Saskatoon

Saskatchewan school shooting: La Loche official says youth support desperately needed

Community workers in the village of La Loche, Sask. say their young people desperately need a place they can call their own.

Human resources co-ordinator says La Loche feels bypassed by government despite needing support for years

Hundreds gathered at La Loche Community Hall for candle vigil and prayer gathering on Sunday night. (Devin Heroux/CBC)

Community workers in the village of La Loche, Sask. say their young people desperately need a place they can call their own.

While the northern Saskatchewan community has recently gained international attention as the site of a school shooting that killed four people, La Loche has been plagued by youth suicide, violence and addiction for decades.

"For far too long, we've been a forgotten people," said Connie Cheecham, human resources co-ordinator for the community of La Loche. "And the only way government pays attention is if they discover uranium mining or some sort of resource development. That's the only way they know that La Loche does exist."

On Friday afternoon, Adam Wood, a teacher, and Marie Janvier, an educational assistant, were gunned down at La Loche Community School — where seven people were also injured — and brothers Dayne and Drayden Fontaine, aged 17 and 13 respectively, were killed at a separate residence.

A 17-year-old male suspect has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and seven counts of attempted murder. 

Cheecham said the village of 2,500 people doesn't have a youth centre. Considering the village has three times Saskatchewan's highest suicide rate, Cheecham said having a youth centre is vital.

"It's unacceptable. It is morally, and even legally justified that we should have some of these services to address all the challenges that our community is faced with," said Cheecham. "The kids need to be heard. And they need a place where they can feel safe and they can feel that they can talk to people."

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      Locals would also like to see more mental health and addictions programming tied to traditional indigenous culture.

      "If you are really well-versed and you practice your traditional beliefs, you would think twice about harming anyone."

      Funeral arrangements for the four victims have not yet been announced.