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Saskatoon’s top 5 stories of 2016

From impaired driving deaths to a deadly shooting in northern Saskatchewan, the top stories of 2016 were tragic and emotional.

Here’s a look at our top five stories of the year.

5 – Impaired driving

There’s no question that drunk driving destroys lives and that was no more evident than in 2016.

The year started tragically when the Van de Vosrt family was killed on Jan. 3 in a crash at the intersection of Highway 11 and Wanuskewin Road.

“We have lost a large piece of our family, four people who were loved immensely and who love us equally,” Lou Van de Vorst said.

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READ MORE: Saskatoon family reeling after fatal crash claims four lives

Catherine McKay pleaded guilty and would be sentenced to 10 years in jail for killing the family of four.

A high-level Saskatchewan cabinet member was charged later in the year for impaired driving.

Don McMorris resigned from cabinet and left the Saskatchewan Party caucus after being charged on Aug. 5 with impaired driving.

“I just want to say I’m extremely ashamed and embarrassed of my actions that day,” McMorris said.

“There’s no excuses, no rationale whatsoever for what I’ve done.”

READ MORE: Former Sask. deputy premier Don McMorris pleads guilty to drunk driving

The province is taking steps to reduce impaired driving numbers. On Jan. 1, 2017, tougher laws coming into effect in an effort to stop the epidemic.

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4 – Northern Saskatchewan suicide crisis

Canada was gripped by a tragic situation in northern Saskatchewan.

A number of young girls took their own lives, leaving officials scrambling to stop the suicide crisis.

“What supports do they need that are not currently here so that we can have this never happen again,” Premier Brad Wall said after visiting La Ronge in November.

READ MORE: Mental health professionals focus on schools in northern Sask. suicide crisis

An emergency operations centre was set up in La Ronge and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government would work with indigenous communities to deal with the crisis.

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3 – Husky Energy oil spill

A number of Saskatchewan communities found themselves under strict water restrictions after a Husky Energy pipeline leaked near Maidstone on July 21.

Around 225,000 litres of oil spilled into the North Saskatchewan River, affecting the drinking water of tens of thousands of people and leaving animals tarred.

North Battleford turned to Battleford for water while Prince Albert ran pipelines from the South Saskatchewan River and the Little Red River to its water treatment plant.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan auditor wants to see better pipeline regulations from government

Once the situation stabilized, attention turned to the cause of the spill and Husky’s response.

In November, Husky said a slope failure on the riverbank was behind the pipeline rupture.

“As the amount of pour water pressure or the water tables come up, the soils become weaker and these things are more likely to happen,” Grant Ferguson, who is a professional geoscientist, said.

READ MORE: Husky report finds ground movement caused spill in North Saskatchewan

The province incident report is expected out early in 2017.

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2 – Colten Boushie shooting

A shooting west of Saskatoon that left a young man dead garnered national attention, sparked a conversation about rural policing and left social media inundated with racist comments.

Colten Boushie was shot and killed on a rural property near Biggar on Aug. 9.

“It’s hurt us extremely. He had his whole life ahead of him,” Christine Denny, Boushie’s aunt, said.

READ MORE: Gerald Stanley pleads not guilty as hundreds rally for Colten Boushie in North Battleford, Sask.

His accused killer, Gerald Stanley, is free on bail waiting to learn his fate on a second-degree murder charge, causing an outcry from some in the community.

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“If this was a situation that was totally turned around where it was an aboriginal man … I don’t think that person would be walking away on bail,” Winona Wheeler, an associate professor of indigenous studies at the University of Saskatchewan, said.

The shooting also sparked a number of racial comments on social media, fueling racial tensions.

Boushie’s friends said the group needed help with a flat tire. Other stood by Stanley on social media, with one RM councillor stating Stanley’s only “mistake was leaving witnesses.” The comment has since been deleted.

Premier Brad Wall called for calm.

“I think the whole province is learning a little bit about the importance of circumspection and the importance of tolerance,” Wall said at the time.

The RCMP issued a statement on the comments, stating some “could be criminal in nature.”

“We are asking everyone to remain respectful in their online communication.”

READ MORE: Family of Colten Boushie calls for out-of-province investigator

Concerns were raised by the Boushie family into evidence handling. The SUV Boushie was shot in sat in a Saskatoon towing company’s lot before the defence could look at it.

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“I was told by the RCMP that blood spatter analysis had not been performed on the vehicle, which is a very, very important piece of forensic evidence that could have been taken from this vehicle because it can determine many things,” Chris Murphy, a lawyer representing the Boushie family, said.

More details of the shooting emerged in October from a police document used to obtain a search document.

READ MORE: Shooting of Colten Boushie on rural Sask. farm described in court documents

The contents of the file have not been tested in court and represent some of the RCMP’s earliest findings.

All the allegations will be addressed during a preliminary hearing in April 2017.

1 – La Loche school shooting

The small northern Saskatchewan community of La Loche was thrust in the spotlight after one of Canada’s deadliest school shootings.

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A 17-year-old boy shot and killed two brothers at a home in the community before making his way to the local high school, where two more people were killed and seven wounded.

READ MORE: ‘They were good students’: community mourns La Loche victims at vigil

Friends said bullying could have driven the teen to go on the deadly rampage but aboriginal leaders suggested his actions were based on deep-rooted systemic issues and gaps in funding for the north.

“We talk about the social connections that plague our communities like overcrowded housing, to lack of schooling, mental health and wellness, recreation facilities,” Assembly of First Nation Chief Perry Bellegarde said.

“All of those things have an impact on what happened here in La Loche.”

READ MORE: La Loche school shooting: what we know about the victims

Since the shooting, the Saskatchewan government has invested in several projects including affordable housing, more health workers and several education initiatives.

Students and staff returned to the school a month after the shooting, reclaiming it as a place of peace and safety.

“It happened, it’s sad, but we’re going to heal inside and then move on,” Julius Park said.

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READ MORE: La Loche students take back their school

In October, the teen pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and seven counts of attempted murder.

The Crown is asking for the teen to be sentenced as an adult, which will be determined in part by the outcome of a psychiatric report.

With files from Global News, The Canadian Press

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