Like most Canadians, I was shocked to hear about the shootings at La Loche. It’s been a few years since I have been to the community, but what I remember most are the people.
When I was there, many of the people still lived a traditional lifestyle of hunting, fishing and trapping. Even though most lived in what could be considered poverty, many had the wealth of language and cultural understanding. A person didn’t have to speak the language, which is predominantly Dene, to understand the laughter, song and dance.
La Loche is one of the most isolated communities in Saskatchewan. The only road ends there; there is no beyond. With the feeling of no place else to go except the false getaway from substance and drug abuse, it took an act of violence to ignite a wake-up call.
Sure, there will be those that try to lay blame. These people point their fingers from the comfort of a safe home. Of course, there are many who have been caught in the cycle of abuse and never went on a mass killing spree. There are many who suffered pain beyond description when they were young, and then went on to carve out good lives for themselves and their families.
It’s good to see the way the media, both locally and nationally, have covered the story in La Loche. It’s so easy to paint a picture of a young man who couldn’t take the bullying, intimidation and abuse as a systematic serial killer. Instead, people are approaching the matter as “what can we do to ensure this doesn’t happen again?”
Prayers are being sent for the victims and their families, but prayers are also being sent for the person charged and his family. I can’t even imagine what his family is going through.
The Dene are a resilient and strong nation. It may seem impossible to understand now, but a day will come when the Northern Lights will once again dance. They will dance like the tea dances of the Dene nation.
With support from all over Canada, and indeed the world, the community will heal. The deep-rooted issues of poverty, unemployment and abuse must be addressed at a macro level. It can’t be a blanket or Band-Aid approach, but the joining of all levels of government, include First Nations, to tackle the issues affecting many northern communities.
I consider myself a Northerner. I was born and raised in the North and I currently live up North. There’s something magical about being part of a lifestyle that has endured for centuries. What happened in La Loche happened all over the North. It touched every family in Northern Saskatchewan. There is a huge sense of an extended family; only those who have experienced it will understand.
It is with a heavy heart I share this with you today. This story hit home for me, and it’s been a hard one. Like any writer, I always ask myself who, what, where, when and why. I believe once understood, the why part is something that can be mended.