Canada stabbings: Police identify the 10 victims killed in Saskatchewan

·5 min read
Photos of victims provided by Canada's mounted police
Top row, left to right: Christian Head, Thomas Burns, Lana Head. Bottom row, left to right: Gregory Burns, Robert Sanderson, Wesley Petterson

A 62-year-old former first responder who was killed as she tried to help others and a kind-hearted 77-year-old widower are among the victims of a violent rampage in Canada that left 10 people dead and a nation in shock.

Police have released the full list of those killed in the stabbings in the province of Saskatchewan on 4 September.

Nine of the 10 victims are from James Smith Cree Nation, an indigenous community with nearly 3,500 members.

One victim, Wesley Petterson, is from Weldon, a quiet farming town nearby of about 200 people.

Locals described Mr Petterson, the oldest of the victims at 78 years old, as a "lovely" man who was devoted to his community. Neighbour Ruby Works said she had been left devastated by his death.

"I couldn't even catch my breath," she told the Canadian broadcaster CBC, saying she was still in shock.

"If someone needed a hand, he helped. He was a kind-hearted man," Ms Works added about the man she had known since childhood and had looked on as an uncle.

"He didn't deserve this," she said. "Both communities are destroyed. All lives are shattered."

Weldon resident Robert Rush described Mr Petterson as a gentle man who "wouldn't hurt a fly".

Mr Rush added that Mr Petterson's adult grandson had been in the basement at the time of the attack. "He stayed down there until they were gone," Mr Rush said.

Another of those killed was named as 61-year-old Gloria Burns.

A former first responder, she had worked at the James Smith Cree Nation health clinic and her brother, Darryl Burns, said she "had devoted her life to helping people".

Photos of victims provided by Canada's mounted police
From left to right: Gloria Burns, Carol Burns, Bonnie Burns and Earl Burns Sr

Ms Burns was killed in the attack after responding to initial calls for aid and while trying to help others in her home, her brother said.

"For her to go into a situation like this where [she was] helping people, even though it cost her life ... that's who she was," Mr Burns told CBC.

"She died helping people. And we have to pick up that torch and carry it."

Gregory Burns, 28, and his mother, Bonnie Goodvoice-Burns, 48, were also killed.

In a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Bonnie's brother, Mark Arcand, who is also chief of the Saskatoon Tribal Council, described his sister as a matriarch who loved taking care of her four children.

"Mama bear took care of her cubs," Mr Arcand said.

He said Bonnie died outside of her home after she ran out to help her son Gregory, who was stabbed first. Another one of her sons, 13-year-old Drayson, was also stabbed but survived.

"How could somebody do this to women and children?" he said. "Words can't express the pain that we are feeling."

Gregory's father and Bonnie's husband, Brian, wrote on Facebook: "It's hard when my boys cry at night for their mom."

Thomas Burns, 23, and Carol Burns, 46, were also among the victims identified.

Police said they would not identify or confirm the relationships of those killed.

Another victim, mother-of-two Lana Head, has been identified by her former partner, Michael Brett Burns.

He told local media that she had worked as a security guard at Northern Lights Casino and had also been a commissionaire officer.

The 49-year-old lived in James Smith Cree Nation and leaves behind two daughters, Sable, 31, and Sage, 30. Just hours before the attack she had posted on social media that she had "so many good memories to cherish".

Friends and family paid tribute to Ms Head. In a post to her Facebook page, one friend recalled her "sweet demeanour and caring ways".

In a tribute to Ms Burns, Michael Brett Burns wrote that she will be "missed dearly".

"I just hurt and tonight I cry alone," he added.

Christian Head, 54, was also among the victims listed by police.

Canadian police at the scene in James Smith Cree Nation
Canadian police at the scene in James Smith Cree Nation

A veteran, Earl Burns Sr, was also killed in the attack. He had been a member of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

Veteran Voices of Canada paid tribute to Mr Burns Sr, 66, in a social media post, writing that he "gave his life to save his wife and grandchildren during the terrible attack".

First Nations: The basics

  • The term 'First Nation' is used to refer to indigenous communities in Canada that are neither Métis nor Inuit

  • Numerous First Nation communities enjoy a degree of self-government that can include decision-making powers on issues such as education, health and land management

Police also identified Robert Sanderson, 49, as one of the victims.

Chakastaypasin Chief Calvin Sanderson - one of the region's elected leaders - told the Regina Leader Post that everyone in the community had been affected.

"They were our relatives, friends. Mostly we're all related here, so it's pretty hard," Mr Sanderson said. "It's pretty horrific."

Indigenous rights groups in Canada have urged the federal government to provide support to the communities.

Darryl Burns echoed that call, telling reporters that the local community was in chaos as it tried to come to terms with the "massacre".

"I know deep down we need healing and forgiveness. That's one of the things my sister taught. And that's one of the things I will carry out in her name," he said.

A map of where the shooting took place
A map of where the shooting took place