James Smith Cree Nation – Coroner’s inquest issues recommendations regarding mass casualty event

3 minute read
08 February 2024

Authors:

From January 15 to 31, 2024, a coroner's inquest reviewed the circumstances leading to the tragic mass casualty event that occurred on September 4, 2022 on the James Smith Cree Nation reserve and in the village of Weldon, both in central Saskatchewan. During the attacks, 11 people lost their lives, 10 of whom were members of James Smith Cree Nation, and many others were injured.

Comprised of a presiding coroner and a jury, the mandate of the inquest was to:

  • Determine the identity, manner and time of death of the deceased persons.
  • At the discretion of the coroner and jury, issue recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future.

Due to the scale of the tragedy, the inquest was one of the largest and most complex in Canadian history.

At the conclusion of the inquest, the jury and coroner issued a combined total of 30 recommendations (accessible here) directed at various levels of government. Notably, these recommendations include:

  • Calls for the RCMP and James Smith Cree Nation to develop a community justice strategy, including the establishment of a self-administered police force for James Smith Cree Nation.
  • Proposed reforms to RCMP and Correctional Service of Canada processes to enhance communication with First Nations communities, including to advise them when an arrest warrant has been issued for a member of that First Nation who is unlawfully at large.
  • Proposed reforms to Correctional Service of Canada programming, such as:
    • Filling vacant Elder positions (who deliver culturally-appropriate programming to Indigenous offenders).
    • Requiring offenders with a history of domestic violence to complete programming aimed at breaking the cycle of domestic violence prior to their release.
    • Ensuring that once offenders are released from custody, they have meaningful post-release supports available to them.

Gowling WLG represented James Smith Cree Nation throughout the inquest process.  Keith Brown and Lauren Mar attended the inquest, and were supported by Bob Freedman, Emma Hobbs and Rikki Logan.

Gowling WLG has expertise both in advising Indigenous groups on the legal issues affecting them (see here for more information) as well as in a diverse range of public law matters, such as inquests, commissions of inquiry, and other processes (see here for more information).


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