Saskatchewan Coroners Service announces inquest into Saskatchewan stabbing deaths

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan to hold two inquests into stabbing rampage' Saskatchewan to hold two inquests into stabbing rampage
WATCH: Saskatchewan's chief coroner says two public inquests will be held into the stabbing rampage that left 10 people and two suspects dead. Heather Yourex-West explains what the inquests' juries will hear, what they won't determine, and how long victims' families will have to wait for some answers.

The Saskatchewan Coroners Service gave an update regarding the deaths that occurred at James Smith Cree Nation and Weldon Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. in Regina.

Chief Coroner Clive Weighill said the events that occurred require a methodical and complete investigation.

“With the suspect deceased, there will not be a public criminal trial. Without the public hearing of the facts, it will leave many questions unanswered from the families involved and the public pertaining to the circumstance leading to the deaths,” said Weighill.

Read more: James Smith Cree Nation chief works to bring resources and change to community

He announced an inquest will be held for the 11 people who died in the stabbings, and a separate inquest will be held for Myles Sanderson, noting that an inquest is not designed to find fault.

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Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan stabbings: Coroner reports no blunt force trauma in Sanderson’s death' Saskatchewan stabbings: Coroner reports no blunt force trauma in Sanderson’s death
Saskatchewan stabbings: Coroner reports no blunt force trauma in Sanderson’s death

“It is a hearing to establish the events leading to the death, find a medical cause of death, the manner of death, and provide recommendations from the jury to prevent similar occurrences.”

Weighill noted that because Sanderson died in police custody, it was mandatory to hold an inquest into his death.

“The Coroner’s Act is very progressive in Saskatchewan. The act allows the chief coroner to form a jury with individuals from a specific cultural group. It is my intention to have the jury wholly comprised of Indigenous persons.”

He added that an inquest can’t begin until the investigation is completed and estimated that it won’t begin until late spring or early summer 2023.

“The reason that we’re calling a public inquest is for the transparency so that we can have a hearing where all the evidence is brought forth. A jury will hear the evidence, they will weigh the evidence and make recommendations,” Weighill said.

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He said the inquest is larger than normal.

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan Coroners Service announces inquest into Saskatchewan stabbing deaths' Saskatchewan Coroners Service announces inquest into Saskatchewan stabbing deaths
Saskatchewan Coroners Service announces inquest into Saskatchewan stabbing deaths

“This is the only information I can give right now, because I know there’s a lot of interest in this. But, the preliminary results of the autopsy for Myles Sanderson, and this is very preliminary, has found no blunt force trauma causing his death.”

He stressed that this was very preliminary information, and that toxicology, pathology and neuro pathology reports will be needed.

Ten victims died in the stabbings that devastated the province on Sept. 4, and both suspects in the investigation died as well.

The coroners service and the Saskatchewan RCMP gave a list of names with some photos of the victims on Sept. 7.

Read more: Saskatchewan stabbings: Here are the names of all the victims of the tragedy

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Among those listed was Wesley Petterson of Weldon, who neighbours said was “the kindest guy,” and was “proud of making his blueberry jelly”; Bonnie Burns, who died protecting her family; and Gloria Burns, who was dispatched on a crisis call as a first responder.

Mark Arcand, one of the people who lost family members in the stabbings, said the announcement gave him mixed emotions, but it could bring forward some answers.

“There’s a lot of questions unanswered (including) ‘what happened?’ Both individuals are deceased, and we’ll never know the motive,” Arcand said.

He added that there’s a lot of things not known about the Sept. 4 tragedy, and what is being heard is rumours and speculation.

Arcand said families affected by the stabbings may be subjected to more trauma through this inquest but added that it could help in the healing.

“This is going to help us in a way through the healing process, we’ll have to go through a little more trauma to get to that healing process, but it’s a good step in the right direction.”

He said his family wants to know the truth.

“It’s going to be hard for us to hear some of that truth when it comes out.”

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Arcand said that having a jury in the inquest made up solely of Indigenous people was a milestone, adding that it needs to be celebrated.

“Indigenous led for Indigenous people really makes sense. I think having people that have a lot of credibility that are going to be on this jury is really important,” Arcand said.

“I really give a lot of credit to Clive Weighill for making that statement publicly. It takes a lot of courage for him to do that, but I think he did the right thing, and I think a lot of people will support the process.”

He said all the funerals happening has been difficult. Arcand had to bury his sister, Bonnie Burns, and his nephew, Greg Burns.

“To have that, multiple times in a couple days, a week of funerals, is just beyond understanding, it’s beyond belief of how much tragedy has happened in that community.”

He said this affects not just James Smith Cree Nation, or just Indigenous people, adding that it affects everyone in its devastation.

— with Files from Ashleigh Stewart and Rachel Gilmore


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