September 16, 2019

Winnipeg
29° C, A few clouds

Full Forecast

Traumatized Gillam, Fox Lake residents get back to life after manhunt

GILLAM — This remote northern town and nearby Fox Lake Cree Nation are slowly coming back to life after more than two tension-filled weeks in the crosshairs of an intense manhunt for two murder suspects.

Leaders in the two communities are working to help traumatized residents find their bearings again with counselling, ceremony and sports.

"Just relief... and looking to get past this," Gillam Mayor Dwayne Forman said Thursday, a day after RCMP discovered remains they believe are those of Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky, who had been on the run since three slayings in northern British Columbia last month.

Keep reading free:

Already have an account? Log in here »

Keep reading free:

Already have an account? Log in here »

Subscribers Log in below to continue reading,
not a subscriber? Create an account to start a 30 day free trial.

Log in Create your account

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Mon to Sat Delivery

Pay

$34.36

per month

  • Includes all benefits of All Access Digital
  • 6-day delivery of our award-winning newspaper
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

GILLAM — This remote northern town and nearby Fox Lake Cree Nation are slowly coming back to life after more than two tension-filled weeks in the crosshairs of an intense manhunt for two murder suspects.

Leaders in the two communities are working to help traumatized residents find their bearings again with counselling, ceremony and sports.

"Just relief... and looking to get past this," Gillam Mayor Dwayne Forman said Thursday, a day after RCMP discovered remains they believe are those of Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky, who had been on the run since three slayings in northern British Columbia last month.

"When you need help, there are always people willing to throw in an extra hand and help," he said previously. 

Frightened parents had been keeping a close eye on their kids, many behind locked doors. Children were back outside on bikes and scooters Thursday, though 16-year-old Ashley Lockhart said she never stopped. 

Security had been tight at the daycare during the lockdown, but Kettle River Inn and Suites owner Nav Sahota said Thursday, as she picked up three-year-old Titan, that things are returning to normal. 

Gillam Mayor Dwayne Forman speaks at a town meeting Wednesday evening after RCMP discovered remains they believe are those of Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky.

TESSA VANDERHART / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Gillam Mayor Dwayne Forman speaks at a town meeting Wednesday evening after RCMP discovered remains they believe are those of Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky.

"It’s a big relief," said Gillam resident Alexandria, who did not provide her last name. "Everybody can enjoy the rest of their summer."

She and others gathered Wednesday evening and during the day Thursday, going out for the first time in weeks, feeling safe on the streets.

Relief was tinged with sadness at Fox Lake with the death of John Henderson, an elder in the community. 

Ashley Lockhart, 16, was biking around the town of Gillam Thursday afternoon and says things are already back to normal.

TESSA VANDERHART / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Ashley Lockhart, 16, was biking around the town of Gillam Thursday afternoon and says things are already back to normal.

Chief Walter Spence said a healing ceremony planned in the area where the suspects' stolen, burned-out Toyota RAV4 was discovered two weeks ago is on hold while the community grieves Henderson's loss.

Counselling from Manitoba Hydro’s employee assistance program as well as from the Northern Regional Health Authority was being made available to residents in both communities free of charge.

Jodie Voth, Manitoba Blue Cross EAP counsellor, said it was important to give people an opportunity to get help right away.

"Following a critical or traumatic event, I think it’s most important for people to know that whatever they’re feeling is ‘normal,’" she said. "What happened was bad, your feelings about it are not.

Kettle River Inn & Suites owner Nav Sahota picks up Titan, three, from daycare.

TESSA VANDERHART / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Kettle River Inn & Suites owner Nav Sahota picks up Titan, three, from daycare.

"For many a quick recovery will be the case, but for some it may take longer to feel like things go back to the way they were. Even then, it is common for people to describe a 'new normal' — an experience like that of Fox Lake Cree Nation and Gillam’s residents isn’t forgotten and has a lasting impact on people."

Voth, who grew up in a small Manitoba town, said community events will help.

"When people feel supported and connected, they recover faster and more fully," she said. "Communities that find a way to come together after a crisis come out stronger on the other side, and my job is to simply support that process in whatever way makes sense.... The people of Fox Lake Cree Nation and Gillam are incredibly resilient."

Resident Ashley Arthurson, for one, is ready to move on. 

"Everything’s pretty much back to normal," he said. "I didn’t really change much."

Dakota Massan created this mural just outside of town a few days ago to help Gillam get its spirit back. "Something to get people out of the house," Massan said of his first-ever spray paint art project.

Dakota Massan created this mural just outside of town a few days ago to help Gillam get its spirit back. "Something to get people out of the house," Massan said of his first-ever spray paint art project.

At the Trapper's Shack, a gift shop and liquor vendor, shoppers poured in Thursday as regular operations resumed. The store cut its operating hours during the manhunt so employees wouldn't have to work alone.

Dakota Massan took matters into his own hands last week, painting a mural just outside town to help Gillam get its spirit back.

"Something to get people out of the house," Massan said of the bright, bold, surrealist work, his first-ever spray-paint art project.

"I wanted to choose such bright, vibrant colours because that's what I felt that's what the town needed in this time of anxiety."

The remains were flown to Winnipeg Wednesday in advance of expected autopsies Thursday. 

RCMP did not provide any further information Thursday, but Cpl. Julie Courchaine emailed a statement denying a Globe and Mail report that the force had hired a professional tracker prior to Wednesday's discovery. And she would not confirm reports crediting a tourist boat operator with finding a sleeping bag on the Nelson River shoreline last Friday.

tvanderhart@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @tessavanderhart

Tessa Vanderhart

Tessa Vanderhart
Reporter

Tessa Vanderhart is interested in everything, but especially local news, health policy and statistics.

Read full biography

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.