The family of an Ontario teacher killed in a mass shooting in La Loche, Sask., on Friday says they hope the tragedy will lead to "lasting systemic change" in the remote northern community.
Adam Wood, 35, was just months into a teaching job at the La Loche Community School when he and a teacher's aide were gunned down. Seven other people were injured at the school and two brothers were killed at a separate residence.
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On Sunday, Wood's family, who live in Uxbridge, Ont., issued a statement saying the shootings offer an "opportunity to examine ourselves and hopefully, come out better and stronger as a community and a nation.
"We find ourselves in moments of despair thinking, 'Why did it have to be Adam?' But really, the question is, 'Why did this have to happen?'" the statement read.
The predominantly Dene community located more than seven hours northeast of Saskatoon has unemployment and suicide rates considerably above the provincial average.
In a four-and-half year period from August 2005 to January 2010, 18 people ended their lives in the community of about 3,000, while many more attempted suicide. A 2008 report from the area's health authority said the suicide rate was about three times the provincial average.
With very few economic opportunities, many young people leave school only to find themselves without any job prospects.
Dramatic change needed
Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations told the New York Times on Saturday that La Loche is "certainly one of the worst communities for having nothing for youth."
"We really have to take some dramatic means," he told the newspaper.
The Wood family said today the nation has a responsibility to listen to the people of La Loche and "respond to create lasting systemic change."
"With family and friends, we are sharing stories and memories about who Adam was and the life he lived. But the real news story is the loss, grief, and challenges faced by those in La Loche and surrounding Dene Nations."
Earlier Sunday, people packed into the community's tiny church for a service dedicated to the victims of the shootings.
A 17-year-old male has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of attempted murder and one count of unauthorized possession of a firearm in relation to the shootings.
Full statement from Adam Wood's family:
"On Christmas day, we sat around the kitchen table for one of the last meals as a whole family, and we spoke about La Loche. Adam shared the joys and struggles of being a teacher, his passion for his work, and the potential of his students. Needless to say, we are devastated. We find ourselves in moments of despair thinking, "Why did it have to be Adam?" But really, the question is, "Why did this have to happen?" It is in these moments, when tragedy strikes, that we are able to stop and consider life: it's frailty, challenges, its laughter, and its tears. It is in these moments we are given the opportunity to examine ourselves and hopefully, come out better and stronger as a community and a nation. We feel sadness and remorse but rarely do we use that to fuel change.
As communities come together to support one another, we must ask how to prevent anyone from experiencing a loss of this kind. Rather than looking for someone to blame, or coming up with outsider opinions of reasons why this occurred, we must stop and listen to the voices of La Loche. The leaders and members of the community know what types of support and changes are needed. Our responsibility as a nation is to listen and respond to create lasting systemic change.
Today La Loche and surrounding Dene communities are coming together in candlelight vigils to mourn, to grieve, and to envision a different future. That is where the story is. With family and friends, we are sharing stories and memories about who Adam was and the life he lived. But the real news story is the loss, grief, and challenges faced by those in La Loche and surrounding Dene Nations."