LA LOCHE, Sask. — The family of a teacher who was among four people killed in shootings in northern Saskatchewan says the country must listen to the community, act on change that is needed and ask how to prevent anyone from experiencing similar loss.
The family of Adam Wood said what happened in the tiny community of La Loche gives the country an “opportunity to examine ourselves and hopefully, come out better and stronger as a community and a nation. We feel sadness and remorse but rarely do we use that to fuel change.”
In a statement, the family says the leaders of the village need to be heard to prevent similar losses in the future.
“Rather than looking for someone to blame, or coming up with outsider opinions of reasons why this occurred, we must stop and listen to the voices of La Loche. The leaders and members of the community know what types of support and changes are needed. Our responsibility as a nation is to listen and respond to create lasting systemic change.”
La Loche is an isolated community connected by one road from the south and can be reached by an ice road from Fort McMurray, Alta., in winter.
A report from the area’s health region in 2007-08 noted that the sprawling geographic region in the province’s northwest had a suicide rate that was three times the Saskatchewan average.
The archbishop of Keewatin-Le Pas also made an appeal on Sunday for the community to find hope for its young people. Archbishop Murray Chatlain estimated about 250 people attended the service at the Church of Our Lady of the Visitation.
On Saturday night, Chatlain met with the family of a 17-year-old boy charged in the shootings to offer support in this “nightmare experience that they’re going through and (try) to offer them the support of the community.”
“We’re not blaming them. … It’s just, this has happened and now how do we bring healing and support and try find ways for our young people to have more hope?”
The 17-year-old boy, who can’t be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of attempted murder and unauthorized possession of a firearm. He is scheduled to make his first appearance Monday in Meadow Lake provincial court.
Saskatchewan RCMP say during an eight-minute period in the La Loche Community school on Friday afternoon, nine people were shot.
Wood, 35, who began teaching at the school in September, and teacher’s aide Marie Janvier, 21, died after they were shot at the school.
Brothers Drayden Fontaine, 13, and Dayne Fontaine, 17, were discovered by the RCMP in a home not far away.
Premier Brad Wall and federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, who is a Saskatchewan MP, met with community leaders in La Loche on Sunday afternoon after their flight was initially delayed because of weather.
After the meeting, Wall said the community will get the support it needs from the province to help people who are struggling after Friday’s tragedy, as well as in the longer term on its infrastructure, education and health-care needs.
“The link is hope. Every community needs that,” he said. “Certainly young people need a sense of hope and I think a lot of mental-health issues flow from a lack of hope for people, not all of them but some, and so those are quality of life issues with respect to the education system and the health-care system.”
Goodale said the federal government wants to listen and learn lessons from what has happened, telling reporters that he expects Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to visit La Loche.
“This community is the epicentre of the most recent tragedy, but it’s a set of issues that this country has to come to grips with and Mr. Trudeau is determined to make that happen and he is also looking forward to an early opportunity when he can visit La Loche personally,” he said.
Outside the church, some people hugged and paused to talk on a cold day under a grey sky.
Andrew Lemaigre, 65, reflected on the emotions that will be felt in the community, adding that the archbishop spoke about forgiveness.
“He knows we’re in shock and he knows the people in La Loche are good,” said Lemaigre, whose daughter-in-law saw the shooting at the school his grandchildren attend.
“There’s going to be some anger coming out of it, some hatred and forgiveness. It takes time to heal. You know, we can’t heal in one day, a month, sometimes it takes years.”