Bonnie Burns was one of the victims in the James Smith Cree Nation tragedy that saw 10 people killed. She was a mother that left behind three kids.
Family member Mark Arcand said what those kids have been through is tragic, and everyone involved is going through a lot.
“This was a really hard situation that these communities have been involved in, James Smith Cree Nation, and then all of the extended family, and our province, and our country,” said Arcand.
“This is a devastating act that is senseless, and it’s hard to get a grasp on right now. But we’re working through it, trying to understand, and just trying to move on, and trying to be healthy.”
He acknowledged the GoFundMe that was set up by Rob Clarke that raised money for the First Nation reserve, adding that another one was set up to help those kids receive the help they need.
“My nephews, they’ve seen a lot of trauma, they’ve actually seen their their mom and their brother get murdered right in front of their eyes,” said Arcand.
“This is very traumatic for those kids, they’re only nine, 11 and 13.”
He said they need to help them deal with that trauma immediately.
“They’re just kids. And it’s hard to understand how somebody can do this to mothers, to children, it’s a sad thing. At the end of the day we’ve got to do the right thing, which is to help people.”
Shayna Das is a registered therapeutic counsellor in Saskatoon, and said the first thing in helping kids with trauma is giving them a safe place.
“There’s a couple of different layers to it. The first thing is to provide a safe place for them to have an open discussion about whatever is going on at the time. Whether it’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, usually fear, confusion is coming up for them, so to provide that safe place for them is really important,” said Das.
She said it’s important to validate those feelings, no matter how painful it is.
“I liken it to thinking of fear, and worry, and confusion as bricks in a backpack with kids, and we’re here to see if we can take as many of those bricks out as possible to lighten that load for them.”
Das said that involves making sense of what that child is feeling and going through.
“Trauma is held in the body, so when big emotions come along, we feel it.”
She added that kids often like to learn how to calm their own nervous system, and that it can be really crucial for their recovery process.
“Teaching them that the feelings and the emotions we can’t always control, but we can control what we do to respond to them.”
Das said helping parents, guardians, and teachers help their kids is also an important factor, noting that building up a child outside of their emotions and feelings also helps in their recovery.
“Whether it’s creativity, or leadership, or whatever it may be for that child, that’s where they find that strength to try and manage whatever is coming up for them.”
She said in terms of people talking to their children about serious tragedies like what happened in James Smith Cree Nation, too much reassurance can be a bad thing.
“It’s about allowing the conversations to happen. There’s a tendency to want to distract and divert attention away from it because it seems so scary.”
“The big thing with this setting, and with parents, and with fear of any kind, is not to go too much to reassurance, rather to help them build a platform that they can feel whatever life throws at them, they can handle it, or they can find the supports and the resources to be able to handle it,” added Das.
Lastly, Das said the social aspect of recovery is important, whether it be through friends or classmates, or the support structure of the teachers and staff to help find positive outlets and influences.
“So they can look for models in their lives to see how to cope, right? Positive models to model the skills that are needed to recover, and endure, and accept, and just continue to move forward.”
Funerals have been underway this week for the victims in this tragedy, and organizations and community members have been rallying to show support, and offer services.
Metis Nation-Saskatchewan said in a release it would be offering crisis and grief counselling to Metis and First Nations families in the James Smith Cree Nation reserve, as well as those in the Weldon and Kinistino communities.
If you or anyone you know require counselling, please call the Métis-specific Health Line for Navigating Mental Health and Addiction Support at 1-855-671-5638 or the 24-hour Crisis Line at 1-877-767-7572.