US & Canada

La Loche 'alone and abandoned' after school shooting

Candles and flowers placed as a memorial lay near the La Loche, Saskatchewan, junior and senior high school Image copyright AP

A Saskatchewan town was "left alone and abandoned" a month after a school shooting last January.

Politicians and community services flooded in to help La Loche following the rampage where four people were killed and seven injured.

School principal Greg Hatch said the community had to struggle through much of the past year on its own after that brief wave of attention.

Town mayor Robert St Pierre called that day the town's "darkest hour".

The shooting highlighted the serious challenges of poverty, addiction, and suicide faced by the remote indigenous village.

On Monday, Mr St Pierre said some advances had been made in education, housing, health and infrastructure since the shooting on 22 January, 2016.

But he said the town's "journey towards convalescence has just begun".

"We're still struggling. I think we need a lot of support. I think we have got a long road ahead of us," said the mayor.

Mr Hatch said the school shooting "drastically changed the life of the students and the staff".

He said the community is still dealing with trauma from the event.

"I'm going to call it a school shooting because that's what it was," he said.

"Everybody rushed into our community, into our school, they were with us for a month, a little more than a month, then everybody left. There were supports in place but we were left on our own to make it through the year."

Both Mr Hatch and Mr St Pierre thanked authorities and the provincial and federal government for their assistance but said it was important to take a clear view of the assistance still needed.

Frank DeAngelis, the former principal of Columbine High School in Colorado, where a school shooting took place on April 20, 1999, was also in La Loche on Monday, as staff prepared for the anniversary of the tragedy.

Mr DeAngelis shared his advice and experience with staff and spoke "about hope", said Mr Hatch.

La Loche is a Dene community of about 3,000 people, located nearly 900km (560 miles) north of the provincial capital, Regina.

Nearly a year ago, a gunman killed two brothers, Dayne Fontaine, 17, and his brother Drayden, 13, in their home. The shooter then went to the La Loche Community School, killing teacher Adam Wood, 35, and 21-year-old teaching assistant Marie Janvier.

He pleaded guilty in October to two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder, and seven counts of attempted murder. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for May.

The shooter, who was 17 at the time, cannot be named under Canada's Youth Criminal Justice Act.

A day of observance in La Loche is planned for 22 January, and will include a church service and a candlelight vigil.

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