LA LOCHE, Sask. – The Saskatchewan government and the mayor of a northern village are taking issue with a suggestion that no additional resources have been brought in to help people cope after a multiple fatal shooting.
Two brothers were killed in a home and a teacher and a teacher’s aide were shot at the high school in La Loche in January. Seven others at the school were wounded.
New Democrat MP Georgina Jolibois has said people in La Loche are showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.
She said they’re frustrated with having to repeat their stories to mental health workers who visit and residents would like permanent, consistent support instead.
Jolibois said residents need more help and “virtually there is very little to none available.”
La Loche Mayor Kevin Janvier said the community is working with the province to create a long-term, sustainable response to the tragedy.
“I requested several weeks ago that the province provide a level of continuity regarding mental health counsellors providing services to our children, and we have seen a great improvement in that area in terms of children not having to retell their story to a new person each week,” Janvier wrote in a letter to the media.
He said files have been created and information flow between those using mental health supports and those providing the services has improved.
“We believe things are moving well, and if we all work together, which includes working with the federal government, the provincial government, the MP and others, we can find positive long-term solutions.”
Janvier invited Jolibois to a meeting to discuss her concerns.
Saskatchewan Government Relations Minister Jim Reiter also disputes her comments.
“I think she was just uninformed when she made them,” Reiter said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“The province has been working very hard with the community to cover a lot of bases, including mental health support.”
Reiter said there are two mental health counsellors and two addictions workers who live and work in La Loche.
This month, an additional community mental health nurse will begin to provide counselling services through the La Loche Friendship Centre. The health region is also to hire a suicide prevention and wellness worker to help the community.
There are two visiting psychiatrists that provide services to La Loche and other northern communities.
La Loche has one full-time victims services co-ordinator and funding was announced in March for a second full-time position.
The Northern Lights School Division has six counsellors until the end of the term and one will be available through the La Loche Friendship Centre over the summer.
Janvier said it is important to know that the tragedy occurred after the accumulation of years of hardship in La Loche.
The community needs better education, health, housing, and strategic infrastructure, he said.
Reiter said change is coming but community leadership is key.
“We can certainly help with programming and some investments, but from what I hear … there’s a lot of community engagement in this and I think the co-operation by both levels has been very good and I think that probably is a big part of the reason the mayor sent the news release out to set the record straight.”