Friday, December 6, 2019
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A rare school shooting kills 4 in Saskatchewan

A 17-year-old boy has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and seven counts of attempted murder in connection with a rare shooting at a home and school in Saskatchewan on January 22, the BBC reports.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police identified the victims as Marie Janvier, 21, an educational assistant at the La Loche Community School; Adam Wood, 35, a teacher who came to La Loche only a few months ago; and two brothers, Dayne Fontaine, 17, and Drayden Fontaine, 13. The Fontaine brothers were killed in a home about a half mile from the school.

The town of La Loche is a remote Dene aboriginal community, about seven hours from the nearest major city, Saskatoon. Drug and alcohol addiction can be seen throughout the town. When people from La Loche make the news, the media most commonly report about violence or drug busts.

The rate of suicide among residents is high in this town of about 2,600, as is the unemployment rate. Occasional suicide mini-epidemics plague the town, including the suicides of 18 people, most of them young, from August 2005 to January 2010.

“It’s certainly one of the worst communities for having nothing for youth,” the New York Times quoted Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations as saying after the murders. “I was just talking to the chief and council there last night. We really have to take some dramatic means.”

US ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman offered his condolences. “We have experienced similar tragedies far too often in the United States and understand all too well the heartache and sadness that result,” the BBC quoted him as saying.

About 900 students attend La Loche Community School in kindergarten through 12th grade. Police received the call about an “active shooter” at about 1 PM and had detained the suspect less than an hour later. “I ran outside the school,” the Canadian Broadcasting Company quoted one 10th grader at the school as saying. “There was lots of screaming, there was about six, seven shots before I got outside. I believe there was more shots by the time I did get out.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau characterized the school shooting as “every parent’s worst nightmare.”

The well-equipped school has several good teachers on staff. It stands as, probably, a bright spot in this town with a bleak history, but not even the best school or the best teachers can erase the effects of dire poverty and crumbling circumstances made worse by unemployment at home and rampant drug and alcohol abuse in the community.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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