A beloved veteran described as a “hero”, an Elder who served as an addictions counsellor, a mother of five and a widower who spent his days volunteering are among the 10 victims of Sunday’s deadly knife attack in western Canada.
As the hunt for the surviving suspect entered its fifth day, police in the province of Saskatchewan have named the victims of Sunday’s stabbing rampage, their ages ranging from 23 to 78.
The police force said it would not release the identities or ages of the wounded, but confirmed one young teen was injured among the 18.
The victims were named as:
Thomas Burns, 23
Carol Burns, 46
Gregory Burns, 28
Lydia Gloria Burns, 61
Bonnie Burns, 48
Earl Burns, 66
Lana Head, 49
Christian Head, 54
Robert Sanderson, 49
Wesley Petterson, 78
All the victims were residents of James Smith Cree Nation, an Indigenous community, apart from Petterson who lived in the neighbouring village of Weldon in northern Saskatchewan.
The list does not include Damien Sanderson, a suspect in the attack whose body was found on Monday. His brother, Myles Sanderson remains at large, and faces murder charges.
The attack has left thousands grieving for friends, neighbours and family.
But in the days since, the victims have also been remembered as heroes of their community, some of whom fought fiercely to protect others when the attack began early Sunday morning, and others whose lives were taken while serving their community.
“My brother Earl Burns was a true hero. He fought till the death to protect his family,” Deborah McLean told local media.
Lydia Gloria Burns, who worked as an addictions counsellor, was responding to a crisis call when she was killed.
“She died helping people. And we have to pick up that torch and carry it,” her brother, Darryl Burns, told Postmedia.
The tragic events in the province have also focused attention on the country’s parole board after media outlets reported on Sanderson’s extensive criminal history. Parole documents released on Tuesday showed that Sanderson had 59 convictions over 20 years, including for domestic assault, assault with a weapon and attacking a police officer.
On Tuesday, the public safety minister, Marco Mendicino, said he was “extremely concerned” following reports the country’s parole board granted Sanderson statutory release after serving two-thirds of his sentence despite concerns he might reoffend. He was serving a four year, four month federal sentence for assault, assault with a weapon and assault of a police officer.
“I am assured that the Parole Board of Canada will be undertaking an investigation of this decision. I think the process for review begins there but it certainly does not end at that point,” Mendicino told reporters.
On Wednesday police continued their search, operating with less certainty where Sanderson could be. Until recently they had assumed he was sheltering in Regina, the province’s capital. A suspected sighting on Tuesday brought fresh panic to James Smith Cree Nation as policed rushed in, but the RCMP later issued an alert that his whereabouts was “unknown”.