By Annette Ejiofor, Associate Editor
Canada has yet to erase the grim memory of January 22, 2016, when an unnamed 17-year-old boy, shot and killed four, injuring seven, at the La Loche Community School. Although charged with four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of attempted murder, and one count of unauthorized possession of a firearm, the unfortunate events of January 22, still have ripple effects across Canada, especially, within the Indigenous community.
The Community School is located in a 2,600-person community, near the Alberta border. Most residents of La Loche work in mining while the majority of the population is young and of Indigenous descent. The median income for residents of La Loche is estimated at $12,000 less than Saskatchewan’s average median, where it is recorded that less than half of the area’s young adults have graduated from high school. Looking to La Loche’s health care status, the region suffers with vast shortages of critical staff, with unfortunately high rates of suicide and self harm. Residents of La Loche are said to be five times more likely to commit suicide than other residents in Saskatchewan. This makes the shooting of La Loche significant, given the economic and social state of the region.
The Indigenous population of Canada has been disproportionately targeted by economical, social, and political institutions, since the development of this ‘native land.’ Starting with the colonization of the rightful land of the Indigenous peoples, followed by the direct and gruesome attempt at the elimination of their people, culture, customs, values, land, self determination, and even self love, Canada worked hard to ensure the assimilation through degeneration, degradation, and extermination, of Indigenous peoples. The effects are still occurring presently and are both visual and written. Visually, we see the maltreatment of the indigenous population through such things as their overrepresentation within the prison population. Although making up a small segment in Canada, Indigenous people are vastly overrepresented within the prison population and are disproportionately targeted by members of law enforcement like the RCMP. The Indian Act would be an example of the written form of how the Indigenous population of Canada are targeted. The effects of such events and mechanisms, are major. The state of La Loche, is a result of post colonization.
When a white boy commits an act similar to that of the shooting at La Loche Community School, he is widely defended, claiming that he suffered from a mental illness. We recognize that mental illness is a serious issue and one that must be paid attention to and yet, when it comes to people of colour, the support offered is minimal. The environment, tied with the racism and post colonization experienced by residents of La Loche, could lead an individual to commit such an act as shooting a community school. Why then, have we yet to hear of a plan to target the current economical and social issues being experienced by La Loche and especially, Indigenous people within Canada.
I would describe the ripple effects of the La Loche shooting as that not unlike throwing a rock in the water. It makes a loud sound as it bounces from start, but then fades away as it continues to spread further and further away. Naturally, a ripple effect can have lasting effects, but that initial loud sound, fades away. The La Loche community had the Canadian attention when the news of the shooting hit the air waves and public spheres. Sadly, the La Loche community is still struggling with its own battles, while the sound, the loud cry for help, has faded away in most of our minds.
One month after the shooting, on February 22, La Loche Community School has been reopened as teachers and students return to their classes and regularly scheduled activities. Canadians will continue on, and the real struggles within the La Loche community just might be forgotten until we are unfortunately reminded again.
So I ask, when really will the vast Canadian population pay attention to the ripple effect of the racism towards, and targeted degeneration of, the Indigenous community? Time will tell.