The sister of one of the victims in a northern Saskatchewan school shooting has been working with youth in the community where her brother was killed to make sure their voices are heard.
Caitlin Wood’s older brother, Adam Wood, was one of four people killed when a young man opened fire at a home and school in La Loche, Sask., in January 2016.
A major theme in the wake of the shooting was a lack of support and opportunity for young people in the north.
Driven by how fondly her outdoors-loving brother spoke about the community, Wood recently returned to La Loche as part of her master’s work at Ryerson University to interview young people about what they thought would make things better.
“What (media) were saying about this community didn’t line up with what my brother had spoken about the community,” said Wood, 32.
“When these things are being said on behalf of the community it was like from outsiders, it wasn’t from insiders and it was never from youth representatives, even though youth were in the school when that happened.”
The project asked participants what was good about their life, what made them strong, what needs to change and what should childhood look like.
The 11 participants, between the ages of 13 and 19, took photographs or drew pictures to respond to the questions and then Wood interviewed them.
In response to the question “what is your life like?” a participant named Harry said that he was thinking of starting a restaurant.
“Because, in this community, after that (school) shooting, after that tragedy, it felt a little sad, and I want to make this community happy again,” he said.
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Emily offered picture of a road, saying they needed to be fixed “because they become obstacles in obtaining necessary health and emergency services.”
Wood’s project was recently profiled in the Saskatchewan children’s advocate’s annual report. Advocate Corey O’Soup said he was inspired by Wood’s work.
“Caitlin’s work was just an example of how something positive can come out of something so negative,” he said. “She’s truly amazing to be able to do that and to go back into the community where tragedy struck her family.”
La Loche Mayor Robert St. Pierre said the community is still grieving more than two years after the shooting and needs a lot of help.
“We’ve got a lot of people that are dealing with the traumatic event that occurred and we’ve got staff that are there that are still dealing with it … that haven’t coped with it yet,” he said.
Wood, who now works at Ryerson, said the project taught her the importance of listening to youth.
“We need to figure out ways to talk to them and we bring in their insights into everything that we’re planning,” Wood said.
“Otherwise we’re not going to meet their needs, we’re going to fail every time and so I think that’s absolutely vital.”