The Chiefs of the James Smith Cree Nation, Peter Chapman and Chakastaypasin have all responded to the RCMP’s release of the preliminary timeline of the mass stabbings that left 11 people dead and another 18 injured.
James Smith Cree Nation Chief Wally Burns thanked the Saskatchewan RCMP Major Crimes Unit for providing the preliminary timeline of events, their dedication to the investigation, the countless interviews and the evidence they gathered.
“However, many questions remain unanswered,” he said.” It’s time we start looking at the real truth of our own actions. The events in September of last year turned our lives upside down. At the time of the tragedy, I felt responsible. I examined my own actions along with many other community members, as we were traumatized by the tragedy and looked to see if we, in some way, could have stopped it.”
Burns said that he believes they need to develop their police force to prevent something like this from happening again.
“I am not stopping until we get boots on the ground. We asked for three officers, and I am still waiting for them. The true answer to overcoming these barriers to safety and protection is self-administered policing on our First Nation. I will keep echoing this truth until we have access to proper policing supports in place that fit the needs of our community.”
Peter Chapman Chief Robert Head said hearing about the timeline of events and the presentation triggered a lot of trauma, stress, and anxiety.
“In the days to come, we look forward to holding ceremonies with our people as we turn to our traditional practices for healing,” he said.
Chakastaypasin Chief Calvin Sanderson was more critical than the other two chiefs about the RCMP’s response.
“Time was a factor in the tragic events at James Smith in September. We heard the RCMP reached excessively high speeds during their response. We heard how there were only two members on-call with the Melfort RCMP who responded to the initial call,” he said. “Where was their backup? Why weren’t other officers called in immediately to help them? Over an hour passed before residents were alerted that there was a killer on the loose, and many of us feel the RCMP could have prevented more casualties if alerts had been issued sooner.”
“Our calls for improved safety and policing are going unanswered. How can we prevent this from happening again?” Sanderson questioned. “As leadership, we are working to answer the cries of our people for help, but the policies have to change so those involved in drugs and criminal activities can be removed, sent for treatment or provided with a pathway to healing.
Overall all three Chiefs commended the RCMP for presenting the preliminary timeline and the work they have done over the past year.