Thoughts Following the La Loche Tragedy

holding hands
Photo Credit: Leni Tuchsen

Friday afternoon was just another day in the office…or so I thought. I was not prepared to hear the devastating news that sent shockwaves across the nation. As I was leaving work at the end of the day, I turned my cell phone on and discovered numerous messages from my friend from La Loche.

It was then that he broke the news to me about the school shooting. I was in complete shock, especially after he told me how he was personally affected by the tragedy. Afterwards we kept in touch daily because he said he needed a friend to mourn with despite the miles between us. He confessed he was struggling to refrain from consuming alcohol as a way to numb the overwhelming pain. Instead, he has been playing in hockey tournaments along with other community members to raise money for the victims’ families.

He has been very open with me about the many emotions he is feeling. I think that is a good thing, because reaching out to others is the first step in the healing process.

Caroline Tait, an Indigenous health expert from the University of Saskatchewan, said in a recent CBC article that the healing must come from within and that “it is vital that people from La Loche, Sask. help drive the community’s healing process.” She expressed confidence in the strength of the community “to get through this tragedy, if they’re given proper resources.”

Charlie Angus, author of Children of the Broken Treaty, spoke about the need to attain those proper resources in the House of Commons on Monday, saying that “condolences are not enough. . . Parliament must take action.” Angus said the federal government often ignores mental health needs in isolated northern communities.

Which begs the question: could this tragedy have been prevented if the proper resources were in place? Action is definitely needed to ensure the community can heal from such a heartbreaking ordeal.

Until resources are implemented in the community, lending a shoulder and an ear to my friend is the one thing I can do for him as he starts his healing journey. Prayers to the La Loche community.

Holiday Reading: Afterthoughts

education of augie merasty coverBIG WEBBefore I left for the holidays, I chose “The Education of Augie Merasty” as my holiday reading pick.
I finally had the chance to finish the book, and I was amazed.
Dave Carpenter wrote an introduction about working with Augie off and on throughout the years. It was saddening to read about the cycle of alcohol addiction that plays on a person and how Augie was struggling to keep his head above water. But what amazed me was how Dave did not give up on Augie and his book.
Recently, I read an article in The Leader Post where Augie’s daughter, Arlene Merasty, was interviewed and said “People weren’t talking about (residential schools) at all. It wasn’t out in the open and that’s kind of when he started writing the book….I didn’t even know he went to residential school. He never really talked about it.”
I felt a personal connection to her statement.
I grew up with both of my parents struggling with alcohol addictions which tore my family a part. My siblings and I were separated and put into different family foster homes when we were young. At that age, I never knew or understood why we were all separated until I learned years ago when the talks of residential schools came out in the open.
Noted in the article, Dave was quoted, “I thought this was just one man’s story.” Back then, I thought my family was the only one facing this situation until I heard similar stories afterwards and it brought a sense of relief that we weren’t alone.
My parents never spoke to us about their experiences at the residential schools but it was enough to understand that their consumption of alcohol was used to conceal wounds that have not healed.
The article states that Arlene has forgiven her father as she said, “In my own sense, I had to heal. For myself I had to forgive him.”
About 10 years ago, that’s exactly what I did. I forgave my parents so I could heal and grow.
The effects of residential schools still linger within Indigenous communities nationwide but like Augie’s memoir; talking about it is a step in moving forward.