OTTAWA – The MP for the remote Saskatchewan community of La Loche says the people there are in urgent need of round-the-clock mental health services as they struggle to deal with the aftermath of a tragic mass shooting. Georgina Jolibois says people in the Dene community are showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.
In a letter to Health Minister Jane Philpott, the New Democrat MP says one young person attempted suicide earlier this week.
On Jan. 22, a 17-year-old boy allegedly shot and killed two teenaged brothers before going on a rampage at the local high school, where he killed a teacher and a teacher’s aide and wounded seven others.
FULL COVERAGE: La Loche school shooting
The shooter, who can’t be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, has been charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder.
Jolibois says the tragedy has provoked a mental health crisis in the community, but there are not enough mental health professionals to deal with it.
Moreover, she says: “People are forced to re-visit the scene of the shooting every day – with the only change to our school being where they have sealed off the areas where victims died.”
Jolibois says La Loche has struggled for years, long before the shooting, with inadequate mental health services, but that situation has now become intolerable. She asks Philpott to “send help immediately” and to “urgently invest” in mental health services.
“We need culturally appropriate mental health services available around the clock in our own community to save lives and to help us heal,” she says in the letter.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the community a week after the shooting and promised that the federal government would be there for the people of La Loche for years to come, Jolibois notes.
“The people of La Loche understood this commitment to mean that the services we need to grieve, to heal and to thrive would continue to be made available to us – that we would not be left on our own to try and deal with this grievous tragedy.”
Yet less than two months later, she says, “We already now find ourselves without adequate support.”
There is often no one at the community’s health centre after 5 p.m., “meaning too often that for people seeking support there is literally no one to turn to for help,” Jolibois says.