VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA/Winnipeg, Manitoba – In Canada’s worst school violence in 26 years, four people were killed in a shooting in a remote part of Saskatchewan on Friday, police said. A male suspect was arrested.
Officials have not given a motivation for the shooting, which also injured several people in La Loche, an impoverished community of fewer than 3,000 people about 600 km (375 miles) north of Saskatoon, the province’s largest city.
“Obviously this is every parent’s worst nightmare,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He was in Davos, Switzerland, for the annual World Economic Forum.
Mass shootings are rare in Canada, which has stricter gun laws than the United States.
In the country’s worst shooting incident, 14 college students were killed at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique in 1989. A shooting in 1992 at Concordia University in Montreal killed four.
Friday’s shooting occurred at a high school called the Dene Building.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superintendent Maureen Levy said police were also investigating a second location in a nearby residential neighborhood, but provided no further details.
Police took the suspect into custody outside the school and seized a gun. They have not released the identity of the suspect or victims.
Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, which represents more than 70 of the province’s Indian bands, said a few students were in surgery Friday evening in Saskatoon.
A teacher and a teacher’s assistant were among the four killed, Cameron said after talking with community members.
La Loche acting Mayor Kevin Janvier told the Canadian Press the incident may have started at the suspect’s home. “I’m not 100 percent sure what’s actually happened, but it started at home and ended at the school,” Janvier said.
La Loche student Noel Desjarlais told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that he heard multiple shots fired at the school, which has about 900 students.
“I ran outside the school,” Desjarlais said. “There was lots of screaming. There was about six, seven shots before I got outside. I believe there was more shots by the time I did get out.”
A cellphone video taken by one resident and broadcast by CBC showed students walking away from the school and emergency personnel then moving in.
Among Canada’s provinces, Saskatchewan had the highest rate of police-reported family violence in 2014, double the national rate of 243 incidents per 100,000 people.
Unemployment runs above 20 percent in the area, but three-quarters of working-age people are classified as retired or not looking for work, according to 2011 government data. Residents say the real unemployment rate is above 50 percent.
In 2014, a teacher expressed concern about violence at the La Loche school, noting that a student who had tried to stab her was put back in her classroom after serving his sentence, and another attacked her at her home.
“That student got 10 months,” Janice Wilson told the CBC of the student who tried to stab her in class. “And when he was released, he was returned to the school and was put in my classroom.”