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article imageIn La Loche, calls for understanding in shooting that killed 4

By Megan Hamilton     Jan 25, 2016 in Crime
La Loche - In the aftermath of a shooting that killed four people in northern Saskatchewan, the family of a teacher who was among those slain says the voices within the community of La Loche need to be heard in order to avoid future tragedies.
The calm of this tightly-knit community was brutally shattered by the Friday shootings that claimed the lives of two teachers and two brothers and wounded seven others. CBC News reports.
"The whole of La Loche is shaken," said acting mayor Kevin Janvier. "Every individual in La Loche has been wounded by this event. These emotional and mental wounds...will take years to heal."
The family of Adam Wood, one of the teachers who died in the tragedy, said this gives the country and its citizens a chance to look inward and perhaps strengthen the nation and the community as a result, The Star reports.
"We feel sadness and remorse but rarely do we use that to fuel change," Wood's family said in a statement.
To prevent future tragedies, voices of the village leaders need to be heard, they said. Rather than looking for someone to blame, or listening to outsider opinions on why this happened, people should look to the leaders and members of the community. These are the people, the statement noted, who know what kinds of support and change are needed.
"Our responsibility as a nation is to listen and respond to create lasting systemic change."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the tragedy  calling it  a parent s worst nightmare.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the tragedy, calling it "a parent's worst nightmare."
YouTube screen grab The National
This rural Dene community of about 3,000 has the highest suicide rate in the province of Saskatchewan, and the rate is about three times that of the national average, CBC News reports.
In the Keewatin Yatthe Regional Health Authority, which includes La Loche, Buffalo Narrows and Ile a la Crosse, the suicide rate towers above other health authorities in Saskatchewan, The Saskatoon StarPhoenix reports. From 2008 to 2012, this area averaged 43.4 suicide deaths for every 100.000 people. That's more than triple the provincial rate of 12.7.
There are no hotels or family restaurants in the community. There's no recreation facilities or even a bank, and you have to travel 100 kilometers to visit the nearest Tim Horton's.
The Dene were traditionally fur trappers and traders. Men were hunters and women tended the hearth and the kids. But the center has dropped out of their traditional world, and now they are forced to deal with a life in which there are no jobs and less opportunity. Much of the old ways are vanishing, and many people in the older generation were victimized by the residential school system, the StarPhoenix notes.
The traditional Dene language is being lost, and as their culture vanishes, modern problems are filling the void like an ugly tide and are being passed from one generation to the next. Mental and physical abuse, coupled with addiction and despair have become part of an unending circle that never seems to stop.
A male suspect, 17, has been charged with four counts of alleged first-degree murder and seven counts of attempted murder. Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the suspect can't be named. He will appear in court next week, CBC News reports. The suspect has also been charged with one count of unauthorized possession of a firearm.
Friends, classmates and relatives of the accused told the StarPhoenix that the teenager was "bullied relentlessly," and the situation may have escalated due to recent cuts to the school and mental health services available to residents in this beautiful, but bleak place.
"He was a normal boy," said Perry Herman, who knows the teenager's family. "He was not a monster. He was hurting. If we had the supports we needed, this would not have happened."
Two of the victims, brothers Drayden Fontaine, 13, and Dayne Fontaine, 17, were relatives of the accused, and they were killed at a residence near the La Loche Community School, where Woods, and Marie Janvier, 21, a teacher's aide, were killed.
Darius Piche, 17, and a student at the school said he saw the alleged shooter walk into the school looking "a little stressed," CNN reports. He asked what was wrong, but instead of answering, the suspect walked to his vehicle and grabbed a gun.
He said he ran back inside and told everyone to "run, he has a gun."
"While the lockdown was happening, you could just hear all these gunshots getting closer, [then] getting distant."
When police arrived, they chased the shooter through the school, arresting him at gunpoint, said Grant St. Germaine, Superintendent of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Officers found nine people shot. One person was pronounced dead at the scene, and another was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Seven others were injured and taken to that hospital or to University Hospital in Saskatoon, he said.
He added that he didn't know the motive for the shootings or if the suspect was a student.
The La Loche Community School teaches pre-kindergarten to 12th grade, CNN reports.
More about La Loche, Shooting, Understanding, Saskatchewan, Saskatoon
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