Four people are dead and two more injured after a shooting at a school and another location in La Loche, a remote Dene community in northwestern Saskatchewan.
According to the school’s Facebook page, La Loche Community School is for pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12 students, and houses approximately 900 kids in two buildings.
READ MORE: 4 dead in La Loche, Saskatchewan school shooting
The school was put into lockdown Friday afternoon amid reports of a gunman inside the school. RCMP have one person in custody.
The 2,600-person community is on the shores of Lac La Loche, about 600 kilometres north of Saskatoon, near the Alberta border. Many of its residents work in mining.
La Loche’s population is young and overwhelmingly aboriginal, with a large Dene-speaking population; the Clearwater River Dene Nation borders La Loche to the north.
The Northern Lights School Division’s page describes La Loche Community School as “a school with a motivated staff who are always engaged in implementing innovative and creative programs that are found nowhere else in the country” – where students fundraise so sports teams can make the six-hour drive to compete in Prince Albert and elsewhere in the province.
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But La Loche and the surrounding area are also poorer and more likely to live in overcrowded conditions than people in the south of the province.
The 12,000-person region has three times the numbers of dwellings in need of major repair and close to five times the province’s rate of overcrowding, according to a Keewatin Yatthé Regional Health Authority report.
Its median income is $12,000 less than Saskatchewan’s median; barely half of the area’s young adults have graduated from high school.
La Loche’s health region is also plagued by shortages of critical staff, including nurses and physicians, and stratospheric rates of suicide and self-harm: Its residents are more than five times more likely to kill themselves than their counterparts in the rest of the province, according to a health region report.
After the shooting area MLA Buckley Belanger described the school system as a source of optimism in the community.
“La Loche is a great community. They’ve done so many wonderful things and I’ve said to a number of people that the school system in La Loche is a beacon of hope,” Belanger said.
“I just pray and I hope everyone prays along with me that everyone else is safe and for those that may have been impacted by this, that there are prayers needed all around.”