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Parole board took ‘appropriate’ steps in Sask. mass murderer’s release, investigation finds

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A joint investigation into the release and supervision of mass murderer Myles Sanderson has issued 14 recommendations to the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) and the Parole Board of Canada.


The national joint board of investigation was created a few weeks after Sanderson’s stabbing rampage that left 11 people dead and 17 others injured in the communities of James Smith Cree Nation and Weldon in September 2022. Sanderson died in police custody of an accidental cocaine overdose a few days later.


The 32-year-old was released from the Saskatchewan Penitentiary seven months before the killings.


He had 59 criminal convictions, many for violent offenses.


His most recent convictions included threatening to murder a gas station attendant and burn down their parent’s home, beating someone unconscious and then forcing them to rob a Subway, and stabbing two people with a cheese fork and then beating another man unconscious.


With his lengthy criminal record, many were left wondering why he was released and how he managed to stay under the radar.


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.”


In the final report, the joint CSC and parole board investigation found there were no indicators that correctional or parole board staff could have acted on to prevent the tragedy.


The report described the case preparation leading up to Sanderson’s release, and the quality of supervision while he was on statutory release as “reasonable and appropriate.”


The parole board noted Sanderson was not on parole, but on statutory release, which all Canadian offenders are legally entitled to after serving two-thirds of their sentence.


Investigators made four recommendations to the federal correctional service related to risk assessments for domestic violence and offender suicide risk in the community.


They also suggested reinstating the community corrections liaison officer program, which was eliminated in 2015. The program provided dedicated police officers to assist community parole officers.


The report said parole officers expressed concern that they gave information to police agencies about Sanderson when he was on the run, but never got any updates in return.


The report noted in the months after Sanderson was deemed unlawfully at large, the parole officer repeatedly called people who knew Sanderson, one of whom said he may be hiding on the James Smith Cree Nation.


The parole officer contacted the RCMP detachment in Melfort, but Mounties never provided information to the parole officer about what, if anything, was learned about Sanderson’s whereabouts.


“All communications were one way,” the report said.


The parole board received 10 recommendations, including that it consider giving specific training to staff on domestic violence.


“Both CSC and PBC have accepted the recommendations and work is underway to address them,” the joint board said on Tuesday in a news release.


The CSC and parole board said it has met with leaders of the James Smith Cree Nation (JSCN) and Weldon to discuss the next steps.


JSCN Chief Wally Burns said he is “disappointed” the First Nation wasn’t included in the preparation of the report.


“We’re disappointed Canada chose to do an investigation and make recommendations focused on Indigenous inmates without us. That speaks volumes to us when one of our band members was the perpetrator, and it’s our people who died in the massacre,” he said in a news release.


“We’ve been examining the failures of Correctional Services Canada and the parole board and see many opportunities to improve public safety.”


The First Nation said it continues to call for a national inquiry into the impact of the justice system on Indigenous people.


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.


-With Canadian Press files from Kelly Geraldine Malone 

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