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Prime minister tells La Loche that government will be there 'in years to come'

A fire burns as it thaws the frozen ground in order to dig a grave for one of the shooting victims at the cemetery in La Loche, Sask., Jan. 25, 2016.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
January 30, 2016 - 6:00 AM

LA LOCHE, Sask. - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he has assured a Saskatchewan community scarred by a mass shooting that his government will offer support for years to come.

"The federal government will be there not just now through the difficult time, but in the weeks, months and indeed the years to come as we look to grieve, to heal and to ... thrive," Trudeau said Friday after meeting with leaders and residents of La Loche.

He did not commit to a request from Mayor Kevin Janvier that Ottawa and the province fund infrastructure, health and education in La Loche for the next 10 years.

"I was here very much to listen today," he said. "There is much that we heard today that we entirely agree with and we look forward to working with municipalities and ... the provinces to address these urgent challenges."

He said the shooting highlights deep social issues facing many aboriginal communities across the country and his Liberals were elected after promising to work with indigenous people to make their lives better.

"I can't speak for past governments, but I do know that governments of all stripes have not done enough to support and invest in northern and remote communities," Trudeau said.

"This is a reminder that in Canada everyone should have a real and fair chance to succeed regardless of where they were born, regardless of where they live."

Two teenage brothers were killed in a home and a teacher and an aide were shot dead at the high school in the Dene community on Jan. 22. Seven people were wounded.

A 17-year-old boy, who can't be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, has been charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder. Friends have said he was an outcast at home and a victim of bullying at school.

RCMP Supt. Grant St. Germaine said Friday that investigators have yet to uncover a motive, but that the response by La Loche Mounties the day of the shooting was "textbook."

"They followed their training to an exact T," St. Germaine said. "They did what they were trained to do and ... were able to apprehend the suspect very quickly and prevent further loss of life or injury."

The prime minister met with the injured, with family members of the dead and with community leaders. He also held a townhall meeting with about 700 residents and laid flowers at a makeshift memorial.

He told them they must not let last week's shooting change what they hold dear.

"We will always denounce terrible acts of violence such as these, but we must remember this tragedy will not, must not, change who we are as individuals, who you are as members of a strong community.

"We must stay true to our values."

Trudeau made a point of thanking medical personnel and police, who he said "undoubtedly saved many lives that day."

He also thanked the community's teachers.

"I can only imagine the strength, the courage, the selflessness shown by the staff at the high school through an extraordinarily difficult instance in which I know your first thoughts were for the safety of your students, the safety of the community."

Teachers from the school posted a letter on Facebook assuring students they won't be deserted after last week's events.

"Some people have expressed concern that some of us have left and the fact is, we are hurt and we are healing but we are still here," the letter said.

"We are supporting each other so we can help support you. We will be back. We will rebuild. We will get better together.

"So if you find yourself wondering where your teachers and school staff are, the answer is: we are in La Loche. Because truly, where else would we be?"

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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