Inquest into the death of Myles Sanderson concludes with four jury recommendations

Eddie Head, Sanderson’s uncle, said the inquest answered some painful questions and brought much-needed closure to the First Nation.

Julia Peterson, Saskatoon Star-Phoenix

The coroner’s inquest into the death of Myles Sanderson concluded with a total of four recommendations — one to the Saskatoon Police Service, the rest to the RCMP.

On Sept. 4, 2022, Myles Sanderson killed 11 people and injured 17 others during a stabbing rampage on James Smith Cree Nation and in the nearby community of Weldon.

Days later, on Sept. 7., Sanderson died in police custody minutes after his arrest, following a high-speed chase down the highway near Rosthern.

Now, nearly a year and a half after Sanderson’s death, a six-member coroner’s jury determined that he died, accidentally, of acute cocaine toxicity.

Their recommendations for what could be done differently in future were as follows:

  1. That the Saskatoon Police service consider establishing a dedicated team tasked with arresting individuals who are subject to outstanding warrants;
  2. That the RCMP consider implementing mandatory enhanced driver training, including the PIT (precision immobilization technique) maneuver;
  3. That the RCMP consider reviewing its policy and criteria for high-speed pursuits, in the interest of the safety of all involved; and
  4. That the RCMP consider implementing additional training in enhanced extraction techniques, for the purposes of arrest takedowns.As RCMP Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore listened to this inquest’s findings and recommendations Thursday evening — coming only weeks after the staggering 29 recommendations offered by the coroner and jury at the inquest into the deaths of Sanderson’s victims  — she hoped this long process has helped families and communities heal.

“I hope this week provided them with some of the answers they were looking for,” she said.

Blackmore said she and fellow RCMP leadership intend to review these recommendations in detail, to see what can be learned and possibly changed going forward.

“We’ll review them and look at where we can implement them, and what we can do to address the recommendations,” she said.

Already, Blackmore said, one of the recommendations to come from the previous inquest — that the RCMP’s warrant enforcement teams consider a history of domestic violence as a more serious risk factor for future violence — is in the works, and will impact how these officers prioritize their most urgent cases going forward.

On James Smith Cree Nation, Eddie Head serves as director of justice. At this inquest, he was asking questions of witnesses in his capacity as Myles Sanderson’s uncle, representing his family. 

He said the last four days have answered some painful questions and brought much-needed closure to the First Nation.

The video footage in particular, Head explained, offered irrefutable proof that the RCMP officers and paramedics who treated Sanderson that day had reacted quickly when he went into distress, and did all they could to try to save his life.

And after everything he saw and heard, Head said the only feeling he has towards Sanderson anymore is forgiveness.

“You could never have resentment for a person who did that, because if you want to heal, you have to learn to forgive,” he said. “And if you can’t forgive, you’ll never heal.”

The inquest also offered many community members a chance to thank RCMP officer Heidi Marshall, who managed to hit Sanderson’s vehicle and push him off the road that day, ending the dangerous high-speed pursuit.

“We hugged her, and told her (that) ‘we love you for what you did,’ ” said Head. “And we asked her to come to our First Nation to be part of us, when it comes to healing. We invited her back home.”

Head also shared, now that his sister — Sanderson’s mother — finally knows the whole truth of what happened that day, she has been able to find some peace, lean on her family’s support and concentrate on supporting her remaining children and grandchildren in turn.

“My sister wants to heal now,” he said. “What her boy did, it could have driven her into addiction. It could have driven her to suicide — she contemplated that, many times, and her family and her community is saying to her ‘no, don’t think like that.’ And today she could walk out of here and she’s asking to be with her family, and also participate in our cultural ways of healing.”

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of self-harm or experiencing suicidal thoughts, please contact Crisis Services Canada (1-833-456-4566), Saskatoon Mobile Crisis (306-933-6200), Prince Albert Mobile Crisis Unit (306-764-1011), Regina Mobile Crisis Services (306-525-5333) or the Hope for Wellness Help Line, which provides culturally competent crisis intervention counselling support for Indigenous peoples (1-855-242-3310).