Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, visiting La Loche on Friday, pledged to support the remote community as it recovers from gun violence that left four people dead, although the Liberal leader was short on providing concrete details.
Residents here welcomed Mr. Trudeau at the town's airport, waiting to shake his hand when he arrived Friday morning. The prime minister then spoke to community leaders and residents for about eight minutes inside the town's Ducharme Elementary School. Other politicians, including Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall, also addressed the crowd.
"It was nice seeing Mr. Trudeau come to La Loche to support Dene [people]," Ron Lemaigre said after attending the gathering.
Leroy Janvier stood across the street as people left the gathering. He didn't make it to the event, but is thankful the prime minister came, even if it took multiple murders to attract attention.
"He lifted a lot of spirits today," Mr. Janvier said. "I've seen a lot of people smiling. I haven't seen that this week."
RCMP alleges a 17-year-old shot and killed two teens – Dayne and Drayden Fontaine – last Friday. Their bodies returned to La Loche Friday afternoon, accompanied by a convoy of vehicles stretching kilometres down the highway. Area residents gathered along the town's main street to watch the procession. The boys' wake, which will stretch into next week, is now underway. Family, friends, and other supporters will go to the residence where the bodies are resting to support each other, share food, and sing. The pair will be buried Tuesday.
The alleged murderer went to the La Loche Community School after shooting the two boys in their grandparents' home. There, the accused killed Adam Wood, a 35-year-old teacher from Ontario, and Marie Janvier, a teachers' aide from La Loche. She was 21. Ms. Janvier's body returned to the community earlier this week and her funeral is Saturday. The accused, who cannot be identified because he is a youth, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and seven counts of attempted murder. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Mr. Trudeau, speaking to reporters at Methy Place, La Loche's courthouse, said he mostly came to this northern community to listen.
"The federal government will be there, not just now [in the] difficult time, but in the weeks, months, and indeed years to come, as we look to grieve, to heal, and to move beyond, and thrive," he said.
The Prime Minister, however, did not provide tangible examples of what his government will do.
"We are engaged across the country in looking at infrastructure needs, looking at health needs, looking at how we restore a right relationship with indigenous people across the country. There is a real need to have a government that is in partner[ship] to face the very concrete and pressing challenges and we will do exactly that," he said. "And it is not just here, although obviously this is what is drawing the attention. And the tragedy that this community went through should serve to highlight challenges that don't just exist here but across the country. So while we grieve and support this community, we also think of communities like it across the country."
Paul Sylvester, a former Birch Narrows chief, sat in a vehicle outside the townhall while Mr. Trudeau addressed residents. "I don't even want to go," Mr. Sylvester said. "I've heard it all before."
The Prime Minister's promises to Canada's aboriginal communities are ambitious. And that, Mr. Sylvester, explains why he is skeptical of Mr. Trudeau's agenda.
"Where is he going to find the money?"