program, which was eliminated in 2015. That program provided dedicated policing support to help community parole officers.

The report said parole officers expressed concern that they gave information to police agencies about Sanderson when he was on the run, but never got any updates in return.

“All communications were one-way,” the report said.

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, a parole officer issued a warrant for his apprehension and he was unlawfully at large.

The report noted in the following months, the parole officer repeatedly called people who knew Sanderson, one of whom said he may be hiding on the James Smith Cree Nation.

The parole officer contacted the RCMP detachment in Melfort, but Mounties never provided information to the parole officer about what, if anything, was learned about Sanderson’s whereabouts.

Chief Wally Burns of the James Smith band, one of three that make up the First Nation, said he’s disappointed the community was excluded from the process.

“Canada chose to do an investigation and make recommendations focused on Indigenous inmates without us,” Burns said in a news release. “That speaks volumes to us when one of our band members was the perpetrator, and it’s our people who died in the massacre.”

Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents First Nations in Saskatchewan, agreed it was insulting to not be included in the investigation.

“This is an opportunity for our governments to collaborate on solutions,” Cameron said in a news release.

“We demand and expect Canada to live up to the promises they made to First Nations and include us.”

The joint investigation was completed last year but the parole board said it was withheld to not interfere with two coroner’s inquests.

The first inquest held earlier this year looked at each of the killings and issued more than two dozen recommendations. A separate inquest into Sanderson’s death last month issued four recommendations for police to improve arrests.

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