Saskatchewan

'She's a hero': Slain mother of 5 among victims ID'd in mass stabbing

Police have released the names of those killed in the mass stabbings in James Smith Cree Nation and the nearby village of Weldon, Sask. Family and friends say they are still trying to understand what led to the deaths of their loved ones.

Search for accused assailant Myles Sanderson continues

Three men sit at a conference table, on which sit framed photos of three other people.
Family members of those killed in the mass stabbing at James Smith Cree Nation and nearby Weldon, Sask., speak at a news conference in Saskatoon on Wednesday. From left to right: Chuck Goodvoice, Brian (Buggy) Burns and Mark Arcand. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Warning: This story contains distressing details

The family of Bonnie Goodvoice-Burns and her son, Gregory Burns, two of the victims who died after a series of stabbings in Saskatchewan on the weekend, is still trying to understand what led to the deaths of their loved ones.

"She always put other people before her; that's what we want people to remember," Mark Arcand, Goodvoice-Burns's brother, told a news conference in Saskatoon on Wednesday morning.

Buggy Burns, her husband of 15 years, sat beside Arcand. He nodded, shook his head or looked down as Arcand spoke, sometimes smiling as they discussed happy memories of his late wife and son. Buggy chose not to speak with reporters during the news conference. 

"She was a member that made a difference in peoples' lives … and the children always came first," Arcand said.

"She was protecting her son, she was protecting these three little boys; this is why she's a hero."

A woman appears to tear up while seated in an audience.
A woman watches during the news conference. Ten people were killed and another 18 injured over the Labour Day weekend. One of the alleged assailants was also found dead later. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Arcand wants people to remember his sister, who worked at the school in James Smith Cree Nation, as a caring and funny person beloved by her family and community. 

He said his nephew Gregory, 28, who went by the nickname "Jonesy," had a bright future ahead.

"He was a great kid. He worked in the community, he'd build houses. He did whatever he could for his family, and tried to help his mom and his dad, and take care of his three brothers," Arcand said.

Arcand said another of the couple's three sons was stabbed in the neck, but survived. He said the family also has two foster children.

Ten people were left dead and another 18 injured in the James Smith Cree Nation area and in the nearby village Weldon, Sask., over the Labour Day weekend. 

Police are still searching for Myles Sanderson, 32, who has been charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and breaking and entering. His brother, Damien Sanderson, 31, was also facing charges before he was found dead on Monday.

A composite photo of ten people.
Composite illustration shows James Smith Cree Nation stabbing victims: top row (left to right) Thomas Burns, Carol Burns, Gregory Burns, Lydia Gloria Burns and Bonnie Goodvoice-Burns. Bottom row (left to right): Lana Head, Christian Head, Robert Sanderson, Wesley Petterson and Earl Burns Sr. (Saskatchewan RCMP, Sask First Nations Veterans Association/Facebook)

Arcand said he learned of the stabbing attacks on Sunday morning and drove to the community, located about 170 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon, that afternoon. 

He said he can't get the traumatic scene he saw out of his mind, which led him to waking up, screaming, as he tried to sleep that night.

"How can somebody do this to women and children? Words can't express the pain that we're feeling," Arcand said.

WATCH | 'My heart aches': Stories about stabbing victims emerge: 

Mother, veteran, first responder among victims of Sask. stabbings

3 months ago
Duration 2:27
Stories are emerging about some of the victims of the stabbing rampage in Saskatchewan. Among those who lost their lives: a beloved mother of five, a veteran, and a community first responder who her family says was trying to help when she was killed.

Arcand said his family is climbing a mountain of grief and devastation, and will need to celebrate the lives of the people they lost and help those around them in order to heal.

He said the surviving children will especially need long-term sustainable supports. 

Earlier Wednesday, the RCMP and the Saskatchewan Coroners Service released a comprehensive list of those killed.

  • Thomas Burns, 23, of James Smith Cree Nation. 
  • Carol Burns, 46, of James Smith Cree Nation.
  • Gregory Burns, 28, of James Smith Cree Nation.
  • Lydia Gloria Burns, 61, of James Smith Cree Nation.
  • Bonnie Goodvoice-Burns, 48, of James Smith Cree Nation.
  • Earl Burns, 66, of James Smith Cree Nation. 
  • Lana Head, 49, of James Smith Cree Nation.
  • Christian Head, 54, of James Smith Cree Nation.
  • Robert Sanderson, 49, of James Smith Cree Nation.
  • Wesley Petterson, 78, of Weldon.

The RCMP said it will not be confirming any relationships of the deceased.

Police also said the identities or ages of the wounded would not be released, but confirmed one young teen was injured, while the remaining victims were adults.

Sanderson remains at large. A dangerous persons alert that at one point included Alberta and Manitoba, remains in place in Saskatchewan. Police said earlier he was believed to be driving a black Nissan Rogue with licence plate 119 MPI. He is described as six feet one inch tall and about 240 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.

Prayers and condolences

Meanwhile, prayers and condolences continue to come in for those affected by the stabbings, one of the largest mass murders in Saskatchewan history, including from Queen Elizabeth.

"My thoughts and prayers are with those recovering from injuries, and grieving such horrific losses," the Queen said. 

"I mourn with all Canadians at this tragic time."

Police vehicles and officers are seen outside a house in a wooded area.
In this image taken from video, law enforcement surround a residence on James Smith Cree First Nation on Tuesday as they search for accused assailant Myles Sanderson. (Robert Bumsted/The Associated Press)

Flags at all federal buildings in Saskatchewan are flying at half-mast until further notice. 

Premier Scott Moe's office has said flags at provincial government buildings will be lowered to half-mast for 10 days — one day for each victim of the killings. 

Universities, school boards, municipal governments and other organizations in the province have said the same, lowering their flags to half-mast. Many have already made statements of condolence and prayer to the bereaved.

The Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert First Nation University campuses will hold a candlelight and prayer vigil Wednesday at 7 p.m. CST.

"On behalf of students, faculty, staff, alumni, executive and Elders of the First Nations University of Canada, I want to express my deepest sympathies to the victims of the senseless acts of violence in James Smith Cree Nation and the town of Weldon, and their families, friends, and communities," the university said in a statement. 

"Collectively, we feel the shock, so together, we will mourn, pray and heal."

A GoFundMe created by Rob Clarke, a former MP and RCMP officer, has raised over $119,000 from more than 2,000 donations.

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents 74 First Nation communities, including James Smith Cree Nation, said the fundraising campaign will close now that it reached its $100,000 goal.

As of Wednesday morning, it remained open.

"The leadership of James Smith Cree Nation is grateful to all the donors who have contributed funds to support its affected members," the organization said in a statement.

"Please help us spread the word that any other crowdfunding campaigns have not been endorsed by James Smith Cree Nation, nor [the James Smith Cree Nation Emergency Operations Centre]."


Support is available for anyone affected by the latest reports. You can talk to a mental health professional via Wellness Together Canada by calling 1-866-585-0445 or text WELLNESS to 686868 for youth or 741741 for adults. It is free and confidential. 

The Hope for Wellness hotline offers immediate help to Indigenous people across Canada. Mental health counselling and crisis support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat at www.hopeforwellness.ca.

A closeup of a bouquet of flowers, placed on the yard of a house.
Flowers are seen near the home ofvictim Wes Petterson, a 78-year-old widower from Weldon. (Don Somers/CBC)

With files from The Canadian Press

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