Canada’s bucolic prairie region is known for its rolling landscapes and farming industry. But on Monday, it was in the global spotlight because of one of the worst mass stabbings in Canada’s recent memory.
Across the country, as Canadians took the day off for Labor Day, news broadcasts were dominated by headlines about the killing spree. “Saskatchewan Mass Murder” said a red banner on the television news report from the CBC, the national broadcaster. And with the motive of the two suspects still unclear, many were asking: How could this happen here — and why?
With one suspect still on the loose after a rampage that left 10 people dead and at least 18 injured, the province was on edge. The police said the men may be hiding in Regina, Saskatchewan’s political capital and financial center. Saskatchewan, which borders Montana and North Dakota, Alberta to the west and Manitoba to the east, has a population of nearly 1.2 million people and is Canada’s second-largest oil-producing province.
The attack, which started on the Indigenous reserve of the James Smith Cree Nation, has shaken the province’s large Indigenous community, whose roots in Saskatchewan stretch back thousands of years, according to the City of Regina.
According to the 2016 census, there are about 175,000 Indigenous people in the province. More than half of Canada’s Indigenous population reside in the country’s Western provinces. Most Indigenous people in Canada do not live on reserves, and their populations have been growing in metropolitan and rural areas.
During the killing spree, the police say the suspects stopped in Weldon, a town of 160 people north of Regina. About half of population there is older than 60 and live in less than one square mile.
“I was terrified to go to sleep last night,” said Ruby Works, a resident of Weldon, who said her close friend,a senior citizen and bird lover, was killed in the attack.
Residents said the town, peppered with dirt roads and bungalows, was the kind of place where everyone knows each other and leaves their doors unlocked.
“Last night, I locked my doors for the first time, but it was only because my 12-year-old asked me to,” said resident April Audette, referring to her daughter.
With helicopters flying overhead and the police searching through the town, one Weldon resident, Sharon Works, 64, said she and her son had been fielding calls from friends and neighbors who knew some of the victims. One of those was her neighbor, an elderly man, she said.
“I was so shocked I couldn’t believe it,” she said.
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