By Chelsea Laskowski

(La Loche, SK) – The cracks are showing as La Loche struggles to recover from the trauma of last January’s mass shooting, which involved a teen shooter opening fire in the La Loche Community School’s Dene Building.

On Monday, local leadership invited media to that same building nearly a year after a teen who attended school there took the lives of teen brothers Dayne and Drayden Fontaine, teacher Adam Wood and education assistant Marie Janvier. Seven others who were in the school at the time were injured.

Earlier on Monday, former Columbine High School principal Frank DeAngelis was at the school speaking with staff, parents, and community agencies about his experience after the notorious 1999 shooting. The Dene school’s acting principal Greg Hatch said the local and national help Columbine received after the school shooting eclipses what La Loche received.

During the conference, both Hatch and Mayor Robert St. Pierre said it’s a struggle to access victims’ services and counselling.

“We’re always on the road. And we’re a community of close to 5,000 in the area and we’re constantly on the road getting services,” Hatch said.

Friendship Centre Executive Director Leonard Montgrand expressed frustration with the lack of positive momentum gained to combat the social issues in La Loche since the shooting.

“I know you folks wouldn’t want to live like that, would you? To have your children live in fear or to live in a community that has drug addiction problems and crime and violence?” he asked.

“When this all dies down and goes away, are we forgotten once again? That’s one of the major concerns I have is that. And through media we’re not going to let the province and federal off the hook.”

This isn’t to say improvements haven’t been made in key areas of infrastructure, housing, education, and health. St. Pierre expressed gratitude for the federal and provincial supports that have been provided, but said there’s a missing piece in the puzzle.

“With all those resources coming in, we don’t have anybody in place to administer that,” he said.

Montgrand said they received $1 million in infrastructure funding when building the new Friendship Centre – but along with that came 13 people working out of his office and a load of new programs.

“It’s overload. It’s too much, too quick, too fast,” he said.

In effect, Montgrand said there’s a need for outside help to coordinate long-term solutions in the four priority areas, possibly in the form of a strategic plan for La Loche that addresses the four priority areas, Montgrand said.

“You’re healing yourself at the same time, trying to heal others, and we have to start somewhere.”

On a smaller scale, Hatch said the school has been successful in an August request for the Ministry of Education to pursue what he calls a “healing plan” for the school.

“We’re supposed to be also healing, and we’re trying to figure out the healing piece and we’re also trying to run a school,” he said.

Now, the Ministry has hired someone to work on a communication strategy and then a framework to develop a comprehensive healing plan.

This week’s meeting in La Loche comes in advance of a meeting with provincial Deputy Ministers, who will be visiting the community on Jan. 16.

The actual anniversary of the shooting has been pronounced a civic day of remembrance, and St Pierre said the community is asking for privacy on Jan. 22.

There will be a church service, community lunch, and candlelight vigil.



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