This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Infantalized Communities

"Mental health and addictions come hand-in-hand. If you're depressed or whatever, you cope with drinking or whatever or drugs or whatever. And a lot of our people don't know how to cope. They have lost all ways, all mechanisms to cope, so you just drown your pain."
Connie Cheecham, La Loche Strengthening Families Program

"He was a normal boy. He was not a monster. He was hurting. If we had the supports we needed, this would not have happened."
Perry Herman, La Loche resident
Members of the community come out to watch Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall speak in La Loche, Sask., on Sunday. January 24, 2016. A shooting Friday left four people dead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

The remote community of La Loche in northern Saskatchewan is mourning its dead. The unthinkable but entirely predictable has occurred there, with a 17-year-old First Nations student taking a rifle to his two cousins, 13 and 17 years of age, then boasting through a social networking site to friends that having dispatched those two, he was heading over to the La Loche Community School to kill more "ppl".  After the carnage was completed, he was arrested by police.

Seven people were wounded, and four were killed outright; two the young cousins of the killer, brothers Drayden and Dayne Fontaine at their home while 32-year-old teacher, Adam Wood and 21-year-old teaching assistant, Marie Janvier were killed at the school. The seven others who were targeted, shot and injured, some seriously may all recover physically, but the emotional scars will be permanent.

So why would a 'normal boy', said to be smarting from the insults of bullying, set out to revenge himself on those presumably whom he felt were guilty of complicating his life? All young people experience some element of ridicule or bullying in their formative years. But of course, this is a community which has experienced a remarkable rash of teen suicides. A community incapable of coping, calling on the outside world to help them help themselves.

There is that about these remote First Nations communities that is shared; a generalized dysfunction where violence rules and despair is deep, drowned in addictions to alcohol and drugs. Children are neglected and disproportionate to their numbers in society, taken from their families to be raised by others. People are bored because there is little to do to keep themselves occupied; employment is scarce to non-existent. There is no emotional investment and pride in home ownership.

Typically, the band chief and the band council make all the decisions about how to allocate the funding that comes through from the federal and provincial governments in financial support of the reserves because First Nations people are taught that they must live where and how their ancestors did to maintain their pride and dignity. So in their pride and in their dignity they struggle to cope with a meaningless life.

The isolated town of three thousand residents struggles to contain itself. It is a tight, emotion-packed congregation of people with similar backgrounds, many of whom are clinically depressed and so, suicidal. Services are held regularly at Our Lady of the Visitation Roman Catholic church, as it was yesterday when Archbishop Murray Chatlain spoke of the devastation that has gripped the town.

On the "main street" there are two bars. There is also a liquor store. And not very much else. Nowhere that bored and restless teens can gather, as an example, to forge deeper ties with one another and perhaps dropping the aggressive streak that leads to violence. There appears to be no community spirit in the sense that a meeting place is available for people to socialize. There is no movie theatre, no sport arena.

But there is Internet.  The very fact that there are no family restaurants, no recreational facilities, no hotels, nor a bank, speaks volumes. The Dene population, historically hunters, find little to do in their town, but they have actively opted for those two bars and the liquor store. This is a matter of choice, of ineffectual guidance on the part of the group's leaders. The council which the previous federal government insisted should publicly list all municipal expenditures may no longer since the current government has lifted that responsibility onus.

The sense of common purpose and individual responsibility is simply absent.

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