Day 11 of the Coroner’s Inquest looking in to the mass stabbings on James Smith Cree Nation and the Village of Weldon got underway Monday morning hearing testimony from the Parole Board of Canada.

Monica Irfan, deputy director of policy with the parole board took the inquest through the work the board does and how it makes decisions regarding parole as well as managing offenders who are out on statutory release, as was the case with Myles Sanderson.

Among the parole board decisions brought up Monday morning was the board’s decision to deny Sanderson both day and full parole. Among the reasons for their decision, the board found Sanderson presented an undue risk to the public and also had low reintegration potential. At this time the board as well made the decision to impose conditions upon him when he was to be freed on statutory release. These conditions included restrictions on possessing drugs and alcohol and not having contact with former victims. Statutory release is granted when an offender serves two thirds of their sentence and is enshrined in federal legislation.

Irfan explained the parole board keeps some specific facts in mind when making the decision to impose conditions on an offender.

“They look at whether the conditions are reasonable and necessary,” she said.

Another subject which was brought up during Irfan’s testimony was the suspension of Sanderson’s statutory release when it was found he was living with his former common law partner in violation of his release conditions. The inquest had previously heard testimony that Sanderson’s community parole officer had recommended his conditional release be suspended due to the violation. However, the parole board disagreed and ordered Sanderson be released again with a reprimand and added conditions. These new conditions specifically forbade him from having contact with his common law partner and children unless that contact was deemed to be necessary.

Irfan said the parole officer’s recommendation is something board members look at when making a decision in terms of revoking release.

“That’s one information members consider,” she said.

Elders take stand

The second witness the inquest heard from Monday was Geraldine Arcand an Elder who works with Corrections Service Canada (CSC). Arcand worked with Sanderson during the intake process when he arrived at Saskatchewan Penitentiary in 2019.

Arcand testified as an Elder assigned to the intake unit she worked with Sanderson to come up with a healing plan, which looks to help the offender improve all aspects of themselves including physically and spiritually.

“I sat with him and we talked,” she said.

While talking with the Sanderson, Arcand explained she heard about his childhood and how he wanted to do better in his life for his children. She added Sanderson expressed to her that he was remorseful for his crimes. Overall Arcand said her interactions with Sanderson were positive.

“He was respectful,” she said.

When asked what changes she thinks need to be made to improve corrections, Arcand said she would like to see more supports provided to offenders upon their release to the community. She as well expressed her sympathies to the impacted families.

“My heart goes out to them,” she said.

The inquest as well heard testimony from Elder Harvey Knight, who worked directly with Sanderson as he took programming at Saskatchewan Penitentiary.

Knight explained as an Elder his role is to help educate offenders as they make their way along in their healing journey, rather than analyze them and their behaviours.

“We can only say, ‘this is our teachings,” he said.

In his interactions with Sanderson Knight said he didn’t stand out from the other offenders. He added Sanderson was open to hearing about the teachings and often attended programming.

“His behaviour was very good,” he said.

In his interactions with Sanderson, Knight said he never saw any indication that he was capable of carrying out the kind of violence that he did.

When looking at what changes can be made in the corrections system, Knight said there is a shortage of Elders, which limits the amount of time they can spend working with offenders in programming and one on one. He said he would also like to see more support provided for addictions treatment not only inside institutions but also in the community.

“Got to stop the addictions that are going on,” he said.

Apprehension of suspect

The final person to take the stand Monday, and the final one of the inquest was Sgt. Evan Anderson, with the Saskatchewan RCMP Major Crimes Unit. While Anderson was on the witness stand his testimony was not considered evidence as the death of Myles Sanderson in police custody is going to be looked at by a different inquest next month in Saskatoon.

Anderson’s presentation talked about how RCMP were called about Sanderson stealing a vehicle on Sept. 7 2022 and eventually were able to take him into custody. Anderson said while in custody Sanderson went in to medical distress and died soon after arriving at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon despite life saving efforts.

“There was some medical intervention that took place,” said Anderson.

The presentation as well touched on the range of resources and agencies that came together to look for the suspect. Anderson as well talked about the numerous tips police got reporting possible sightings of Sanderson all over western Canada.

However, Anderson said RCMP’s investigation found Sanderson likely never left the Wakaw area and said police found he had been staying near the home where he stole the Chevy Avalanche on Sept. 7.

“Myles Sanderson had in fact set up a camp,” he said.

Anderson said Sanderson had taken food and drinks from the same home where he stole the truck.

Coroner Blaine Beaven is expected to give the jury their final charge Tuesday morning. The jury will be deliberating to determine the facts of what happened, including who died and under what circumstances. The jury may also put forward recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths in the future.

Deliberations are currently expected to take a number of days.