Suspects on the run after attacks at James Smith Cree Nation and nearby Weldon village in Saskatchewan province.
Published On 5 Sep 2022
Police in Canada are hunting for two men identified as suspects in a stabbing spree in the central province of Saskatchwan that left at least 10 people dead.
Another 15 people were wounded in the attacks on Sunday in the remote Indigenous community of James Smith Cree Nation and the nearby town of Weldon.
“It is horrific what has occurred in our province today,” Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore told a news conference.
Here’s what we know so far:
What happened during the attack?
- Police received a call at 5:40am (11:40 GMT) on Sunday, reporting a stabbing at the James Smith Cree Nation. More calls describing knife attacks in the area came in quick succession, reporting violence at 13 locations.
- Blackmore said some of the victims “may have been targeted and some may be random” and a motive was not immediately clear. She said several victims identified the attackers.
- Police named the suspects as Damien Sanderson, 31, and Myles Sanderson, 30.
- The attackers fled in a black Nissan Rogue and were sighted in Regina, the provincial capital that is more than 300km (185 miles) to the south of the violence. A police search was expanded to include the neighbouring provinces of Manitoba and Alberta.
- Television images showed rural homes, in fields of tall grass and trees, in James Smith Cree Nation cordoned off with police tape. On social media, local residents shared images of the attacks’ aftermath, including a broken door handle to a burgled home.
Who are the suspects?
- Little information has been released about the two suspects, although police have warned they should be considered “armed and dangerous”.
- Police described Damien Sanderson as 170cm (5-foot-7) tall and weighing 70kg (155 pounds) with black hair and brown eyes. Myles Sanderson was described as 185cm (6-foot-1) and weighing 109kg (240 pounds) with brown hair and brown eyes.
- In May, Myles Sanderson was listed as “unlawfully at large” by Saskatchewan Crime Stoppers, a programme that encourages the public to cooperate with police to find wanted suspects. There were no further details about why he was wanted at the time.
What do we know about the victims?
- One victim of the attack was identified as Lana Head, a mother of two daughters, her former partner, Michael Brett Burns, told the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN). He said her male partner was also killed in the attack at the James Smith Cree Nation.
- “It’s sick how jail time, drugs and alcohol can destroy many lives,” Burns said. “I’m hurt for all this loss.”
- Residents of the village of Weldon also identified Wes Petterson, 77, as one of those killed.
- Ruby Works told APTN the widower was known as a helpful neighbour who loved cats and made homemade jam. “He didn’t do anything. He didn’t deserve this. He was a good, kind-hearted man.”
- The identities of other victims were not immediately released.
Lana Head has been identified as one of the people who was fatally stabbed Sunday on James Smith Cree Nation in Saskatchewan.https://t.co/bhpw8DE2hz
— APTN News (@APTNNews) September 5, 2022
Where did the attacks happen?
- James Smith Cree Nation is an Indigenous community with a population of about 3,400, although only about 1,900 members of the community currently live on the reserve.
- The Nation takes its name from the original chief of the James Smith Band and the reserve was officially established in an 1876 treaty. It is one of the more than 630 First Nation groups, which include Indigenous Canadians who typically lived below the Arctic region and are distinct from the Inuit and Metis communities.
- James Smith Cree Nation is about 150sq kilometres (58 square miles).
- Indigenous communities make up about 5 percent of Canada’s population, but have higher levels of poverty, unemployment, and a lower life expectancy than other Canadians.
- Neighbouring Weldon is a village of about 200 people.
Are mass attacks common in Canada?
- Sunday’s attack is among the deadliest in Canadian history and, while mass killings are not as common as in some countries, there have been several incidents in recent years.
- In 2020, a man posing as a police officer fatally shot 22 people in Nova Scotia province in the worst mass killing event on record.
- Two years earlier, in Toronto, a man rammed a van into pedestrians, killing 11 people.
- In 2017 a man opened fire during evening prayers at a mosque in Quebec City, Quebec.
The attacks in Saskatchewan today are horrific and heartbreaking. I’m thinking of those who have lost a loved one and of those who were injured.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) September 4, 2022
Al Jazeera and news agencies