LA LOCHE, SASK. — The people of La Loche were waiting Tuesday night to welcome Marie Janvier home for the last time.
The body of the 21-year-old tutor slain in a school shooting was expected to arrive here by car late Tuesday from Saskatoon, where she was taken after the attack on the La Loche Community School last Friday.
The acting mayor of this small northern Saskatchewan town said mourners carrying candles were planning to meet the car at the city limits and follow it slowly through the snow-covered streets to Janvier’s family home at the end of Descharme St.
So many people were expected to attend the midnight wake that relatives had built a porch addition onto the single-storey house to accommodate all the mourners, according to Daven Janvier.
He said the entire town wanted to pay their respects to Marie “because she’s been good to everybody.”
Daven, 21, was Marie’s cousin but they were both raised by their grandmother, and by the fluid definitions of family in the Dene community he was considered her brother. He told the Star that since Marie’s death he had tried not to think about her because doing so was too painful, and he hoped the wake would help with the process of “letting go.”
“Sometimes holding it in, it just keeps the pain, you know?” he said.
The wake for Marie Janvier, which will be followed by her funeral, will be the first of three the town will observe in the coming days. Ceremonies are also planned for two La Loche teenagers killed in the shooting—17-year old Dayne Fontaine, and his brother, Drayden Fontaine, 13.
Acting mayor Kevin Janvier confirmed to the Toronto Star that he and the local council had asked that the town’s only liquor store be closed until all the funerals were over. The two bars in the town had also temporarily shuttered on their own volition, he said.
Kevin Janvier, who isn’t a close relative of Marie, said he made the request to “respect the wakes and the funerals.”
“We are religious here, and we just want to be respected. By opening an establishment like that (while funerals are being held), I don’t know how the town will react,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Saskatoon Liquor and Gaming Authority said it’s not unusual for liquor stores to be closed as a safety precaution — such as during fire evacuations. But to her knowledge, this is the first time a town has asked the province to shut down one of its stores.
“(The province) would always consider the wishes of any community, at any time, that requested an SLGA location close,” said Karen Hill.
Bobby Woods, an addictions counsellor at Clearwater River Dene Nation, said he’s glad the community chose to shut down the liquor store, and he sees the decision as a sign of respect to those in the town who may be struggling with addiction and sobriety — especially during this emotionally difficult time.
“They’re doing it out of respect, and that’s really nice to see,” Woods said.
“Our little communities, everyone knows everyone . . . and when somebody’s in need, people come out strong.”
On Tuesday afternoon at an adult education on La Loche’s main street, Lucy Guetre was assembling a collage of photos of Marie to take to the wake. The photos showed a vibrant woman who died too young. In one, she posed by a lake, smiling widely, in a red formal dress. In another she held a happy toddler in her lap.
Guetre, who organizes prayer meetings in the town, said she was making the collage of Marie “so we can show people out there how beautiful she was, that she was a loving person that makes everybody shine . . . that she didn’t deserve this.”
Guetre is 50, and knows how painful it is to lose a child. In the past five years, two of her grown sons committed suicide. She said the wake would be cathartic for people who knew Marie.
“At first, of course it’s going to be painful, opening the casket . . . but all the town will go there and give support, so we’re all there for each other, which is good. It helps a lot,” she said.
A 17-year-old has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and seven counts of attempted murder in connection with Friday’s shooting, which police say took place at a house on Dene Crescent as well as the nearby high school, where gunfire sent students running for their lives.
The attack has temporarily focused national attention on the remote First Nations community about 600 km north of Saskatoon, which for years has struggled with addiction and suicide.
Adam Wood, a 35-year-old teacher who also died in the shooting, was from Uxridge, Ont. His family has not widely publicized his funeral arrangements as yet.