As if living in the middle of a global pandemic isn’t enough, yesterday morning Canadians woke to an unfolding story of tragedy in the province of Nova Scotia.
Initial reports of multiple casualties in rural Nova Scotia and a suspect taken into custody.
Canada is not a place where mass shootings happen, at least not often. To take place in rural Nova Scotia, unheard of.
Part of the Maritime provinces, Nova Scotians are salt of the earth people. They have a strong sense of the importance of caring for and supporting each other. Every Maritimer I’ve ever met has had a strong sense of duty and service.
No where would those attributes be stronger than in small, out of the way communities like Portapique, a community of about 100 people that swells to 250 in the summer as people visit their cottages. It’s a place where they know each other, family spreads out of the house and across the street or around the block even if they aren’t related. It’s a place where locking their doors is not even thought about.
It’s where this 12 hour rampage started. Residents were alerted on Twitter to lock their doors and shelter in their basements.
It’s beyond comprehension the mayhem one person perpetrated during those 12 hours. The full story isn’t yet known and isn’t expected for months. We do know it was across 16 known crime scenes and 50km, leaving 5 homes incinerated, 18 people dead, others wounded. The death toll may rise when all scenes are fully examined.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this morning asked that the perpetrator be given neither name nor image. Let him disappear into history.
A 23 year veteran of the RCMP Constable Heidi Stevenson was killed in the line of duty by the perpetrator. A neighbour at another scene, Tom Baggley, went to investigate what was going on and was found dead by another neighbour hours later.
Among the victims named so far have been people who serve others, a teacher, two nurses, correctional officers, retired firefighter, a family of three, a woman out for a Sunday morning walk.
This is the worst mass shooting in Canadian history. Tragedy like this is felt across the country. Not only because Canadians do care about each other but ties to Nova Scotians stretch across the country.
We hear reports of what has happened and grieve for our fellow Canadians, those who have died and those who have had to endure. We wonder why and how this could happen.
In the middle of COVID-19 people wont be able to respond to these tragedies as they normally would.
Nova Scotians wont be able to bring their food dishes and stream into the homes of the families having lost their loved ones. They wont be able to wrap their arms around their grieving friends and family members.
There wont be funerals. Not for the civilians and not for Constable Heidi Stevenson. Not at this time. Nova Scotians and Canadians have to find other ways to honour and pay tribute to our lost brothers and sisters.
Among the wounded was an RCMP officer. He was released from hospital today. Word spread as he was driven from the hospital to his home to recover. Nova Scotians on the route to his home came out of their homes, keeping social distancing, they waved, clapped and called ‘thank you’ as he was driven slowly past by fellow officers.
At a limited seating of the House of Commons today, the assembled Members of Parliament held a silence in honour of those killed. They rose one by one making statements paying tribute to the deceased.
The tributes will move online, there will be an online vigil on Friday evening. Other tributes have already been posted and a member of the Newfoundland Royal Constabulary has written a song in her honour.
My heart breaks for those killed and those who mourn.
In time though, Nova Scotia Strong will rise.
For that is who Nova Scotians are, strong and resilient.
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