Four are dead after a mass shooting in a northern Saskatchewan town after a "devastating" day for the community.
At least some of the victims lost their lives inside the La Loche Community School after a shooting broke out on 1pm Friday afternoon, local time, when a gunman opened fire inside one wing of the school.
"In addition to those confirmed deceased, a number of individuals are injured," RCMP Chief Superintendent Maureen Levy told reporters on Friday night. The police force would not give any details about the victims, saying that doing so could "compromise the integrity of the investigation," but emphasized that there is no longer a risk to the public.While early reports said there were five deaths, initially reported by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the RCMP later confirmed that the death toll stood at four.
The suspect, who was arrested outside of the school 45 minutes after the shooting began, has yet to be identified. Police confirm that a firearm was seized during the arrest.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police confirmed that they were investigating a second location, on a residential street near the school. It's not clear how many were killed or injured at each location.
The town's interim mayor, Kevin Janvier, told the radio station that his 21-year-old daughter, Marie Janvier, was among the shooting victims.
"Her smile will light up the room on the darkest day," wrote one of Janvier's relatives, Sandie Janvier, told reporters, calling her the "sweetest caring person … We lost a loving sister today."
Kevin Janvier didn't identify the shooter, but said he was a "young fellow."
Canada's Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told CKOM radio station that local police "are dealing with a very serious and large crime scene." Goodale acknowledged that the community has long had problems with drug addiction, alcoholism, and violence.The shooting was originally confirmed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a press conference in Davos, Switzerland."This is just a horribly painful wakeup call that there are circumstances that absolutely need to be fixed," he added.The shooting at the school occurred inside the building that houses grades seven through 12.
"Obviously, this is every parent's worst nightmare," Trudeau told reporters from Davos, Switzerland. "The country's heart is breaking."
Trudeau said two victims remained "critically, critically" injured.
La Loche, located in Northwest Saskatchewan, has a population of just 2,600 people.
While details on the victims have yet to emerge, early reports indicate that a teacher was among the wounded.
Earlier on Friday afternoon, a hospital in Saskatchewan confirmed that it was treating students for gunshot wounds. An emergency ambulance service also confirmed on Twitter that they dispatched a helicopter to the remote community.
CBC reported on Friday night that the air ambulance was still en route to hospital as of 7:30pm EST.
STAR-11 (Saskatoon) has been dispatched for a scene call emergency in the La Loche, SK area.
— STARS Ambulance (@STARSambulance)January 22, 2016
"This is something that you only see on TV most of the time," Teddy Clark, Chief of Clearwater River Dene Nation, told The Star Phoenix He says that while guns are readily available in the community, they are primarily used for hunting.
"It's not a pretty scene there, right now," Clark later told CBC news, after speaking with his daughter, who was in the area.
La Loche, a predominantly Aboriginal community, is a six hour drive north of Saskatoon, where serious injuries are likely being treated.
The school, which houses 900 students from pre-kindergarten to grade 12, posted a statement on Friday afternoon warning that an "emergency" was ongoing at the school.
"The elementary school is also under a lockdown which will not be lifted until we hear that it is safe," the school posted on Facebook. "We will not be allowing anyone in or out until we have a clear idea of what is going on."
Media reports in recent years have focused on the shockingly high suicide rate that has plagued the school.
"It's been a very devastating day for the community," Buckley Belanger, the area's representative in the Saskatchewan legislature, told the CBC.
Friday may mark one of the deadliest school shootings in Canadian history. The deadliest, at the École Polytechnique in Montreal, claimed the lives of 14 women.
Premier Brad Wall posted a Facebook update an hour after reports emerged, expressing shock over the shooting.
"My thoughts and prayers are with all the victims, their families and friends and all the people of the community," Wall said.