LA LOCHE, Sask. – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the whole country grieves with La Loche and the northern Saskatchewan community must not let last week’s mass shooting change its values.
Trudeau visited the remote town one week after a shooter opened fire at a home and a school, killing four people and wounding seven. The prime minister met with the injured, with family members of the dead and with community leaders.
He also held a townhall meeting with about 700 residents.
Trudeau thanked the teachers and police officers whose brave actions “undoubtedly saved many lives.”
He said that in a time of darkness, the eye begins to see, and everyone must stand together to address deeper issues highlighted by the shooting.
“The federal government will be there not just now through the difficult time, but in the weeks, months and indeed the years to come as we look to grieve, to heal and to … thrive,” Trudeau said Friday after meeting with leaders and residents of La Loche.
He did not commit to a request from Mayor Kevin Janvier that Ottawa and the province fund infrastructure, health and education in La Loche for the next 10 years.
“I was here very much to listen today,” he said. “There is much that we heard today that we entirely agree with and we look forward to working with municipalities and … the provinces to address these urgent challenges.”
Teacher’s aide Marie Janvier, 21, died at the school and Adam Wood, a 35-year-old teacher from Ontario, died soon after in hospital. The bodies of brothers Drayden Fontaine, 13, and Dayne Fontaine, 17, were discovered in a house.
A 17-year-old boy, who can’t be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, has been charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder. Friends have said he was an outcast at home and a victim of bullying at school.
FULL COVERAGE: La Loche school shooting
Saskatchewan Education Minister Don Morgan says the shock is still sinking in.
“You hear about these things happening in other parts of the world,” he told Global News, “but we never thought it would happen here. We planned and were ready for things, we had violent risk assessment, we had plans for lockdowns, but for it actually to happen is something that was sort of beyond our comprehension.”
Morgan added he is very thankful that first responders and the RCMP reacted as well, and as quickly as they did.
A moment of silence to remember the victims was being held Friday morning at schools across Saskatchewan.
Teachers from La Loche Community School Dene building wrote a letter to their students, saying “We’re still here.”
“The events on Friday were painful and scary and they won’t be forgotten. Some people have expressed concern that some of us have left and the fact is, we are hurt and we are healing but we are still here,” continues the letter posted on Facebook.
“We are the Dene building family. We are supporting each other so we can help support you. We will be back. We will rebuild. We will get better together.”
Community leaders in La Loche have been speaking out about a lack of resources for young people in the wake of last week’s shooting.
Morgan says the community’s concerns have been heard.
“Our goal is to try and work with them, we have a lot of people on the ground, trauma and grief counselors, and additional supports coming in, and we’ll have those people there as long as are necessary,” he said.
“We want to work with them defining the path of healing, and that’s something that needs to be worked with through the town and through the school.
Classes have not resumed at the school. Morgan said people still need time to grieve and heal.
However, he added they are planning for classes to resume.
“Within the reasonably near future we’re going to want to have the kids back in school and I’m sure they want to start learning again,” he said.
“We’re starting to look at options for them to resume their education, it may or may not be in that particular structure in the short run, we’re looking at other options that are around, but it’s too early to make a long term plan,” he added.
He had a similar response to the calls to rip the school down.
“It’s too early to make a decision on that, and I think that’s kind of a normal reaction to have – that’s a discussion to have some time later,” he said.
Morgan added he is hopeful that the visit by the prime minister and other leaders signals that conditions will change.
Watch below: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the community of La Loche, Sask. on Friday – exactly one week after four people were shot and killed there. Sarah Kraus reports.
“We have a new government in Ottawa, a new commitment from the prime minister, we also have the human rights commission ruling earlier this week that said we were not funding on reserve education as well as we should, so we certainly have the right people involved, the premier, the prime minister, Minister (Ralph) Goodale …it’ll certainly shine a spotlight on the things that are there, so I’m hoping this becomes a step forward and defines where we’re going,” he said.
With files from The Canadian Press