One victim identified as Marie Janvier, an educational assistant in her early 20s killed at the school
Marie Janvier was killed during the shooting at the school in La Loche, Sask., says her aunt Diane. (Facebook)
A small community in northern Saskatchewan is in mourning after shootings at two locations — including a school — left four people dead.
Several others were wounded in the violence Friday in La Loche, Sask., a Dene community nestled on the shores of Lac La Loche with a population of about 3,000.
“I feel like I’m in a nightmare and I want to wake up,” said Diane Janvier, telling CBC News that one of the victims was her niece, Marie Janvier.
The CBC News team was parked on the side of the road Friday evening, when Janvier pulled over to make sure they were okay. She told CBC reporter Devin Heroux about the loss of Marie, an educational assistant at the school who was in her early 20s.
Diane spoke with tears in her eyes as she was making her way to La Loche to grieve with family.
A number of community members came together late Friday to hold vigils outside the school and at a local church, mourning the victims.
Witnesses say a shooter approached the La Loche Community School in northern Saskatchewan and fired outside and inside the building. (Canadian Press)
RCMP confirmed the four deaths during a news conference in Regina Friday night. A male suspect is in custody and police noted the immediate threat was over.
“There’s no risk to public safety at this time,” said RCMP Chief Supt. Maureen Levy.
She said she could not provide details on the number of people wounded or the nature of their injuries, adding that the investigation was in its early stages.
“I cannot release the identity of the victims as the investigation is ongoing,” she said. “In addition to those confirmed deceased, a number of people have been injured. We do not have information about the type or extent of their injuries.
“This is truly a tragedy.”
2 shooting locations
Levy said two locations were at the centre of their investigation, including the La Loche Community School and a place on the 300 block of Dene Crescent.
Teddy Clark, chief of the neighbouring Clearwater River Dene Nation, received a text message from his daughter about the shootings while he was at a meeting in Saskatoon.
The message read: “Dad there’s been a shooting at the school.”
“I immediately called her,” he said and, after learning she was at home, told her to stay there.
Shots fired at school
According to eyewitnesses, a shooter approached the school — which houses students in Grades 7 to 12 — and shots were fired outside and inside the building.
“I ran outside the school,” Noel Desjarlais, a Grade 10 student at the school, told CBC News. “There was lots of screaming. There was about six, seven shots before I got outside. I believe there was more shots by the time I did get out.”
“Myself I’m fine,” he said. “I ended up running and telling people [to] get out the doors.”
Geordie Janvier, 16, was walking in the halls when the shots rang out.
“We were going back to gym class, that’s when I heard the first shot,” he explained. “I looked back. He didn’t see me, that’s why I ran to the gym class, closed the door, and I ran in the dressing room. We stayed there for, like, three hours.”
RCMP in Saskatchewan said they were called about “an active shooter” at 1 p.m. CST and said they had a suspect in custody 45 minutes later.
The suspect was arrested outside the school and a firearm was seized. Another school in the community, for elementary grades, was also put under a lockdown. Levy said the lockdown had been lifted.
“We have no idea what happened and how it happened and why it happened,” Kevin Janvier, acting mayor of La Loche, said Friday afternoon. “It’s something we should never hear of happening and it’s happened today.”
He said people were gathering at the community hall where grief counselling would be available.
Speaking from Davos, Switzerland, a solemn Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he had been advised of the situation by the commissioner of the RCMP.
“Obviously this is every parent’s worst nightmare,” Trudeau said. “The community is reeling and all of us across this country, [our] hearts are going out to the families and to the whole community.”
Trudeau also thanked first responders who reacted “quickly and bravely” in what he called a “tragic and terrible day.”
Saskatchewan’s air ambulance system was dispatched to La Loche, which is about 500 kilometres northwest of Prince Albert, Sask., around 1:35 p.m. CST.
‘Shock and disbelief’
“We are in shock and in disbelief upon hearing about the tragedy in La Loche,” Bobby Cameron, chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, said in a statement Friday. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families, the children, the students and the entire community of La Loche in the wake of today’s horrible incident.”
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall also issued a statement Friday.
“Words cannot express my shock and sorrow at the horrific events today in La Loche,” Wall said. “My thoughts and prayers are with all the victims, their families and friends and all the people of the community. Thank you to the RCMP and all the emergency personnel who responded quickly to the shootings. Saskatchewan Education and Social Services will be available to provide all necessary crisis support and counselling services to the school and the community.”
NDP MP Georgina Jolibois, who has served as mayor of the community in the past, said she was “shocked and saddened” by the shootings.
“The shooting hits close to home for me as my family members attend the school,” she said in a statement.
She added that the community “has faced adversity in the past and we will persevere,” adding that her thoughts and prayers were with everyone affected by the shooting.
“This has a dramatic, negative effect on absolutely everyone,” Buckley Belanger, who represents the area in the provincial legislature, said Friday. “But as many people tell us in our community, we have to be resilient.”
Canadian tennis superstar Milos Raonic, competing at the Australian Open, dedicated his game victory Saturday to the people of La Loche.
“It was a difficult day back home … I want to take a moment and give thoughts to that community, the families, the students and the school affected. Today’s victory was for that community and a quick recovery. All of Canada and I’m sure the world is behind you.”