La Loche leaders feel abandoned one year after tragedy

By Bryan Eneas
January 9, 2017 - 5:55pm

Just shy of marking one year since a terrible tragedy, the community of La Loche is still trying to find itself.

On Jan. 22, a 17-year-old walked into the Dene Community School and opened fire, killing a teacher, and a teachers aide after killing two teens at a separate location. The youth cannot be named due to provisions under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Just under one year later, leaders from the community are still trying to make sense of the tragedy which occurred while trying to return life to normal.

Mayor Robert St. Pierre said the northern community is looking for long-term solutions as opposed to short term fixes.

“January 22, 2016, was indeed La Loches darkest hour,” St. Pierre said. “Much progress has been made, how ever our journey towards convalescence has just begun. There is much more that is needed to ensure our community is healing.”

St. Pierre was joined at the conference by acting principal Greg Hatch, who didn't mince his words when it came to voicing his concerns.

“For the most part we feel that we've been left alone, and we've been abandoned,” Hatch said.

Hatch said he's thankful for the small organizations which stepped forward day-in and day-out, but he said he would like to see more help from the “big systems.”

Hatch said administration in the school has reached out for as much help as it can get. He said he has been attending counselling sessions to get the help he needs.

Some of the students are feeling the ripple effects from the incident. Hatch said some of the students who used to do well have now been struggling.

“Each and every day a student gets out of bed and walks through those doors, I think its a good day for them.” Hatch said. “We're just trying to make it through each and every day, that's where we're at.”

The community is actively seeking long-term solutions to the issues of housing, health, education and infrastructure. According to St. Pierre, the province has set up sub-committees to address these concerns but little progress has been made.

In fact, some leaders feel there is not enough being done to find an answer for the long-term.

“I think personally, anytime we have the short term funding solutions, [they're] not going to work,” Leonard Montgrand, the director of the La Loche Friendship Centre said. “Our community, it'll go back, it'll revert to what it was before.”

According to Montgrand, La Loche is always the last to receive services in the province.

“It's always been at road end, and people in the community have accepted it because it's been that way,” Montgrand said. “Times are changing, and no longer will local leaders, or community members accept that."

St. Pierre took time out of his prepared statement to thank those who leant a hand during the aftermath of the tragedy.

“Your service was nothing short of extraordinary on that day,” St. Pierre said.

Officials organized the press conference in lieu of the anniversary, asked for privacy on Jan. 22. St. Pierre said the community will be hosting a church service, a luncheon and a candlelight vigil to honour those who lost their lives and those who were wounded in the shooting.

 

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UPDATE: RCMP capture escaped suspect

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