Today is a day of mourning in northern Saskatchewan.
On Jan. 22, 2016, one year ago today, a 17-year-old student walked into the Dene Community School in La Loche and opened fire on teachers and classmates. The shooter killed two and wounded seven others at the school after killing two teenaged brothers earlier in the afternoon.
The young shooter was arrested by RCMP and pleaded guilty in October to two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and seven counts of attempted murder. His name cannot be printed due to his status as a young offender.
The community is coming together today to remember teacher Adam Wood and teacher’s aide Marie Janvier along with brothers Drayden and Dayne Fontaine who were killed at a nearby home.
La Loche Mayor Robert St. Pierre said the community has asked for privacy on the anniversary. He said the media can expect “an unfriendly welcome” if they turn up to cover events.
A mass will be hosted at the church in La Loche, followed by a luncheon and a candlelight vigil, all in honour of those who lost their lives or were wounded in the school shooting.
Despite a threat made against the school Jan. 19, St. Pierre said the planned memorial events will still go on as planned.
Country/gospel group Voices of the North, who put together a viral video performing Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me” in support of La Loche last year, will perform again today for residents of the northern village.
Prince Albert’s Sheryl Kimbley will be joining them. Kimbley reminisced over the video the group released last year during a phone interview with paNOW.
“Last year, after the tragedy occurred, we reached out in the only way we knew how and that was through song,” Kimbley said.
Kimbley said she shed a few tears when she was asked to participate in the memorial service.
“There’s really no way to describe how it feels,” Kimbley said. “[It] was a resounding ‘yes.’ I don’t care what I have to do to get there. I don’t care if I have to take some time away.”
Kimbley said the long trip to La Loche from Prince Albert is “a drop in the pond” in comparison to the suffering the northern community has gone through in the past year. Kimbley said Voices of the North will continue to support La Loche in any way they can.
“I really encourage everybody to not forget. They’re moving on and doing a lot of positive things; they are a good community,” Kimbley said.
Georgina Jolibois, NDP MP for Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River, issued an official statement about the anniversary of the shooting.
“As we commemorate this sad day, I cannot stress enough the gratitude and appreciation for the heroes of that day,” Jolibois wrote. “The teachers who were wounded and lost their protecting our children will forever be remembered.”
Joilbois said love, encouragement and strength will bring the community forward as they move on from the tragedy.
Bryan Eneas is paNow’s Indigenous and northern reporter. He can be reached by email at Bryan.Eneas@jpbg.ca or on Twitter: @BryanEneas.
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