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Archbishop in La Loche: Focus on generosity after shootings

Hundreds of people in La Loche, Sask. gathered for Sunday service at the Church of Our Lady of the Visitation


 

LA LOCHE, Sask. – Raw and unspeakable grief consumed residents of a northern Saskatchewan community struggling to deal with a mass shooting and hoping to find forgiveness in prayer.

Residents in La Loche gathered at a church Sunday morning and for an evening candle light vigil, as they tried to come to terms with the shooting Friday that left four dead and seven others injured.

“I don’t what words there are, if they exist even, to possibly describe how you feel, how devastated the community is and how the province feels,” Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall told a crowd gathered outside the local high school, the site of one of the shootings.

“Our prayers are with you. We wish you all the best and you will not be walking through this alone.”

Related: Pain, grief, and disbelief in La Loche

Local residents from La Loche, Sask. gather in support after attending church in the small community of Northern Saskatchewan on Sunday, January 24, 2016. (Photograph by Chris Bolin)

Local residents from La Loche, Sask. gather in support after attending church in the small community of Northern Saskatchewan on Sunday, January 24, 2016. (Photograph by Chris Bolin)

RCMP say nine people were shot during an eight-minute period in the La Loche Community high school on Friday. Adam Wood, 35, who began teaching at the school in September, and teacher’s aide Marie Janvier, 21, died.

The bodies of brothers Drayden Fontaine, 13, and Dayne Fontaine, 17, were discovered by the RCMP in a home not far away.

Wood’s family said what happened in 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 said the leaders of the village must 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.”

 

Local residents from La Loche, Sask. gather in support after attending church in the small community of Northern Saskatchewan on Sunday, January 24, 2016. (Photograph by Chris Bolin)

Local residents from La Loche, Sask. gather in support after attending church in the small community of Northern Saskatchewan on Sunday, January 24, 2016. (Photograph by Chris Bolin)

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.

Local residents from La Loche, Sask. gather in support after attending church in the small community of Northern Saskatchewan on Sunday, January 24, 2016. (Photograph by Chris Bolin)

Local residents from La Loche, Sask. gather in support after attending church in the small community of Northern Saskatchewan on Sunday, January 24, 2016. (Photograph by Chris Bolin)

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.

Six young people took their own lives last year. Three of those deaths happened in the span of 30 days in the fall.

The archbishop of Keewatin-Le Pas made an appeal for the community to find hope for its young people. Archbishop Murray Chatlain estimated about 250 people attended a Sunday morning service at the Church of Our Lady of the Visitation.

The previous night, Chatlain met with the family of a 17-year-old boy charged in the shootings to offer support.

“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,” said Chatlain.

Flowers are left as the RCMPA work on scene on the grounds of La Loche Community School in La Loche, SK that left 4 dead and 7 injured.  A 17-year-old boy faces four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of attempted murder and one count of unauthorized possession of a firearm in relation to a series of shooting in the northern Saskatchewan town of only 2300 people. ( Photos  by Chris Bolin For Macleans Magazine)

Flowers are left as the RCMPA work on scene on the grounds of La Loche Community School in La Loche, SK that left 4 dead and 7 injured. A 17-year-old boy faces four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of attempted murder and one count of unauthorized possession of a firearm in relation to a series of shooting in the northern Saskatchewan town of only 2300 people. ( Photos by Chris Bolin For Macleans Magazine)

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.

Wall said the province will give the community the support it needs to help people who are struggling after the tragedy. It will also help the community in the longer term to deal with its infrastructure, education and health-care needs.

“You’re going to need the supports and you will have them, whether that’s counselling or the need for safety, and also the discussions we’re going to have for the long-term issues,” said the premier.

Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, who is a Saskatchewan MP, joined Wall at the meeting and said one of the short-term goals is to make the children feel safe at school again.

“We need to make sure that in this particular community, the feeling of security is recreated in a solid, long-lasting way,” said Goodale.

But interim La Loche Mayor Kevin Janvier wants action to go further.

“Personally, I want that school to be rebuilt. Torn down, rebuilt, the whole new structure because of the trauma that happened on Jan. 22, 2016,” Janvier told reporters after meeting with Wall and Goodale.

Local residents from La Loche, Sask. gather in support after attending church in the small community of Northern Saskatchewan on Sunday, January 24, 2016. (Photograph by Chris Bolin)

Local residents from La Loche, Sask. gather in support after attending church in the small community of Northern Saskatchewan on Sunday, January 24, 2016. (Photograph by Chris Bolin)

Outside the church Sunday morning, 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.”


 
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