On Saturday night into Sunday morning of April 18-19, a gunman in Nova Scotia went on a rampage. It was the largest mass shooting in Canadian history and left 23 people dead, including a female RCMP constable and the perpetrator himself. He was wearing an RCMP uniform and driving a car which had been made to resemble a police cruiser. Police who were later to investigate 16 crime scenes in five communities. On April 20, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used his daily news briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic to speak about the shootings.
“We stand with you and we grieve with you”
Good morning, everyone. We are a country that stands united in our effort to defeat a pandemic, to save lives and to help each other make it to a better day. But yesterday we were jolted from that common cause by the senseless violence and tragedy in Nova Scotia. A gunman claimed the lives of at least 18 people [figure later updated].
Call of duty
Among them, a woman in uniform whose job it is to protect lives, even if it endangers her own. Constable Heidi Stevenson of the RCMP. Constable Stevenson died protecting others. She was answering the call of duty, something she had done every day when she went to work for 23 years.
This happened in small towns: Portapique, Truro, Milford and Enfield are places where people have deep roots, places where people know their neighbours and look out for one another. There, everyone knows a Mountie because they’re everything from police officers to social workers to teen counselors.
Now these communities are in mourning and Canada is in mourning with him. To the grandparent who lost a child, the children lost a parent to a neighbour who lost a friend. We are so sorry for your loss. Such a tragedy should have never occurred. Violence of any kind has no place in Canada. We stand with you and we grieve with you. And you can count on our government’s full support during this incredibly painful time.
I also want to wish a full and speedy recovery to all those injured, including another RCMP officer.
Canada is a vast and sweeping country filled with long stretches of lonely roads. With unwavering courage and compassion, our Royal Canadian Mounted Police patrol these roads to keep us safe as they have for over 100 years. I know that from coast to coast to coast, the women and men who wear the Red Serge in service to Canada are grieving deeply the loss of one of their own and one of our best.
This tragedy is a painful reminder of the risks all of our first responders take to keep us safe, of the sacrifices they make every single day to protect our communities. Paramedics, doctors, nurses, firefighters and police officers, they are always here for us. They’ve been stepping up through the pandemic, and yesterday in Nova Scotia, they showed that bravery. I want to take a moment to thank them all for their professionalism and their courage. Many of you are already working overtime because of this pandemic. Our communities need you now more than ever. And I know that can weigh on you at times. These are exceptional circumstances. Yet you did what you always do. You ran towards danger without pause, without hesitation. You put your life on the line.
On behalf of all Canadians, thank you for your service.
Precious lives lost
This day is made all the more difficult because of the precious lives lost and the senseless act of one person. Just how could this happen? We may never know why, but we do know this. No one man’s action can build a wall between us and a better day, no matter how evil, how thoughtless, or how destructive. Canadians are kind and generous. We are there for each other and we look out for one another. As families grieve the loss of a loved one, all Canadians are standing with them.
The pandemic will prevent us from mourning together in person, but a vigil will be held virtually to celebrate the lives of the victims at 7 p.m. on Friday through the Facebook group Colchester Supporting Our Community. As we learn more about what happened yesterday, it’s important that we come together to support communities.
In the hours since the tragedy, I’ve spoken with Premier McNeil, RCMP Commissioner Lucki, Minister Blair and many Nova Scotians, including our Nova Scotia caucus. We will continue to work together to see this through. I know that people have a lot of questions. This is an ongoing investigation, but I can assure you that the RCMP and local authorities will keep you updated.
Don’t name shooter
I want to ask the media to avoid mentioning the name and showing the picture of the person involved. Do not give him the gift of infamy. Let us instead focus all our intention and attention on the lives we lost and the families and friends who grieve.
I want to close today by addressing all the kids in Nova Scotia and right across the country. I know the world can seem like a mean and ugly place right now, but there’s a whole lot of good in the world, too. You’ll see it in your neighbours and in Canadians in the days and weeks and months ahead. This is a difficult time and it can be a scary time, too. But we’re here for you and we’re going to get through this together, I promise.
Source: Maclean’s (on line), April 20, 2002.
Photo: PM Justin Trudeau website.
Dennis Gruending is an Ottawa-based author, blogger and a former Member of Parliament. His latest book is Speeches That Changed Canada.