SASKATOON — A Saskatoon prayer service Feb. 2 at St. John’s Anglican Cathedral brought together representatives of different faiths and backgrounds seeking peace and healing for the community in the wake of a shooting in La Loche, Sask. that left four dead and seven injured.
The grandmother of one of those wounded in the Jan. 22 shooting was in attendance. She spoke about her granddaughter, who is still in hospital, reporting that her condition is gradually improving, and that she opened her eyes for the first time that day.
“All the people praying and supporting us and loving us — we return all of that to you,” she said, adding that in spite of what has happened in her community, she will always be a proud Dene woman.
Many have been hurt by trauma and violence over the years, she added. “We haven’t broken down . . . because of prayers and the good Lord standing by us and watching over us.”
Rev. Scott Pittendrigh, dean and rector of St. John’s Cathedral, said that the events in La Loche “have shaken us all,” explaining that the prayer service was being held to honour those who died and to offer support and prayers for healing and strength to those who survived.
“We are also gathered to pray for the whole community of La Loche and for indigenous communities across Canada, and for all communities where poverty and the lack of opportunity have such devastating consequences in people’s lives,” added Pittendrigh.
“We come from a variety of backgrounds, from multi-faith traditions, from indigenous communities . . . we are a cross-section of those who represent this province and country,” he said. “We come to affirm that even in the midst of tragedy we can continue as a community, supporting one another and rekindling our hope in the goodness of humanity and our shared life together.
“Separately we received the news of these events and separately the victims fell,” Pittendrigh said. “Together we will give voice to our lament, for silence will not heal us, nor will our silence lead to a renewed community. Together now we are taking a step to heal and give testimony to our desire for a healed community and a better world.”
Harry Lafond, executive director of the Office of the Treaty Commissioner, stressed that the need for healing goes beyond the community of La Loche. “We can’t allow La Loche to become a memory only in La Loche. It is our memory, it is a part of our own story. As we go forward, and as healing takes hold, it is not only La Loche that needs to heal, but all of us, because we are intended to be one large community.”
Events such as the 1906 agreement between the Dene people and the Crown to enter into a unique relationship under Treaty 10 “demonstrate our oneness and our desire to be together,” Lafond noted. “But even in 1906 there was a sense that things could go wrong.”
The recent recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) offer a way to move forward, Lafond pointed out. “It offers a tool kit so that we can begin to initiate change in our own hearts, because that’s where it all has to begin — and from there to our families and our communities, to Saskatchewan and Canada.”
Violence such as that experienced in La Loche demonstrates that change is absolutely necessary, he stressed. “We can’t continue to live the way we are living. The status quo is not satisfactory. Reconciliation points us to a place where we need to look more closely. We need to look at our assumptions and our attitudes toward each other,” Lafond said.
“We have lots to reflect on, we have much to change. That change won’t happen unless we allow it to emerge from our hearts, and to open our eyes, and see each other for what we are: people intended to live together in harmony.”
The service continued with readings from sacred texts, hymns and prayers, and the lighting of tapers in the darkened cathedral. Prayers were led by Dr. Mateen Raazi of the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan and Rev. Amanda Currie of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. Song of Mourn and The Rising Song were presented by drummer and singer Bluejay Linklater.
A book of condolences was available for signing, and a collection was taken for La Loche community school.