Sask. First Nations say RCMP were warned about Shawn Moostoos before fatal shootings

·3 min read
Shawn Moostoos is accused of murdering two people on Sunday in James Smith Cree Nation and is seeking bail, a provincial court heard Wednesday.  (Shawn Moostoos/Facebook - image credit)
Shawn Moostoos is accused of murdering two people on Sunday in James Smith Cree Nation and is seeking bail, a provincial court heard Wednesday. (Shawn Moostoos/Facebook - image credit)

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations says the RCMP was previously warned about Shawn Moostoos, the man accused of murdering two people and wounding another last weekend on the James Smith Cree Nation reserve in northeast Saskatchewan.

The FSIN, which represents 74 First Nations in the province, said in a statement that the shootings are part of a rash of recent preventable tragedies experienced by First Nations. The organization said the events were all connected to drugs, alcohol abuse, mental health "and the lack of proactive care and attention."

"With proper action, they could have been prevented," the federation stated.

In a statement to CBC News, the RCMP extended its condolences to families and said it will continue to work with others to reduce harm in communities that officers also call home.

"Our officers see the harm trafficking illegal drugs causes and we remain focused on investigating and charging those involved," according to the statement. "Our officers are committed to fostering strong relationships in the communities we serve."

Guy Quenneville/CBC
Guy Quenneville/CBC

Moostoos had his first court appearance, over the phone from the Melfort RCMP detachment, on Wednesday morning. A lawyer speaking on his behalf said Moostoos will seek bail, though that will need to be dealt with by the Court of Queen's Bench given the severity of Moostoos's charges.

Moostoos is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of a 37-year-old man and a 28-year-old woman from James Smith Cree Nation on Sunday evening. Moostoos is also accused of attempting to murder a 44-year-old man who was taken to hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries.

An "altercation" happened at a home where shootings took place, according to the RCMP.

Moostoos was the subject of a nearly 24-hour manhunt until he was caught and arrested by RCMP officers on Monday afternoon in Melfort, 40 kilometres southeast of James Smith Cree Nation. RCMP had said he was likely armed and dangerous.

An initial emergency alert issued after the shootings sowed confusion in the province because it did not state which communities the alert applied to.

'The RCMP refuses to work with us'

In its statement, the FSIN said it was frustrating to learn that the RCMP was notified by James Smith Cree Nation community members "about the risks posed by this weekend's assailant and about drug dealers in the community months ago, and they did not investigate."

The federation said many Indigenous leaders have launched band council resolutions to banish drug dealers from their communities.

"But the RCMP refuses to enforce them," according to the statement. "Our people work with the RCMP, but the RCMP refuses to work with us. RCMP inaction is a problem across the province. We've gotten calls from Beardy's, Ochapowace, Flying Dust and George Gordon First Nations."

In the latter community, a man was fatally shot by RCMP officers last July.

The FSIN called on the federal government and the RCMP to take drastic action to prevent future deaths.

"The current policing model does not deliver any long-term, strategic plans that can be measured; they just respond to clean up the aftermath of violent and tragic events," according to the statement. "This is not community policing. This is not reconciliation."

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