This morning Saskatchewan RCMP Commanding Officer Rhonda Blackmore issued a statement regarding the ongoing investigation of the homicides which occurred at the James Smith Cree Nation and Weldon in the early hours of September 4th. This morning’s statement was both to update the public and also to address questions media had been posing, particularly in relation to the cause of death of Myles Sanderson.
At the press conference held shortly after the arrest and sudden death of Sanderson, media were seeking answers to the cause of his death. As Blackmore explained at that time, following his arrest, Sanderson went into medical distress and although life saving measures were taken, he was declared deceased at the hospital. The only information they could supply was that the police officers were unaware of the circumstances that led to his medical distress, and they would need to wait for a coroner’s report to learn the cause of death. “The police officers,” she said, “who apprehended him are highly trained experts in their field, but they are not medical experts or pathologists.” Although there had been published speculation supposedly obtained from police sources that Sanderson died of self-inflicted wounds, Blackmore reiterated this morning that they “did not know – and still do not know- the cause of death for Myles Sanderson and speculate would be irresponsible and undermine the independent investigation being conducted by Saskatoon Police Service and the Saskatchewan Serious Incident Response Team.” The Saskatoon Police Service and the Saskatchewan Serious Incident Response Team were requested by the RCMP at that time to conduct an independent investigation into the events immediately preceding his death. The independent review is by its very nature a very detailed process and complex investigations take time.
The Saskatchewan Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) first announced by the Gov’t of Saskatchewan on April 12, 2021, is an independent, civilian-led unit responsible for investigating serious incidents involving police officers in Saskatchewan. SIRT is responsible for investigating serious incidents involving municipal police officers, RCMP officers operating in Saskatchewan, and certain classes of special constables in the province, such as Conservation and Traffic Officers. SIRT's mandate includes both on-duty and off-duty actions of police and special constables. As an independent, civilian-led organization, SIRT ensures that all investigations of serious incidents involving police officers are impartial and conducted to the same standard as any Criminal Code investigation. By ensuring accountability and transparency through independent investigations, SIRT's mandate is to increase public confidence in Saskatchewan's police forces. Investigations will begin after SIRT is notified of a serious incident involving a police officer. Investigations are not launched as the result of a complaint submitted by the public and final reports will be released to the public within 90 days of the investigation ending. The reports will tell the public what happened and explain the final decision on the file, including whether or not any charges are to be laid.
Blackmore reminded everyone that “this is not a TV drama where we will have all of the answers by the end of the episode” and that the Major Crimes Unit continues to work putting the pieces together and formulating a detailed timeline that can be released to the public. She concluded her statement by thanking the community members of James Smith Cree Natin and Weldon, the general public for providing valuable information, and the media for bringing important information to the public.
Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wakaw Recorder