La Loche will need years to recover, local MP says
Residents console each other at the memorial near the La Loche Community School in La Loche, Sask., on Sunday. January 24, 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Jason Franson)
Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, February 25, 2016 3:17PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 25, 2016 5:52PM EST
OTTAWA -- It has been more than a month since a shooter killed four people and wounded seven others in La Loche, Sask. but the community's former mayor and current MP knows the healing process is only beginning.
It is going to take years to heal from this incident, Georgina Jolibois said Thursday in a wide-ranging interview with The Canadian Press.
Jolibois, who served as mayor of the northern Saskatchewan community for 12 years, said she wants people to treat this as a national tragedy.
"This is a Canadian experience," she said. "It is a horrific tragedy, it is a painful tragedy. It affects me, it affects you, it affects all of Canada."
Jolibois was at her home on Jan. 22 when she learned about the shooting at the nearby school she had attended years earlier.
"I was outside the high school and then what I saw and what I heard ... I was shocked as well as the whole community," she said. "Even ... grown men, local fire department, they were in tears. They were in shock with what they had witnessed inside the school."
Students in La Loche will this week return to the classes for the first time since the shooting, which killed a teacher and a teacher's assistant and two teenage brothers were shot dead in a nearby home.
Jolibois said she wants to make sure this isn't treated as a "La Loche issue."
"It just so happened that it happened at home," she said. "I hope no one ever has to live through this kind of experience again."
One of the major challenges for the community has been a lack of Dene-speaking therapists who can work with the community.
"We are Dene people. The kids, the youth, the people, the families, including I, speak Dene," she said. "The help that was brought in ... mental health and other service providers that came in ... they don't speak the language."
Both the Saskatchewan government and the federal government have promised to support the community, Jolibois added.
"It is going to be interesting," she said. "I am hoping ... both levels of government will keep their promises to the community of La Loche and to the reserve Clearwater Dene Nation, because it is a complex issue."
Jolibois is also waiting to see if the Liberal government follows through on its overarching promise of a nation-to-nation relationship with Aboriginal Peoples.
She knows she's not alone.
"It would be really sad if they didn't follow through with a number of things ... because a lot of people are hoping for change and improvements in First Nations and aboriginal communities," she said.
Part of being an MP will involve giving a voice to struggling communities like La Loche, she said.
"I wanted to take my dream to a higher level," she said. "Why in Ottawa? Because it is not just ... La Loche ... with the significant social problems that we have. At the national level, it has to have ... attention."