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2022 was a busy year of provincial news

Freedom Convoy, war in Ukraine, James Smith murders, passing of the Queen among major stories impacting Saskatchewan.

REGINA - It’s fair to say few years produced as many major news stories in Saskatchewan than 2022 did.

A national protest, war and humanitarian crisis, a horrific mass murder, and many other stories erupted throughout the year. It made for a busy year for staff covering the multitude of breaking news stories throughout the year.

We have compiled following list of just a few of the major stories making headlines in Saskatchewan during 2022.

Freedom Convoy

The biggest story of the year in Canada, according to Canadian Press, was the Freedom Convoy protests in Ottawa.

Drivers made their way from across the country in their semi trucks to converge on Ottawa for several days of protests in opposition to new COVID-19 mandates imposed on truckers by the federal government.

Early on, Saskatchewan saw considerable activity as trucks rolled through the province in January as part of the protest, including in locations such as North Battleford, Saskatoon and Regina.

The entire convoy proved controversial, culminating in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoking the Emergencies Act in February.

Samwel Uko inquest

This spring, Regina was the location for the inquest into the death of Samwel Uko, who died on May 21, 2020 at Wascana Lake after twice seeking admission earlier in the day to Regina General Hospital to try to address his mental health challenges. 

Following a week of testimony a coroner’s jury returned 20 recommendations, including for cultural diversity training and reassessment of interview questions and processes to incorporate diversity, mental health and biases.

Ukraine refugees

A major global story in 2022 was the invasion of Ukraine, by Russia, prompting a major humanitarian crisis with Ukraine citizens fleeing the country for safety.

Saskatchewan was part of a major effort to welcome Ukrainian refugees. The first Boeing 787 flight from Warsaw, Poland bringing 230 Ukrainians to Saskatchewan landed in Regina in July. Among those on that first flight lending support to the refugees was Kim Phuc Phan Thi, who is known worldwide as the “Napalm Girl.”

The province also organized temporary accommodations as well as a one stop shop location to help Ukraine residents set up bank accounts and obtain such things as health cards and driver’s licenses so they could settle in the province. More humanitarian flights landed throughout the year, including in Saskatoon for the first time in November.

New federal Conservative leader

2022 was a year of political turmoil, particularly among Canada’s Conservatives. The Conservative federal caucus voted to dump leader Erin O’Toole, ushering in a leadership race dominated by Pierre Poilievre whose campaign included rallies in Regina and Saskatoon. 

During his Saskatoon visit, Poilievre recorded a video at the statue depicting a young John Diefenbaker selling a newspaper to Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier, and pointed out that both Prime Ministers shared a similar love of freedom. 

Saskatchewan was a focus of other campaigns as well including those of Jean Charest, Leslyn Lewis, and Scott Aitchison, all of whom paid visits to the province. Poilievre easily won the Conservative leadership on the first ballot in September.

Frank Young search

A major story in the spring of 2022 was the intensive search effort for Frank Young, a five year old boy who went missing from Red Earth Cree Nation on April 19. The search involved the RCMP, local search parties and volunteers as well as other First Nations. 

But the effort ended in tragedy, as Young was found deceased in the Carrot River in July.

The Dawn Walker disappearance and later arrest

Another major story in 2022 was the disappearance of Dawn Walker and her son in July. A focus of the investigation was Chief Whitecap Park where her truck and belongings were located.

Several days later, on Aug. 5, it was announced that Walker and her son were alive and in Oregon City, U.S.A. She was later extradited back to Canada and faces multiple charges including public mischief and parental abduction, identity theft and identity fraud.

Lawsuit over abuse at Christian Centre Academy

Another major story that erupted during the summer were relevations of historic abuse at the former Christian Centre Academy, now Legacy Christian Academy in Saskatoon.

Several former students accused the school of engaging in paddling, exorcisms and other abuse. A class action lawsuit was filed in the fall. The province would soon appoint provincial administrators and tighten regulations to provide greater oversight of qualified independent schools.

Mass murder on James Smith Cree Nation

Perhaps the biggest story of the year to happen in Saskatchewan took place on the Labour Day weekend, when a stabbing rampage took place on James Smith Cree Nation and at Weldon, Saskatchewan.

The focus of the RCMP investigation turned to finding and capturing Myles Sanderson, who police later determined to have committed the killings of 11 people on Sept. 4 including his brother, Damien Sanderson. 

Myles Sanderson was captured on Sept. 7 near Rosthern, but he died in police custody. It was later determined he died of a self-inflicted drug overdose.

Death of Queen Elizabeth II

Just one day following the events surrounding the capture and death of Myles Sanderson came word of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II at Balmoral, Scotland on Sept. 8.

Notable as a last act by the Queen was a statement of condolence she had issued the day before to the victims of the James Smith tragedy. 

The Queen’s death touched off a period of mourning in Saskatchewan and around the world. In Saskatchewan a ceremony was held at Government House to proclaim King Charles III as the new sovereign. A provincial memorial service for the Queen was held in Regina on Sept. 19. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee portrait, which was on loan to Government House to commemorate her Platinum Jubilee year, was draped in black following her death.

Saskatchewan welcomes fans to the Grey Cup

It was not all bad news in Saskatchewan in 2022. The end of COVID-era pandemic restrictions meant the return of major events and gatherings throughout the year, including the Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention in Regina during the spring.

Perhaps the biggest event of them all was the Grey Cup, with the Festival as well as the game itself happening in the week leading to Nov. 20. In the big game, the Toronto Argonauts upset the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 24-23 at Mosaic Stadium.

Sunwing chaos

2022 ended on a sour note for Saskatchewan travelers, who had hoped to finally have some fun in the sun after two years of Covid travel restrictions and disruptions. 

Instead, it ended up being a whole year of disruptions at the nation’s airports, with reports earlier in the year of long lineups and pileups of luggage at the major airports. There were also major delays reported at passport offices.

The disruptions hit Saskatchewan directly in December, with news that Sunwing had suspended its direct flights from Saskatoon and Regina through Feb. 3, amid reports of stranded Sunwing passengers in destinations including Mexico. A number of Saskatchewan residents began 2023 scrambling to figure out how to get home. 

Hopefully, 2023 will be a better year for air travellers than 2022 turned out to be.