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Canadian bishop reacts to ‘horrific’ knife attacks

06 September 2022

The two brothers suspected of the rampage, Myles and Damien Sanderson, have since died


Police, coroners, and crime investigators gather in Weldon, Saskatchewan, on Sunday

Police, coroners, and crime investigators gather in Weldon, Saskatchewan, on Sunday

THE Bishop of Saskatoon, in Canada, the Rt Revd Christopher Harper, has expressed pain and sorrow at the “incomprehensible” mass stabbings in the James Smith Cree Nation reserve in Saskatchewan on Sunday.

Ten people were killed and 18 were wounded in a series of attacks that began in the usually peaceful First Nation community, home to 2000 people, and spread to the nearby village of Weldon, home to just 200 people. Canadian police are investigating 13 different crime scenes. The motives for the attacks are unknown.

A state of emergency was declared in Saskatchewan and a manhunt immediately began for the two brothers suspected of the rampage, Myles and Damien Sanderson, who were both charged with murder despite not having been arrested. A dangerous-person alert was sent to all mobile phones across the provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Alberta, a region almost half the size of Europe.

On Tuesday morning, the Saskatchewan Royal Canadian Mounted Police reported that Damien Sanderson had been found dead on a “heavily grassed area” at the James Smith Cree Nation, where most of the victims lived. He had injuries that were believed not to have been self-inflicted.

The possibility that he was killed by his brother would be investigated, the police said. Myles Sanderson, who was previously known to the police and is said to have an “extensive and lengthy” criminal record, was on the run for two days before he was captured by police, on Thursday, and later died. He was said to have been in “medical distress” after his arrest on a motorway in the province of Saskatchewan after a high-speed chase.

As news of the attacks emerged, Bishop Harper said in a statement: “It is days and events such as this that remind us that we, in actuality, have little under control, and that, when our human might and control fail, we naturally turn to the hopeful power of prayer. I ask all clergy to step into prayer and to ask your prayer circles to reach out to all our church membership to pray for peace and comfort for all in regard to the horrific events.”

He asked especially for prayers for the victims, the families involved, the community, and first responders. He also called for prayers for “the youth who are caught up in gang life, addictions, and are broken and in need of healing”.

The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, said that he was “shocked and devastated by the horrific attacks”, and that those responsible “must be fully brought to justice”. He later said: “This kind of violence, or any kind of violence, has no place in our country.”

Retweeting the letter from Bishop Harper on Tuesday morning, the Archbishop of Canterbury commented: “Having visited James Smith Cree Nation earlier this year [News, 6 May], I’m appalled and deeply saddened by the fatal stabbings there and across Saskatchewan this weekend. I mourn with the community and pray that God would comfort all those experiencing such unimaginable anguish.”

This story was updated on 8 September

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