A small community in northern Quebec is reeling after two young boys in the community were severely beaten, reportedly by other children in the community.

Police in the Atikamekw community of Manawan, Que., said that two children were airlifted out of the community for medical care.

One of the boys, who is just three years old, was sent to Sainte-Justine Hospital in Montreal in critical condition. The other boy is five.

Atikamekw Grand Chief Constant Awashish said that the boys are expected to be released from the hospital before the beginning of next week.

The boys were reportedly bullied and beaten in a playground Tuesday evening. The three-year-old was forced to eat sand, which got into his lungs, requiring urgent care.

Awashish said the community is in shock and trying to cope with the situation. “(We’re) trying to figure out what happened and how this can happen in our community,” he told CTV Montreal.

One resident in the community said residents are in shock that older children are accused of beating the younger children. The allegations are particularly upsetting since there are already anti-bullying programs in the town, the resident said.

Youth protection officials are helping the families of both the victims and the young suspects

The Atikamekw First Nation of Manawan has a population of just over 2,000 people, and is located 300 kilometres north of Montreal, in the Lanaudiere region.

With files from CTV Montreal