RCMP to address recommendations related to response to James Smith Cree Nation stabbing massacre

A police officer speaks with someone outside the James Smith Cree Nation in 2022.  (Lars Hagberg/AFP via Getty Images - image credit)
A police officer speaks with someone outside the James Smith Cree Nation in 2022. (Lars Hagberg/AFP via Getty Images - image credit)

The Saskatchewan RCMP's response to the stabbing attacks on James Smith Cree Nation has been heavily examined.

That scrutiny has led to several calls for change within the police force. Next week, the RCMP will speak about how it has responded and will respond to the dozens of recommendations for changes. Police say they will also release an internal review.

Eleven people were killed and 17 injured during a brutal, drug-fuelled stabbing massacre on James Smith Cree Nation and the nearby village of Weldon in September 2022.

The RCMP's response to the tragedy came under the microscope earlier this year during two coroner's inquests.

The first inquest was held to determine the circumstances of the victims' deaths and to prevent similar tragedies in the future and the second was held because the perpetrator, Myles Sanderson, died shortly after he was brought into police custody.

The inquests resulted in several recommendations targeted toward the RCMP. The Mounties will address their response to these recommendations next Thursday at a news conference, but their written response has already been posted in full online

RCMP says changes are afoot 

The RCMP has committed to making some internal changes.

For example, it says it has made a procedural change to ensure detachments are alerted about the province's most violent or at-large offenders in a timely manner.

The RCMP is also considering how and if an offender's history of domestic violence can be added as a factor to the way it ranks the risks of unlawfully at-large offenders.

The first inquest heard that killer Myles Sanderson was a wanted man on the run from police at the time of the stabbings, and that he had been brutally violent toward his ex-partner and her family.

Some recommendations asked the RCMP to address staffing concerns within — and consider expanding — its specialty teams. The RCMP said it agrees in principle, but can't ask the provincial government to fund more positions when current ones aren't filled.

It said work is underway to address massive gaps, noting its warrant enforcement suppression team's vacancy rate has decreased to 20 per cent from 35 per cent.

Only 60 per cent of the crime reduction team and 70 per cent of the Saskatchewan trafficking response team positions are staffed. The RCMP said issues with accommodations delayed efforts to fill many of these positions, but those issues have been sorted out and they should be filled soon.

Looking at resources overall, the Mounties expect to bolster all of their programs in the coming years — anticipating 1,280 new applicants to train during the 2024-25 year, followed by 3,200 in the two following years.

Other recommendations focused on building relationships with Indigenous communities. RCMP said its Melfort detachment is committed to working with James Smith Cree Nation.

It said the detachment's goals are outlined in its 2024-25 strategic plan, and that the detachment is tracking and reporting efforts to attend community events, engage with school-aged youth, remain involved with community safety programs, ensure ongoing reconciliation efforts and keep engaged with elected officials.

RCMP to release internal review 

The RCMP said it will also speak to a separate analysis of its response to the stabbing attacks at the media briefing next week.

The Saskatchewan RCMP said this internal review was completed by the Alberta RCMP's office of investigative standards and practices.

The team was tasked with examining the "response of the RCMP, with an emphasis on the initial call for service, command structures that were utilized, public alerts, media relations, operational communications, victim care/response, overarching policy and pre-event intelligence."

There were 36 recommendations that resulted from this review.

Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore will be present to answer questions next Thursday, as will Chief Supt. Ted Munro, criminal operations officer, and Supt. Joshua Graham, officer in charge of major crimes.