'Every one of us in La Loche has been victimized,' shooting victim's relative says
Annette Montgrand says most people in her community have been touched by violence
Annette Montgrand, who had a family member shot on Friday afternoon in La Loche, Sask., says this is her third family member who has been shot in the past seven years in the northern Saskatchewan community.
She carries a lot of pain as she waits at a hospital in Saskatoon to support her family member injured in the latest shooting.
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A 17-year-old boy has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and seven counts of attempted murder.
When Montgrand received a call on Friday to head to the local medical centre, she was devastated. Walking through the hospital doors she said she had a flashback of only a few years before, entering the building after a different relative was shot.
"People think I'm strong because they can't see my mind, also because they can't see my broken heart," she said.
Montgrand said the community has experienced decades of loss and violence. La Loche and the surrounding region had the highest suicide rate in the province according to a 2010 report from the Keewatin Yatthe Regional Health Authority.
"We have had many [tragedies] in the past. Pretty much every one of us in La Loche has been victimized somehow through violence, through assaults, through abuse, with suicides. You name it, we've suffered it," Montgrand said.
"We have been battling for years with social problems, social issues. For years, I've been a part of sitting around with government agencies pushing for resources, pushing for services, pushing for programs and up until now it has fallen on deaf ears."
This kind of [tragedy] you hear and read about and watch on TV, and it's not a reality until it hits home for you.- Annette Montgrand
On the weekend, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale arrived in La Loche and spoke about the need for change in the community of around 3,000. Montgrand said it's unfortunate it's taken this event to get promises of change.
"There will not be a quick solution, but I really hope deep in my heart that this [tragedy] that happened on Friday would be eye-opening for all of us, not just us in La Loche, but everywhere throughout the world," she said.
Montgrand said there aren't strong enough words to describe the heartbreak she is feeling, sitting with another relative who has been a victim of gun violence. But she said knowing people around the world are praying for her family has been helpful.
"I want them to continue, I don't want people to stop praying and give support and love. We need to carry that on for everyone everywhere," she said.
"This kind of [tragedy] you hear and read about and watch on TV, and it's not a reality until it hits home for you. And it's hit home for me once more. I just can't do it anymore."
Goodale talks about La Loche
The living conditions and support systems in the Saskatchewan village were addressed by Goodale in a media scrum following question period on Monday in Ottawa.
Goodale said the first priority is ensuring the community is safe and a sense of stability is returned. He added the second step will be providing the health supports, particularly counselling, after the tragedy.
"The minister of health indicated in the House today that federal resources were deployed within just a few minutes of the, the tragic news breaking in, in La Loche," Goodale said.
"And I think it is important to note that Minister [Jane] Philpott said whatever resources are necessary, they will be provided for as long as they are necessary. This is not a, a quick trip in and out."
In the long-term, Goodale said he has heard from the community that they would like to see a proper youth centre and recreational facilities. There have also been concerns around housing conditions as well as transportation facilities and services in and out of the village.
"They raised a whole variety of issues that go to the economic base of the community, the quality of life in the community, the, the kinds of things that, that all levels of government will have to grapple with in the days immediately ahead and make sure that as we, as we build that, that foundation, we need to recognize what we're doing is building hope," Goodale said.
"That's what's lacking in that community, a sense of hope and… a place to go and grow for the future."
Goodale said the lessons from La Loche will have broader application than just this one community.
- A previous version of this story stated that La Loche had the highest suicide rate in the country. It has been updated to include information from a 2010 report from the Keewatin Yatthe Regional Health Authority, which said the broader region had the highest rate in Saskatchewan.Jan 25, 2016 9:41 PM CT