It has been one year since the mass stabbing tragedy took place on James Smith Cree Nation, claiming the lives of 11 people and injuring 17 others on the First Nation and in the nearby village of Weldon.
Chaos descended on the First Nation a year ago when 32-year-old Myles Sanderson moved from one home to another, busting down doors and attacking people.
On Monday, the community gathered to remember and to celebrate the lives of those lost too soon.
“We are struggling in this community,” said Chakastaypasin Band Chief Calvin Sanderson.
Chief Sanderson was one of many people affected by the tragedy. Damien Sanderson, Myles’s brother and one of the 11 victims who lost their lives, was found near Chief Sanderson’s home.
“I don’t even feel comfortable where I live right now,” he said. “One of those individuals lost their life by my place, and I didn’t even realize he was lying there. He was trying to make it to my house for help, and no one knows what would have happened if he was successful.”
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It is one of many stories leaders in the community brought forward Monday as they reflected on the journey the community has gone through over the last year.
“A year ago, everything failed us,” said James Smith Cree Nation Chief Wally Burns. “But now we look at it, … (today) it’s a celebration of life, love and respect.”
At the heart of the issue, many believe, there is a clear sign.
“Residential schools, abuses, alcoholism, discrimination — it all combines and drives people to do awful things,” said Chief Robert Head of the Peter Chapman Band.
That’s something Patty Hajdu, the federal Indigenous Services minister agrees with.
“This didn’t happen by accident,” Hajdu said. “This happened as a byproduct of generations of families being similarly inflicted with loss and grief and trauma.”
Chief Sanderson said more needs to be done internally and externally to prevent tragedies like this from happening.
“Stop harming ourselves, stop harming our own relatives. It has to stop,” he said.
The federal government has promised roughly $40 million for a treatment centre on James Smith, and pledged to help create First Nations Police Services. On Monday, Hajdu gave no update on the timeline of either service, but both are expected to take years to implement.
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement to mark one year since the attacks.
“Canada has been united in mourning those whose lives were taken by this tragic and senseless violence,” the statement read. “Today, we stop to remember them, their loved ones, and the communities which have been forever changed.”
“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I extend my deepest sympathies to the victims’ loved ones. We will continue working in partnership with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities across the country to advance Indigenous-led, community-led approaches to safety and mental wellness so a tragedy like this one never happens again.”
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe took to social media to share his thoughts on the anniversary.
“Today, we mark the solemn one-year anniversary of the tragedy that took place on James Smith Cree Nation,” Moe said. “Collectively, we pause to remember and honour the victims and their families as we reflect on the journey toward healing.”
At sunset on James Smith on Monday, a candle-lit vigil was to be held on the First Nation to remember those lost in the attack.
“Healing is not an overnight project. It will take years,” Head said. “We want to thank everyone in the world who has lifted pipes … and done everything for us to survive this year.”
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