Myles Sanderson showed no warning signs before mass killing: report

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‘There was, however, significant information that Sanderson was at risk for both general acts of violence and acts of domestic violence,’ the report says

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OTTAWA — A government review has found there were no warning signs that could have predicted Myles Sanderson’s violent rampage that left 11 people dead, despite his previous arrests for violent crime and a history of not following release conditions.

Sanderson stabbed 11 people to death and injured another 18 on the James Smith Cree Nation reserve and in nearby Weldon, Sask., in September 2022. He had been serving a four-year sentence prior to the killings, but was released at the two-thirds mark of his sentence under what is called statutory release.

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The Parole Board of Canada and Correctional Services Canada convened a joint board of investigation to look at their involvement with Sanderson and whether there were mistakes made in releasing him. Prior to releasing the report publicly Tuesday, the agencies provided it to families of survivors in both communities.

The board found nothing in his history indicating Sanderson, 32, would launch such a deadly rampage, beginning with killing his own brother.

“There were no pre-incident indicators or precipitating events known to Correctional Service Canada staff that would have suggested Sanderson would act out in the violent and destructive fashion that he did on September 4, 2022,” the report reads. “There was, however, significant information that Sanderson was at risk for both general acts of violence and acts of domestic violence, particularly if he was misusing substances.

Sanderson had a lengthy criminal record that included 46 convictions between 2008 and 2017. Most of the crimes were minor in nature, but there were more violent ones such as armed robbery, assaulting a police officer and assault with a weapon.

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He also had a pattern of domestic abuse against his partner and the mother of his four children.

When he was released on Aug. 26, 2021 he was under conditions to report any new relationships with women, a condition he violated that fall by living with his common-law partner.

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At the time, he was following other release conditions: he had passed drug tests and checked in with his parole office regularly. He spent three more months in custody for breaching that condition, but he was re-released in February 2022 with a specific condition to keep his distance from his former partner, which he breached a few months later in May.

At that point, a warrant was issued for his arrest. Even though Sanderson called his parole officer several times indicating he would turn himself in, he never did. In the days leading up to his arrest he was selling drugs on the reserve and was arrested only after the stabbings. He died of a cocaine overdose shortly after the Mounties arrested him.

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Monica Irfan, the Parole Board of Canada’s deputy director, policy and legislative initiatives, said when parole officers decide to re-release someone they are taking into account the information they have and decide whether someone is a risk to society.

“The assessment is an assessment of the risks based on the offender’s release and the information presented to the board members at the time of the review,” she said. “They have to assess if the offenders who are released would present an undue risk to society. Again, based on the information, all the relevant available information on file.”

While the review generally cleared people involved, they did find areas that could be improved.

They found Correctional Services Canada could do a better job providing mental health services to inmates both before and after their release. It also recommended it consider reinstating a program that had corrections officers serve as liaisons to police.

Several parole board staff told the review that when Sanderson was on the run after his release was suspended the second time, police agencies in Saskatchewan took information from the parole board about his possible location, but never reported back to the board about their efforts to locate him.

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The recommendations for the Parole Board of Canada were mostly procedural, calling for more training and for some rules to be changed regarding how the board documents its decisions. A single parole board member made the decision to release Sanderson a second time, and the review suggested there should be a minimum of two people on such hearings in the future.

Anne Kelly, commissioner of the correctional service, said the agency would take the recommendations to heart and promised to consider all of them.

“Our correctional system is based on the rehabilitation of offenders while ensuring public safety by successfully and safely reintegrating them into our communities,” she said in a statement. “We are committed to taking every measure possible to further protect the communities we serve.”

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