Three dozen serious offenders at large in Saskatchewan after breaking release conditions

·4 min read

Two weeks after losing his case at the Supreme Court of Canada, Monty Shane Kishayinew walked out of jail in Regina and disappeared.

The case against the 38-year-old had been working its way through the courts since 2014, when it had been alleged that he led a drunk, disoriented woman he'd found sitting outside Manchester Brew Pub in Saskatoon to his sister's house and sexually assaulted her.

Kishayinew was convicted, he appealed and the case worked its way through the province's trial courts, Court of Appeal and finally to the Supreme Court, which restored his original conviction on Nov. 5, 2020.

Two weeks later, on Nov. 19, he was released on parole for time served and vanished. A warrant for his arrest was issued that same day.

The facts of this case are unique to Kishayinew, but an offender going "unlawfully at large" is not unusual. There are currently 36 such men and women across the province with warrants for their arrest.

Their background histories include convictions for murder, aggravated assault, robbery, sexual assault and kidnapping.

Jeff Campbell with the Correctional Service of Canada said that individuals transitioning back into the community often face a variety of conditions.

"While on release, offenders must abide by the special conditions placed on them by the Parole Board of Canada," he said in an email.

"Conditions vary and can include conditions to abstain from drugs and alcohol, residency conditions, conditions to stay away from individuals, such as victims, amongst others. The conditions support the risk management of the offender while they are in the community."

Once an offender breaches these conditions, police are contacted and a warrant issued for their arrest.

Challenges for police

Finding these individuals offers a handful of challenges to the province's municipal police forces. For starters, where an individual goes missing is not necessarily where they may end up going to ground.

"It becomes difficult when you, as a local agency, learn that they're unlawfully at large and you may know them or know about them and start checking all the usual places where you might find them," said Supt. Cameron McBride with the Saskatoon Police Service.

"But they could be, you know, in a completely different part of the province or another province altogether."

In addition, these people unlawfully at large (UAL) are not the only individuals police are hunting. They are part of a larger pool of wanted people on the police radar.

Not all police officers, for instance, would know the identity of a UAL offender — unless there was a risk to the larger community.

"If it's significant enough and there's public interest to get that person arrested and into court as soon as possible, that investigating officer can put the word out, let everybody know that this individual is wanted," McBride said. "And then, you know, should we come across them, they would be arrested on that outstanding warrant, but the only officer really that would be actively looking for them would be the officer who's directly involved in that file."

The COVID curve

Campbell said that parole offices in the Prairie region have stayed operational during the past year of the pandemic.

Parole officers have adapted to pandemic protocols by doing remote work and using the phone to contact offenders. They also use community contacts to monitor release conditions and the risk to public safety.

Saskatoon defence lawyer Brian Pfefferle represented Kishayinew. He said that reporting by phone can be an issue because it can be difficult to confirm that the person calling in is the actual offender.

"The ability for parole officers and probation officers to meet people, to see them face to face, to know the people that they're actually dealing with is really an issue," he said.

"It's one of the many things difficult to monitor in the world that we're living. Trying to avoid as many face-to-face interviews as possible and also trying to avoid jails being overcrowded, so that there's a delicate balance between our people being properly managed in the community."

McBride notes that the larger impact of the pandemic also plays into the challenge facing police. COVID-19 has disrupted services at food banks and emergency shelters, locations where police may have in the past encountered someone on the lam.

"Even if they would try to utilize services ... obtaining food or obtaining shelter when it's really cold, those services are just not available like they were," he said.

"So I would say in this climate, in this current COVID situation, it would be easier for them to just disappear."