On Tuesday, the premier and a contingent of cabinet ministers were in La Loche to announce more than a million dollars in initiatives for the northern community.
The initiatives span seven different ministries and include $467,000 of provincial dollars towards a 14-unit affordable rental housing project, and health investments to hire a suicide prevention worker and mental health nurse who will start work later this month.
Premier Brad Wall spoke to more than 100 La Loche and area residents in the gym of La Loche high school’s Dene Building and said his government wants to honour those who were injured, killed, and traumatized by January 22’s mass shooting.
He solemnly recited the first names of Dayne Fontaine, Drayden Fontaine, Marie Janvier, and Adam Wood before saying “we are here to honour their memory. It is humbling for all of us, it is humbling for me, to be back in your community again. To be among strength, to be here among resolve, resilience, and determination and optimism. These are the qualities that La Loche has exemplified, has exhibited, over these last number of months.”
The long list of provincial announcements includes $750,000 for planning and redesign of the high school, among other upgrades. The announcement was made in the Dene Building’s gym; it’s the same building where a shooter entered and injured seven people on January 22. The shooter killed teacher’s assistant, Janvier and teacher, Wood.
“Thank you for refusing to give in to despair. Thank you for choosing hope and rejecting fear, for choosing to focus on the future,” Wall said, while acknowledging that this most recent trip to La Loche is only the start of a long road.
“My promise to you today is that the government of Saskatchewan will be with you every step of the way.”
The bulk of the investments cover things like adult basic education, and investments in local training for future trades workers.
There's also a program offered by First Nations University where up to 24 students can take a Dene Teacher Education program while staying in the community.
Mayor Kevin Janvier said this means a lot to La Loche, especially considering Marie’s ambitions at the time of her death.
“Hands down, Marie would have been in (the Dene Teacher Education Program) and tried to get in there and teach our young generation, or older generation, the Dene language. It’s really important our culture keeps that and I’m very pleased to be announcing to have that program offered in La Loche,” he said.
Other highlights include hiring a second full-time victims services coordinator and half-time community justice coordinator.
The provincial investments come after months of work by subcommittees that were created after the shooting to address the priorities of education, housing, health and infrastructure.
Members are from the federal government, province, La Loche, and Clearwater River Dene Nation.