Sask. team investigating offenders on social assistance now active

Matt Smith/Saskatoon StarPhoenix An RCMP officer talks with a resident on James Smith Cree Nation after reports of a possible sighting of Myles Sanderson on the reserve. Photo taken in James Smith Cree Nation, SK on Tuesday, September 6, 2022.

Larissa Kurz

Regina Leader-Post

A new intelligence team formed to investigate wanted violent offenders receiving government benefits is now active in Saskatchewan, fulfilling promises made following a violent crime spree on James Smith Cree Nation last year.

Government introduced creation of the Warrant Intelligence Team last year, and it is now operational as of Nov. 1.

Housed within the Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Safety, the team has the ability to recommend suspending social assistance, such as income support and housing benefits, to individuals found to be “prolific violent offenders” with outstanding warrants for arrest.

Government introduced the Warrant Compliance Act in 2022, granting the Warrant Intelligence Team authority to do such work.

The legislation and subsequent investigative force is a direct response to a tragic mass stabbing at James Smith Cree Nation and nearby Weldon, Sask. that left 11 people dead and 17 injured, said then Minister of Corrections Policing and Public Safety Christine Tell.

Myles Sanderson, determined the primary perpetrator, was revealed to have been wanted on outstanding warrants for parole violations at the time.

Tell said she was later made aware Sanderson was also receiving social assistance in the months before the devastating long weekend, while he was “unlawfully at-large.”

“Violent individuals with outstanding warrants for arrest should not be benefiting from taxpayer dollars,” said current Corrections, Policing and Public Safety Minister Paul Merriman, echoing his predecessor’s comments from a year ago.

“The new Warrant Intelligence Team will work to ensure government benefits are not being used to perpetuate criminal lifestyles while also helping police in their efforts to apprehend those same offenders.”

The intelligence team works in partnership with the Ministry of Social Services, and may only identify and collect information like location for purposes of apprehension.

According to the Act, safeties are in place to protect partners, spouses or dependant children from being negatively affected by any service suspension brought on by the team’s work.

— with files from Jeremy Simes and Thia James