Indigenous Services minister attends funeral at site of mass killing in Saskatchewan

Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu is promising to work with James Smith Cree Nation on community policing and a new treatment centre after a daylong visit that followed a series of deadly attacks on the Labour Day weekend.

“I made that commitment to the community leaders that the government of Canada will … continue to be there and will be there with resources to make those things happen,” Hajdu said Wednesday from Saskatoon before boarding a return flight to Ottawa.

Hajdu said she attended a funeral and two wakes while in the First Nations community Tuesday. Hajdu also attended a birthday of someone who lost two relatives in the attacks. She said it was a “poignant” day.

There were more funerals scheduled for Wednesday in the community of 1,900, which continued to mourn following a rampage that left 10 dead and 18 injured on the First Nation and in the nearby village of Weldon.

Community leaders, who were not immediately available for comment, have raised several questions about the stabbing attacks.

One of the two suspects who died, Myles Sanderson, got out of prison under statutory release last year. Four months into his freedom, Sanderson was found to have been lying about his living arrangements and his release was suspended.

In May, the Correctional Service of Canada deemed him to be unlawfully at large and a parole officer issued a warrant for his apprehension. He remained at large until he was arrested following the attacks. He died soon after the arrest after going into medical distress, RCMP said.

Some community leaders have called for more public notifications from the parole board when offenders are released. Hajdu said she will take that concern back to the federal cabinet.

Chiefs in the region have also called for more First Nations policing and a new treatment centre in the area to fight substance abuse.

Hajdu said she will work on the issues.

“I talked about some of the models of community safety that I’ve been seeing across the country that (use) the model like community safety officers,” Hajdu said.

“It’s more on the crime prevention side — for example, supporting people before they get in trouble, before you need policing, she said.

As for a new treatment centre, Hajdu said she heard from the community that it should include culturally appropriate mental health programs.

“And so the next step is to hammer out exactly what that looks like, what kinds of financial resources are needed, what kinds of human resources are needed to bring those ideas to life.”

— by Steve Lambert in Winnipeg.

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