The archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Keewatin–Le Pas told a packed La Loche church Sunday morning that now is the time for the community to remain united and work towards healing in the face of tragedy.
Pews were packed as residents came to Our Lady of Visitation Church to find comfort, community and mourn the loss of two brothers and two school staff members who were killed Friday.
17-year-old Danye and 13-year-old Drayden Fontaine were killed in a home on Dene Crescent, while teacher Adam Wood, 35, and educational assistant Marie Janvier, 21, were shot to death at Dene high school.
A 17-year-old boy was arrested by police in the school and will be in court Monday on first degree murder, attempted murder and firearms related charges.
“When something tragic like this happens, it’s often the only time people hear about a community like La Loche,” archbishop Murray Chatlain said, adding people should also focus on the community’s success stories. “The people here are very faithful and good people.”
Violence, addiction and disadvantaged youth have remained concerns in the community for years.
“There’s three bars, a liquor store. That’s where people hang around all the time because there’s nothing else. There’s no place else to go for them; especially the kids,” resident Wilford Janvier said outside the church.
Chatlain was pleased to hear the federal and provincial governments will provide counseling and healing to the community, but he said he worries the support may be fleeting.
“I really pray that the attention isn’t just for this little bit and then the next news takes over, but that there is some genuine support of people trying to make a positive difference locally,” he said.
Anger and fear remain common feelings among community members, but Chatlain said it is what people do with that anger that matters. He urged the community not to blame the family of the accused.
“It’s not because they’re a bad family. It’s just this has happened and now how do we bring healing and support and try to find ways for our young people to have more hope?” he said.
Before the start of mass, a family members of the victims asked the congregation to pray for those who died and asked for the community to forgive the accused teen.
“They were asking for prayers… and for the community to not take out their anger on (the accused) and to offer forgiveness and prayers for the four people that died,” Chatlain said.
Premier Brad Wall and other provincial officials are expected to visit La Loche Sunday. Snow and bad weather prevented their plane from landing in the community and they were briefly diverted to Fort McMurray, Alta, but have since landed in La Loche.