The crisis and aftermath of La Loche, Canada’s first mass-shooting in over two decades
Four Canadians are dead and two are in critical care following the mass shooting at La Loche Community School in the quiet community of La Loche, Saskatchewan on Jan 22.
Saskatoon Premier Brad Wall addressed the province on the day of the attack, stating that, “Words cannot express my shock and sorrow at the horrific events today.”
According to the RCMP, the unidentified male suspect has been arrested and his identity is being withheld until the investigation is wrapped up.
The RCMP have also stated that the 17-year-old male suspect has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder, as well as seven counts of attempted murder and one count of unauthorized possession of a firearm.
Of the four victims, two have been identified as Marie Janvier, daughter of La Loche mayor Kevin Janvier, and Adam Wood, a new teacher who was recently hired by the School.
Marie Janvier, like Wood, also worked at the school and was a teacher’s aide at both the local Junior and Senior High School. According to various friends, Javier loved her job.
Janvier was known for her patience and kindness with students and was reportedly hoping to pursue a career in teaching following her time at La Loche.
Former La Loche mayor Georgina Jolibois commented on the shooting in an interview with The Globe and Mail.
“I am shocked and saddened by the shooting,” Jolibos said in a statement. “The shooting hits close to home for me as my family members attend the school.”
According to the RCMP, the school instituted a school-wide lockdown around 1:00 p.m. on Friday when several rounds were fired, causing confusion, fear and an overall panic of the student body and faculty alike.
“The school has been a safe haven for a lot of our children,” stated Clearwater River Dene Nation Chief Teddy Clark, leader of Dene First nations Reserve located near La Loche. “The community is devastated. People are asking questions and searching for answers. No one was prepared for something like this.”
Following the shooting, Clark’s daughter texted him from La Loche saying that, “Dad, there’s a shooting at the school”.
Allegedly, Clark knew the male-shooter, stating that “the accused who was involved in the shooting was a surprise to everyone. He was a good kid. It’s one of those, ‘Who would think?’ moments”.
According to another student who stumbled across the shooter returning from lunch, Noel Desjarlais-Thomas, 16, recalled the incident, telling his friend to “Run, bro, run!”.
Despite Desjarlais’ warning, he believes his friend was one of the unidentified victims, stating that “I saw him fall down. That’s when I started running.”
The last words Desjarlais remembered saying to his friends were“There’s a shotgun! There’s a shotgun!” recalling that everyone was, “Yelling to me. And then I was hearing those shots, too, so of course I started running.”
Desjarlais also shared with The Globe and Mail a screenshot of a message exchanged on an undisclosed social media site between the unidentified shooter and one of his friends.
“Just killed 2 ppl,” wrote the young unidentified shooter before stating that he was, “Bout to shoot ip the school.”
According to various locals the shooting began outside of the school; taking place at a home before moving to the school. This point has been verified by the RCMP, who have also stated that the school is one of two locations being investigated.
In La Loche, several article-have been published on the various micro-socio-economic factors that have contributed to the meager 20 per cent employment rate, as well as the high suicide rate in the area.
In fact, in 2015 the Saskatoon StarPhoenix reported that La Loche and other local communities had on average 43.4 suicides per 100,000 people between 2008 and 2012; a much higher average than the provincial 12.7 suicide per 100,000 according to Stats. Canada.
Addressing the shooting from Davos, Switzerland, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that this shooting has created the “darkest of days”, further stating that “Obviously this is every parent’s worst nightmare”.
“The country’s heart is breaking for the people of La Loche, Saskatchewan, today,” said. Trudeau “When I spoke to community leaders, they obviously expressed that the community is reeling.”
In the international community, many have given their condolences to the La Loche shooting, with U.S. ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman writing in an e-mail that, “We have experienced similar tragedies far too often in the United States and understand all too well the heartache and sadness that result from such a horrific event.”
Canadian Tennis champion Milos Raonic, who is currently competing in the Australian Open, dedicated his victory to the citizens of La Loche.
“It was a difficult day back home … I want to take a moment and give thoughts to that community, the families, the students and the school affected. Today’s victory was for that community and a quick recovery. All of Canada and I’m sure the world is behind you,” said Raonic.
The two additional victims of the La Loche shooting have been identified as brothers Dayne Fontaine and Drayden Fontaine.
According to police reports, Dayne and Drayden were killed at an undisclosed home prior to the incident at La Loche.
“I just started to know Dayne a couple weeks ago, I felt like I’ve known him a lifetime” said Cynthia Lemaigre’s in an interview with The Canadian Press. Lemaigre was a sister of one of the students who was injured in the incident.
“He was such a caring person, so thoughtful. He had a heart of gold. Made anyone around him laugh. His time on Earth is cut too short.”