Trudeau announces $42.5 million in funding for Saskatchewan First Nation rocked by stabbings
Trudeau meeting leaders, community members in James Smith Cree Nation
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $42.5 million in supports over the next six years for James Smith Cree Nation during a visit Monday.
The First Nation in Saskatchewan was rocked by a deadly stabbing rampage nearly three months ago.
The Sept. 4 stabbings left 11 people dead and 18 injured in the community as well as the nearby village of Weldon, Sask., northeast of Saskatoon.
Myles Sanderson, 32, the suspect in the attacks, later died in police custody, bringing the death toll to 12.
Trudeau met with leaders and family members of some of the victims in James Smith Cree Nation Monday before the funding announcement.
"I know you're still reeling and still processing what happened and what took place," Trudeau told an audience at the local school on James Smith.
"And I know from the conversations I had that members of the community are still grappling with it every single day."
The new funding includes $42.5 million to build a new wellness centre in the community and repurpose the existing Sakwatamo Lodge.
It is also meant to enable James Smith Cree Nation to develop and design programs that best serve the needs of their members, including increasing access to mental health, trauma, and substance use services.
"Proper care and interventions can help avert crises," Trudeau said. "This is why access to culturally grounded mental health and addictions care are so important."
Peter Chapman Band Chief Robert Head said people are remembering the lives of lost loved ones and those memories will help the community go forward.
"That's the spirit moving forward [with] this healing centre that we're going to be building here in this First Nation."
James Smith Cree Nation Chief Wally Burns said the whole community must come together to help build the new wellness centre.
"We're all here to try and help, and we'll be here to try and get this thing moving for you," Burns said. "Let's build it for ourselves."
An additional $20 million over four years will go toward the Pathways to Safe Indigenous Communities Initiative. The money will support James Smith Cree Nation and other communities in developing and delivering community-based safety and wellness projects.
The tragic events of Sept. 4 amplified calls for more Indigenous-led policing, and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino has promised to "work around the clock" to table legislation this fall that would declare Indigenous policing an essential service.
James Smith Cree Nation Chief Wally Burns has been among the voices calling for tribal policing, and has also said the community needs funding for housing, especially for those reluctant to return to where family members were killed.
"The emphasis on keeping Indigenous communities and First Nations communities safe has relied on, to be honest, colonial structures," Trudeau said Monday.
He said the government needs to work with communities to design the right system of policing for each.
"We need to get the framework legislation right."
He said Indigenous communities have to be at the centre of designing and developing their policing and health.
"Indigenous people were in residential schools being told that their identity, their culture, their language, had no value," Trudeau said.
"Every other school in this country was teaching non-Indigenous kids that Indigenous culture, language, identity had no value.
"We have a lot to undo, we have a lot to unlearn. We have a lot to build together."
On Sept. 28, Governor General Mary Simon visited the Saskatchewan cemetery where most of the victims killed in the rampage are buried, stopping a few minutes at each burial site.
She also stopped for 10 minutes at a ditch where retired military veteran Earl Burns died in his school bus that rolled off the road after he was attacked.
Saskatchewan's chief coroner has said two public inquests will be held into the stabbing rampage — one that will focus on the 11 deaths, and another that will focus on Sanderson's death in police custody.
- A previous version of this story stated Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $62.5 million in supports over the next six years for James Smith Cree Nation. In fact, he announced $62.5 million in total funding but $42.5 million in supports for James Smith Cree Nation.Nov 28, 2022 10:59 PM ET
With files from The Canadian Press