Police hunted for two suspects who went on a stabbing spree that killed 10 people and wounded at least 15 others in and around an Indigenous community in central Canada.
The stabbings across 13 crime scenes were among the deadliest mass killings in modern Canadian history and certain to reverberate throughout the country, which is unaccustomed to bouts of mass violence more commonly seen in the United States.
Police responding to emergency calls on Sunday found 10 people dead in the Indigenous community of James Smith Cree Nation and the nearby town of Weldon in Saskatchewan province, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore told a news conference.
“Several additional victims have been injured, 15 of which at this point have been transported to various hospitals,” she said. More victims may made their way to hospitals on their own, she added.
Police named two suspects and provided photos and descriptions but no further details about their motive or the victims.
“It is horrific what has happened in our province today,” Blackmore said. “It appears that some of the victims may have been targeted, and some may be random. So to speak to a motive would be extremely difficult at this point in time.”
A statement by Indigenous leaders indicated the attacks may have been drug related.
“This is the destruction we face when harmful illegal drugs invade our communities,” said Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations. The group represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan.
“It’s sick how jail time, drugs and alcohol can destroy many lives,” Michael Brett Burns told the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.
Officials said the two men, in their early 30s, were last seen travelling in a black Nissan Rogue and spotted in the provincial capital of Regina, about 320km (200 miles) south of where the attacks took place.
Blackmore said it was unknown where the suspects might be headed or if they had changed vehicles. Regina Police Chief Evan Bray said late Sunday they still believe the suspects are in Regina.
Police in Saskatchewan issued a province-wide dangerous persons alert, with authorities in neighbouring Alberta and Manitoba – a vast region nearly half the size of Europe – later following suit.
The James Smith Cree Nation, with a population of about 3,000, declared a local state of emergency.
‘Horrific and heartbreaking’
Diane Shier, a nearby resident of Weldon, said she was in her garden on Sunday when she noticed emergency services not far from her home.
Shier said her neighbour was killed. She did not want to identify the victim out of respect for their family.
“No one in this town is ever going to sleep again. They’re going to be terrified to open their door,” said Weldon resident Ruby Works, who was close to one of the victims.
Police bulletins urged people to report any suspicious people and to take precautions including sheltering in place, while warning against picking up hitchhikers or approaching suspicious people.
“Do not leave a secure location. Use caution allowing others into your residence,” one advisory said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the attacks were “horrific and heartbreaking” and the government was closely monitoring the situation.
“As Canadians, we mourn with everyone affected by this tragic violence, and with the people of Saskatchewan,” he said in a statement.
Sunday’s attack was among the deadliest mass killings in Canadian history. The deadliest gun rampage in Canadian history happened in 2020 when a man disguised as a police officer shot people in their homes and set fires across the province of Nova Scotia, killing 22 people.
A man used a van to kill 10 pedestrians in Toronto in 2019. But mass killings are less common in Canada than in the United States.