Darryl Burns gripped a photo of his sister Gloria, who was killed in a stabbing rampage on a Saskatchewan First Nation, after hearing the more than two dozen sweeping recommendations issued by a coroner's inquest into the tragedy.
"If my sister’s death means something positive is going to come out of this, then her legacy is going to live on," Burns said Wednesday in Melfort, Sask., where the inquest was taking place.
Jurors made 14 suggestions, including ways to better to locate offenders who are unlawfully at large and further funding and training for security on the James Smith Cree Nation.
They also said the First Nation should follow through on the process to establish its own police force.
The presiding coroner made 15 recommendations, including improvements for the RCMP warrant enforcement suppression team.
Brian (Buggy) Burns wiped tears from his eyes and said learning what happened during the inquest has helped him sleep better at night. Burns lost both his wife and oldest son during the rampage.
“I feel better now, a weight lifted off my shoulders," Burns said.
Over 11 days of testimony, the six jurors heard how Myles Sanderson brought death and chaos to the First Nation and nearby village of Weldon on Sept. 4, 2022. Eleven people were killed and 17 others injured.
He died in police custody a few days later, and a separate inquest into his death is scheduled for February.
“This has been an extraordinarily difficult few weeks," coroner Blaine Beaven said Wednesday.
Ten of the recommendations were directed at the RCMP including fully staffing specialized teams and improving the relationship and communication with the First Nation.
Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore, commanding officer of the RCMP in Saskatchewan, said many of the recommendations were positive and they will be looking at how to implement those that are possible.
She said RCMP are already working on relationships and protocols to address some of the recommendations.
Other recommendations were addressed to Public Safety Canada and the Correctional Service of Canada. Some family members of victims said they were hoping to see recommendations directed to the Parole Board of Canada.
"I don't know why that is," Brian Burns said.
Sanderson was unlawfully at large when he went to the First Nation to sell cocaine. In the days before the killings, he caused chaos there with his brother, Damien Sanderson.
Damien Sanderson was the first to be killed. The inquest heard how he then went door-to-door attacking and stabbing people.
An RCMP criminal profiler testified that some victims were targeted because Sanderson had a grievance against them, and others just got in the way of his mission to kill.
The inquest also heard about Sanderson's upbringing, life, relationships and criminal record.
Chief Robert Head and Chief Wally Burns of the Peter Chapman and James Smith bands, two of the three communities that make up the James Smith Cree Nation, said the inquest has shown there needs to be support for their security and a transition to self-administered policing.
"Safety and security of our people is paramount," Head said.
Seven recommendations were for the First Nation's leadership, including suggestions to encourage community members to report crimes, especially involving people who are wanted by police. Another recommendation was to ensure people who are being released from prison back into the community are aware of programs and services for addictions, mental health and domestic violence.
The chiefs said they would look the recommendations over before responding.
Chelsey Stonestand, who lost family members in the attack, said the inquest was not perfect but it was practical.
"This inquest brought us together to seek truth and share truth together," she said.
"And at the end of the day, I think there is comfort in the inquest and the recommendations that are going to be implemented."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2024.