Sask. resident thankful for RCMP emergency alert despite initial confusion

A man who lives on a Saskatchewan First Nation says he’s thankful to have received a safety alert about an incident 100 kilometres away.

Peter Sutherland, who lives on One Arrow First Nation, received an emergency alert about a shooting in James Smith Cree Nation on Sunday. The alert was sent out across much of central Saskatchewan.

“First of all, I got kind of scared because it just said ‘community’ and I tried to click on the link,” explained Sutherland.

For many, the initial alert didn’t specify a community. It began with “avoid the community” and to shelter in place, lock your doors and stay away from windows.

“Just to be safe, I thought I’d better stay indoors for the safety of my community,” he said.

A second alert clarified that the incident was a shooting on James Smith Cree Nation.

While the alert initially caused fear and confusion, Sutherland said he’s thankful for the emergency alert system.

“I myself, living on a First Nation, appreciated the message because we travel between the First Nations and we have relatives all over we visit. If one person from our First Nation was on the way to go visit, we’d want to know.”

In a prepared statement, the Saskatchewan RCMP said the location was provided in multiple ways, including on the SaskAlert website.

"However, it was identified the location was not entered in the specific text message area. The Saskatchewan RCMP issued an updated alert, including location information in the text message area," it said.

Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency spokesperson Christopher Clemett said the SaskAlert app is meant to provide critical information about emergencies in real time, so people can take action to protect themselves, their families and their property.

“In Saskatchewan, alerts are issued by Environment Canada, Saskatchewan ministries, Crowns and agencies, the RCMP and participating local governing jurisdictions (including municipalities and First Nation communities),” Clemett said in an emailed statement.

Emergency alerts will be sent out again when something changes, he said.

The Saskatoon Police Service issued a media release Sunday night, saying its communications centre received multiple calls about the alert. It said RCMP sent the alert regarding an incident north of Melfort and that there was no relation to Saskatoon.

The shooting on James Smith Cree Nation left two people dead and one injured.

Shawn Moostoos, who was arrested the next day at a home in Melfort, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder and one count of discharging a firearm with intent to endanger life.

RCMP called off the emergency alert prior to the arrest of Moostoos, based on new information that he knew the victims.

RCMP say the shooting occurred at 7:19 p.m. Sunday, while the initial alert was sent out at 8:46 p.m. It was updated to include the location at 9:11 p.m.

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