When I came home yesterday to hear from numerous media sources about Thursday night's violent confrontation in La Loche, Saskatchewan I was completely stunned I must admit. Fort McMurray notwithstanding, I've spent my entire working career in small, remote communities that rarely get press coverage. Sadly, there is media attention here for all the wrong reasons. I have to say right off the bat there are some great people in La Loche and I still keep in touch with them when I can. Unfortunately there is a violent rabble that has stolen all the attention.
Keep in mind that in small, remote communities where everyone knows everyone (and frequently everyone else's business) speaking out and taking action can be a very difficult thing. Its not easy when you have to interact on a daily basis with an undesirable element. I know for a fact that there are drug dealers within a 10 minute walk of my house but Fort McMurray has a population pushing 100 000 so unless they come right to my doorstep its not like I have to put up with them. If they want to partake of an illegal substance and mess up there own lives, well, I suppose that is their prerogative. Its much different in a town of 2300. The jerks are much more visible. The comments I've read from the hapless mayor certainly do nothing to help. The presence of gang activity and alcoholism were obvious and have only gotten worse.
What would possess a group of "people" (and I use the term loosely here) to wreak havoc on a hospital defies logic. I can understand people not being on the best of terms with the RCMP (up to a point), but to try to mob a building to attack attack two officers and then destroying a police vehicle, good grief.
Obviously there are no quick solutions to this sad chain of events and it pains me. Working there wasn't always easy, true, but I have fond memories of the best ice fishing I've ever done in my life, along with stunning sunsets and views along the lake, like in the two following photos taken in December of 2002 and August 2002 respectively.
The hospital there is (or at least was) a wonderful facility given the "northerness" of its location. It opened there year that I moved there. Here is a shot of the hospital in better days.
Someone much wiser than myself once told me that its not the location of a place, the beauty or the socio-economic circumstances of a place that make a place "home", rather it is the people themselves. I always try to keep this in mind but sadly, fond memories have been destroyed by a group of brainless thugs. Whatever positive actions are taken by residents will long be over-shadowed by Thursday evenings' events. This is just the unfortunate reality.
The photo below is the last picture I have of La Loche as I flew out in a small Cessna to begin a new journey in Nunavut. I still remember looking down and wondering....if I were to return 20 years from now, how would it be different? Would it be better....or worse? Clearly a great deal of work needs to be done. People can blame whatever of whoever they want but to paraphrase a famous quote from Gandhi...Be the change you wish to see in the world.