Investigation concludes into release of Saskatchewan man who went on stabbing rampage

An investigation into the statutory release of a man who went on a stabbing rampage in Saskatchewan has released 14 recommendations for the Correctional Service of Canada and the parole board. 

The national joint board of 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 final report from the joint investigation concluded there were no indicators or precipitating events that were known to correctional service and parole board staff that they could have acted on to prevent the tragedy. It also found the overall case preparation leading up to Sanderson’s release was “reasonable and appropriate.”

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

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

The report said there was evidence there was a discrepancy between the allocated time on board members’ schedules and the actual time they needed. It said that could affect board members’ “abilities to thoroughly review cases before hearings.”

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

Four recommendations are 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.

It 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 noted that parole officers expressed concern that they gave information to police agencies, including Saskatoon police and the Melfort RCMP detachment, about Sanderson when he was on the run, but never got any updates in return.

“Staff reported that they provided all information that was requested, but they did not receive any information in return from the police on any progress or efforts that may have been made to locate Sanderson,” the report said. 

“All communications were one way.”

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 coroner’s inquest was held earlier this year that looked at each of the killings. It issued more than two dozen recommendations, including for the RCMP to fully staff specialized teams and to improve the relationship and communication with the First Nation.

A separate inquest into Sanderson’s death last month issued four recommendations for police to improve arrests. 

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