Canada’s top court has refused to hear an appeal from a young man sentenced as an adult for a mass shooting in northern Saskatchewan when he was still a teenager.
The decision has brought some relief to his victims and gives residents of the remote community of La Loche a chance to move forward.
Randan Dakota Fontaine was two weeks shy of turning 18 when he first killed two of his cousins at a home in the Dene village in January 2016.
He then went to the high school and opened fire, killing a teacher and a teacher’s aide and wounding seven other staff and students.
Fontaine pleaded guilty and was sentenced as an adult to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years.
Last fall, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal denied his bid to be sentenced as a youth. On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear his arguments.
Fontaine, now 22, has no avenues left for appeal, so a ban on publishing his identity is no longer in effect.
The Parole Board of Canada says Fontaine’s legislated review for full parole is expected to take place in December 2025.
“I didn’t sleep very well last night knowing that this could go 50-50, but I can be sure I’m going to sleep like a baby tonight,” said Phyllis Longobardi, who was an assistant principal at the school and was injured in the shooting.
“It’s the beginning of an end.”
Longobardi now lives in Nova Scotia and hasn’t returned to working in schools.
She said she still imagines Fontaine coming through the school doors with a gun and she has lost trust in people.
“Kids walk by my house and they stop … and they reach in their pocket and you think, ‘Oh, is that a gun?’”
Charlene Klyne was working as a substitute teacher when she was shot and left with permanent optic-nerve damage.
She’s glad people will finally know Fontaine as the shooter.
“If you do such a horrendous crime, why should you not be able to know his name?”
The Crown had argued the shooting displayed sophisticated planning, while the defence said the sentencing judge did not fully consider Fontaine’s low IQ or his fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
During sentencing, Fontaine told court he couldn’t undo what he’d done, but he would if he could.
Court also heard that Fontaine asks himself every day why he did it. His motive has never been clear.
Defence lawyer Aaron Fox said Thursday that teachers did the best they could for Fontaine, but his client never got the supports and services he needed. “He was a kid who fell through the cracks.”
La Loche Mayor Robert St. Pierre said the case has strained the community, home to families of many of the victims and also the shooter.
“La Loche doesn’t want to be defined by this one tragic incident,” he said. “La Loche wants to be defined by its resiliency to be able to move forward.”
Court heard Fontaine, whose nickname was “Ears,” was a quiet teen who had friends, but didn’t like school work and was attempting Grade 10 for a third time.
He was being raised by an aunt, had no complaints about his upbringing and denied being bullied.
Court heard Fontaine researched guns and did an online search the night before the shooting that asked, ”What does it feel like to kill someone?”
He had also been playing video games that night with brothers Dayne Fontaine, 17, and Drayden Fontaine, 13 — his two cousins who lived across the street.
The morning of the shooting, he looked up websites about the Columbine High School shooting in the United States.
After going home for lunch, he went to his cousins’ house. He got a .22-calibre rifle and called Dayne into the basement.
That’s when Fontaine opened fire. Dayne ran upstairs. Fontaine kept firing, hitting Dayne in the back of the head, and Dayne fell to the floor.
Court heard Dayne tried to cover his head and told his killer he didn’t want to die. He was shot again — a total of 11 times.
The younger brother, Drayden, was outside looking for a ride back to school. He followed Fontaine back into the house and was shot in the head.
Fontaine next returned to school, armed with a shotgun and ammunition in his pocket. He fired at students in the main entrance foyer.
He walked into the office and shot 36-year-old teacher Adam Wood, who died in hospital.
As staff and students ran screaming and hid in classrooms and under desks, Fontaine shot and killed Marie Janvier, a 21-year-old teacher’s aide, who was born and raised in the community.
Soon after, RCMP found Fontaine hiding in a school washroom.
He came out and told officers, “I’m the shooter.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2020
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press