Trudeau pledges aid for Indigenous community after stabbing spree

Canada PM’s visit to James Smith Cree Nation comes after leaders called for resources to set up tribal policing and addiction services.

Indigenous leaders in James Smith Cree Nation sitting with Justin Trudeau at a long table.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with James Smith Cree Nation Chief Wally Burns and other Indigenous and government leaders in the First Nation community in Saskatchewan, Canada, November 28, 2022 [Nayan Sthankiya/Reuters]

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced support for an Indigenous community still grappling with the aftermath of a fatal stabbing spree in September that marked one of the deadliest incidents in Canada’s history.

Trudeau travelled to James Smith Cree Nation on Monday to pay his respects to the victims of the September 4 rampage in the community, located in the central province of Saskatchewan. He also met with James Smith Cree Nation Chief Wally Burns and other Indigenous leaders.

The prime minister pledged $30m over six years to help James Smith Cree Nation build a new wellness centre and repurpose an existing facility to respond to immediate needs.

Trudeau said his government also would allocate $1.85m to improve access to holistic treatment and healing services in James Smith, as well as invest another $15m in a national programme to bolster Indigenous communities’ safety and well-being.

“Our shared goal is to make sure that people feel safe. In the aftermath of tragedy, you’ve shown remarkable care and resilience for one another,” Trudeau said during a news conference on Monday afternoon unveiling the measures.

“Healing is something that takes time. But as you continue along the healing journey as people, as families, as communities, our government will be your partner every step of the way,” he said.

Burns, the chief, had called for greater resources in the aftermath of the attack, including the establishment of tribal police in the community.

Ten residents of James Smith Cree Nation, home to approximately 1,900 people who live on the reserve, were killed in the series of fatal stabbings. Another person was killed in the nearby village of Weldon, while 18 others were injured.

Canadian police said last month that they believed only one of the two brothers initially accused of being responsible for the attacks carried out the murders.

Saskatchewan Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said Damien Sanderson, initially named as a suspect in the attacks, “was a victim of homicide” by his brother, Myles Sanderson. Damien Sanderson is counted among the 10 people killed in James Smith Cree Nation.

After a days-long search following the stabbings, Myles Sanderson was arrested and died after going into “medical distress” in police custody.

Authorities have not released a motive for the attacks, and the RCMP said last month that “the reality is, we may never really know exactly why”.

Some community members and Indigenous leaders have said the violence was the result of drug abuse.

“This is the destruction we face when harmful illegal drugs invade our communities,” Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) said in September.

Trudeau pays respects at graves of victims of deadly Saskatchewan stabbing spree, in James Smith Cree Nation.
Trudeau pays his respects to the victims of the September attacks in James Smith Cree Nation, November 28, 2022 [Nayan Sthankiya/Reuters]

Burns, the James Smith Cree Nation chief, also had called for the launch of addiction awareness programmes and for treatment centres to be established in the community.

“We’ve got to protect our community, fight against drugs and alcohol,” he said, days after the spree.

Canadian media outlets had reported that Myles Sanderson had a two-decade-long criminal record and many of his crimes were carried out when he was intoxicated.

Meanwhile, two public inquests into the attacks will be held in Saskatchewan.

“The events that occurred require a methodical and complete investigation,” Clive Weighill of the Saskatchewan Coroners Service told reporters on September 21.

Source: Al Jazeera