'Difficult time for our community': Lac La Ronge chief responds to child burning incident

Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson says they are grateful for the help of band members and emergency workers following an incident where two children were burned.

Tammy Cook-Searson says First Nation committed to building safer, healthier communities

Chief Tammy Cook-Searson of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band is asking for privacy for the families involved in a youth burning incident. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press)

Following an incident in which two children were burned, a First Nation chief in the area says residents are "determined to continue co-ordinating efforts to work toward safer and healthier communities and safeguarding those at highest risk, such as our children, youth and elders."

In a written statement Friday morning, Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson said band members are deeply concerned about the incident.

The two children, who were allegedly doused by gasoline and burned, have been released from hospital "but they have a long recovery ahead of them," she said.

​"This is a very difficult time for our community; however, we have the necessary support services in place and we have the full confidence in the staff of our La Ronge Indian Child & Family Services Agency to continue their work with the affected children and their families."

She asked that the privacy of affected parties be respected.

Cook-Searson's statement comes as varying accounts of the incident emerge. Some people have questioned the severity of the incident and whether it was even intentional.

Youth crime severity decreasing

These and other recent news stories and social media posts about the La Loche school shooting are feeding the myth that youth crime is increasing, says University of Saskatchewan law professor Glen Luther.

In fact, youth crime severity in Saskatchewan has gone down 30 per cent in the past decade, according to Statistics Canada. Across Canada, it has decreased 38 per cent.

University of Saskatchewan law professor Glen Luther says people could be forgiven for thinking youth crime is increasing, but it's not. (CBC)

A barrage of negative news can scare people into thinking youth crime is exploding, but it's not, Luther said. What is increasing is the bombardment of social media and news alerts increasingly obsessed with crime, he said.

Even Saskatchewan's children's advocate, Corey O'Soup, expressed concern this week that he'd heard "things happening with our children that are becoming increasingly violent."

"We have to be very careful in terms of analyzing what's actually happening, think about what's significant and what's not," said Luther, a criminal law specialist. "One incident of a very serious nature can be very scary to people, but that doesn't mean there's an increase in crime."

Prof. concerned about reinforced stereotypes

First Nations University of Canada professor Tara Turner said there's another problem: all of this is reinforcing an inaccurate racist stereotype of northern and Indigenous youth.

Turner said she's saddened by the sensational news and social media commentary.

"I mean, there's already sort of the impact of racism and discrimination that people live with and experience every day. It's just adding more layers to that experience," Turner said. "I even feel the weight of it sometimes."

Turner and Luther said crime is a serious problem, but scare tactics and stereotyping will not make things better.

Focusing on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action is a start, Luther said, given that the residential school legacy has destroyed the fabric of communities and families.

"They need assistance to get back to where they were ... that's pretty clear and that's part of reconciliation."