As she sentenced the man who killed four people and injured seven others in La Loche in 2016, Judge Janet McIvor criticized the provincial and federal governments for not doing enough to help the northern community.
“They have been abandoned. They have been let down,” she said.
“More help is needed. Counselling is needed. And it’s not right that that hasn’t been provided.”
The scolding remarks come as community leaders in La Loche continue to plead for more help as the town grapples with mental health issues and suicide attempts.
Leonard Montgrand, executive director of the La Loche Friendship Centre, told 650 CKOM there is only one full-time mental health counsellor working in the community. There’s also a part-time suicide prevention worker, who splits time between La Loche and Buffalo Narrows.
“It puts a burden on everyone,” he said. “It’s very frustrating for the clients, and also at the same time very frustrating for the staff, as they’re very limited in their ability to service everyone.”
Montgrand acknowledged government contributions have led to “incremental improvements,” but said the dedication of resources has to be sustained for La Loche to improve their well being and standard of living.
“I think the mentality is … ‘well, we’ve worked with them for two years and now we have to move on.’ If that’s the mentality they take, slowly we’re going to go back to the old way in La Loche,” he said.
“We still need help, we still need the financial resources, we still need the ability to create new employment and economic opportunities for community members.”
When asked about the criticism on Tuesday, Premier Scott Moe said the province is listening.
“We need to work hard to do better in areas such as La Loche,” he said.
Moe did note the government is maintaining funding towards education initiatives in the northern community, including a Dene language teacher program and trades courses.
— With files from 980 CJME’s Sarah Mills and The Canadian Press.