Tragedy unites the North
- Andréa Ledding | February 14, 2016
In La Loche, the story of community pulling together in tough times shows the beauty, strength, and resiliency of the Dene and Métis community, the north, and the country in general. On Facebook, La Loche resident Tanisha Montgrand wrote to national media, “I think you forgot to mention [the real story] taking place. You missed the entire North uniting as one to support those involved. Last night Highway 155 lit up with support from every community...as they drove my beautiful friend Marie home one last time.”
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Northern communities including Green Lake, Beauval, Buffalo Narrows, Canoe Lake, Turnor Lake and Bear Creek all had turnouts of hundreds waiting for Marie Janvier’s return by candlelight vigil, who then joined in the processional until it stretched several kilometres long; the same was done for the return of Dayne and Drayden Fontaine “so that we keep company with our own and they don’t return alone in darkness,” commented one woman who wished to remain unnamed. “That’s just how the North is.”
Or as Tanisha Montgrand wrote,
“Even on the darkest of days, people will come together and lift each other up, and I think that’s the real story right now.”
In Saskatoon, Myrna LaPlante of SIIT was busy collecting donations for the seven families supporting family members in critical condition at RUH. Gas and coffee cards, practical items, and hotel coverage were all areas which the FSIN helped organize for these families, and the community sprang into action not only practically but also with prayer vigils and songs across the province. The Gordon Oakes Red Bear Centre at the University of Saskatchewan held its first official event to support the students of La Loche. Sara-Jane Gloutnez attended the circle to offer support. "My partner and I are both graduate students and my mom is a teacher...The events at La Loche hit so many parts of my identity as a student, teacher, and researcher fighting against injustice in my community. I wanted to be with my community to support them and grieve for La Loche."
Candace Wasacase-Lafferty, Director of Aboriginal Initiatives at the U of S, noted that with a significant number of northern students, and the larger body of Indigenous students, everyone was impacted but wanted to offer support too.
“There were people from all over campus, from other groups - non-Indigenous students, Muslim students, international students - everyone experiences trauma differently and there's that shared empathy. Staff and faculty came as well.”
Sharing and prayer was led by Elder Louise Halfe and Rosalie Tsannie, a Dene speaker, also drove in, leading the closing and asking Dene students to come forward.
“Students took turns afterwards at the mic to express what they were thinking and feeling - overwhelming support, understanding, empathy and calls to action,” said Candace. She added it was “something we will continue to talk about and honour well into the future. It's far from over, we will continue to offer services and support...lots of people want to help.”
Currently the northern SARCAN (Prince Albert and La Ronge) are accepting donations for La Loche as well as Saskatoon Sutherland, with possible plans to expand the program. Even internationally, Ontario's Milos Racios dedicated his Australian Open win to La Loche, Saskatchewan snowboarder Mark McMorris did the same with his Colorado Worlds competition and is gathering sports equipment for La Loche. He hopes people see Saskatchewan in a positive light.
"It's just such a tight community of people wanting to help others. We can only move on and just try and talk about it and make sure kids realize we live in an amazing place.”