The Washington Post
Relatives describe loss and horror after Canada stabbings
Saskatoon Tribal Council chief says half sister was ‘not a victim’ but a ‘hero’
Mark Arcand was sleeping early Sunday when the alerts began to sound on his phone. A family member was telling him, urgently, to call.
That’s how he learned his sister and nephew had been killed in the stabbing attack at the James Smith Cree Nation, a First Nations reserve in Saskatchewan.
“Driving to the community that day was the longest two hours of my life, not knowing what to expect,” Arcand said. “In the back of my mind, I thought about my family — what are they thinking? Hope they are holding each other, hugging each other, telling each other they love them.”
Arcand’s half sister, Bonnie “Goodvoice” Burns, 48, and her son Gregory Burns, 28, were among the 10 people stabbed to death early Sunday on the reserve and nearby Weldon, Saskatchewan. Eighteen more people were wounded.
Canadian police said Wednesday evening that they had taken fugitive stabbing suspect Myles Sanderson into custody after a four-day manhunt.
Sanderson, 32, and his brother, Damien Sanderson, 31, were charged with murder in the attacks. Damian Sanderson was found dead on the reserve Monday.
The Saskatchewan Coroners Service and the Saskatchewan Royal Canadian Mounted Police on Wednesday released the names and ages of the 10 victims. They included Bonnie Burns, 48; Carol Burns, 46; Earl Burns, 66; Gregory Burns, 28; Lydia Gloria Burns, 61; Thomas Burns, 23; Christian Head, 54; Lana Head, 49; and Robert Sanderson, 49, all of the James Smith Cree Nation, and Wesley Petterson, 78, of Weldon.
Authorities said they would not identify the relationships among the victims or name the wounded. The wounded included one “young teen”; the rest were men and women.
Arcand and Brian Burns, Bonnie’s partner of 30 years and husband of 15, appeared before reporters Wednesday at a news conference in Saskatoon. Burns showed framed portraits of Bonnie and himself smiling and their son Gregory in a life jacket on the water.
The couple’s three younger sons were at the news conference. They were home during the stabbings; one was stabbed in the neck but survived, Arcand said.
Arcand is chief of the Saskatoon Tribal Council but said he was speaking as a family member. He arrived at the reserve about 1 p.m., he said, several hours after the stabbings.
“I can’t get it out of my head,” he said. “It reminded me of the movies, But to me, this is not a movie. This is a real-life scenario.”
Gregory was stabbed several times at his home, Arcand said. Bonnie rushed out to help her son, he said, and was stabbed twice. “And she died right beside him.”
Bonnie had called a friend for help. The woman, “an innocent person trying to support her community, trying to help,” Arcand said, was also killed.
Arcand gestured to Brian and Bonnie’s surviving sons.
“These two young boys woke up to screaming, not being able to help,” he said. One hid behind a high chair and witnessed the attacks. A 13-year-old was stabbed in the neck and spent the night in a hospital.
“That young boy is angry,” Arcand said. “He’s traumatized.”
“These children have seen everything that day,” he said. “This act has destroyed our family. How could somebody do this to women and children?”
Arcand said he wanted the world to remember Bonnie for who she was: “Family came first. . . . She was a sober person. You go into her home, it was a beautiful home — it was filled with love and care.” She worked at a local school and was fostering two more children; she volunteered and cooked for community celebrations. “She always puts other people before her,” Arcand said.
“She’s not a victim,” he said. “She’s a hero.”
Gregory, he said, “was a great kid.”
“He worked in the community to build houses. He did whatever he could for his family and tried to help his mom and his dad.”
Bonnie was of the Wahpeton Dakota Nation and married into the James Smith Cree Nation. “This is how it is in our country where we grow up,” Arcand said. “It’s all about relationships. It’s all about family. It’s all about nicknames. It’s all about laughter. It’s all about joy. It’s all about humbleness.”
“We’re just climbing a mountain now as a family, both of our communities,” he said. “And that mountain is the devastation of what happened. . . . And what it’s going to take to heal from senseless acts as this that happened.”