Report into Myles Sanderson finds intake, mental health gaps in corrections system

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Report into Myles Sanderson finds intake, mental health gaps
WATCH: A report investigating the release and supervision of mass killer Myles Sanderson was released Tuesday. As Global's Easton Hamm reports, it highlighred problems with communication within the correctional system leading up to the tragedy. – Mar 12, 2024

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 (CSC) 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.

The 32-year-old 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 – a requirement for any federal inmate who has served two-thirds of their sentence.

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At the time of the attacks, Sanderson was serving his first federal sentence of over four years. He was unlawfully at large for several months before his rampage and a warrant for his arrest and release suspension had been ordered by CSC.

The report said Sanderson had 46 criminal convictions from 2008 to 2017, including beating someone in the head with a weapon and forcing them to rob a Subway in 2017.

In 2018, Sanderson was drinking alcohol when he got angry and stabbed two people with a cheese fork.

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He was also reported to have beaten an RCMP officer repeatedly in the head.

The final report from the joint investigation concluded there were no indicators that staff could have acted on to prevent the tragedy.

“The overall case preparation leading up to the statutory release of the offender was both reasonable and appropriate, including consideration of the Indigenous social history of the offender in decision-making processes,” read the investigative report.

At a public inquest into the killings, a jury heard that despite Sanderson’s violent history, his criminal record wasn’t remarkable compared to other federal offenders.

CSC decided he wouldn’t present an undue risk to society upon release.

However, the investigation found there was a failure during the intake assessment process at Saskatchewan Penitentiary to attempt to gather all relevant information, adding no requests were made for any of Sanderson’s prior convictions involving violence.

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It also found deficiencies in the manner that Sanderson’s mental health was assessed and managed, saying there were compliance and systemic issues.

“There were not enough resources in place to complete Self Injury/Suicide Classification Tool assessments on every inmate who required one,” the report said.

“There did not appear to be clear communication or practices in place between Clinical Services and Mental Health Services at Saskatchewan Penitentiary to ensure that referrals for mental health services were in place.”

The investigation’s report issued 10 recommendations for the parole board and four for CSC, including domestic violence training for staff involved in assessing risk levels of offenders.

Recommendations for the parole board include continuing member training on domestic violence and increasing the quorum for post-suspension reviews.

Both organizations said on Tuesday that work is underway to address and adopt the recommendations.

“The PBC (Parole Board of Canada) is working towards an increase to the quorum for post-suspension cases,” the parole board said in a release.

It also said it will be providing refresher training to staff related to standards for conditional release and how to properly reprimand offenders.

“We’re disappointed Canada chose to do an investigation and make recommendations focused on Indigenous inmates without us,” said James Smith Cree Nation Chief Wally Burns. “That speaks volumes to us when one of our band members was the perpetrator, and it’s our people who died in the massacre.”

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James Smith Cree Nation leaders and the FSIN Justice Department met with Correctional Service Canada and the parole board on Monday to discuss the report before its release.

James Smith Cree Nation leadership said it learned plans were already made to implement the recommendations without collaboration with the First Nation.

“We are disappointed as CSC and PBC have unilaterally developed their proposed responses to the report and simply presented it to us as a done deal,” said Peter Chapman Band Chief Robert Head, part of the tri-nation.

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