The Morning Brief – 04.21.20

By Bruce Carson


A Time to Grieve

A Time to Mourn

A Murderous Night in Nova Scotia amid COVID-19

It was Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil who said on Sunday that when going to bed on Saturday night, you don’t expect to wake up on Sunday morning to news of death and destruction in rural, quiet, picturesque Nova Scotia.

McNeil went on to in interviews to describe the murderous rampage as “one of the most senseless acts of violence in the province’s history.” He added “words cannot console the families affected by what has transpired over the last twenty four hours.”

And that is where we, as Canadians, have to focus, on the families, on the loved ones, on those who survived and on those who were close to those who died; families, students, parents and friends who will need support well beyond this week and month, but well into the months ahead.

When I heard about what happened, my mind turned immediately to the Humboldt Broncos bus crash of just over two years ago. The means in the two tragedies were not similar but the results in numbers of dead are remarkably similar. Death came to innocent victims doing the most Canadian of activities.

In one case hockey players on a bus headed to an important game, when 16 died and 13 were injured.

In Portapique, Nova Scotia and at the other crime scenes, the most normal of activities taking place in these communities-settling in for a Saturday evening, anticipating the warmth of spring and the coming summer season with its tourists and cottagers. Then at last count 18 are dead, maybe more.

The victims in this weekend’s tragedy were the backbone of Canadian communities, representing all that is good about life in Canada, life in Nova Scotia. They were people who worked hard, helped others and helped in their communities, front line workers, first responders, people that populate every community in Canada.

Unsung heroes, those who carry on their lives away from the spotlight, working hard, caring for others and loving their families. Some would refer to them as ordinary Canadians, but there was nothing ordinary about them.

One just needs to go through the list of victims and one receives a lesson in what makes communities tick. There was a veteran RCMP Constable, Heidi Stevenson who had dedicated 23 years to keeping people safe and secure, who on Saturday night ran towards danger, not away from it, protecting and then sacrificing.

A school teacher, loved by her two children, her pupils and everyone who worked with her, a life cut short. A retired firefighter, a small business owner, two correctional officers along with two women who worked for the VON, all making others’ lives better and safer, but no more.

A married couple, another husband and wife and a mother, father and their teenage daughter who loved the violin but was equally at home under an engine hood, taken from us.

These were people committed to the welfare of others. People whose work and lives we do not celebrate nearly enough. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it has taught us who the real essential workers in Canada are, those who help keep us alive, fed and safe and clean.

The victims were mothers, fathers, daughters and sons from small communities in Nova Scotia, all now joined together in senseless death resulting in communities, the province, the country mourning their loss.

Pastor Steve Adam, with thirty years at Faith Baptist Church in the community interviewed by Heather Hiscox yesterday morning, talked about the limitations COVID-19 placed on him as one who is used to dealing with those in crisis and those seeking comfort.

He said it places limits on all of us as he spoke of the “families on his mind.” He referred to life containing “a lot of hard things” but then there is the peace and love and the Gospel of Jesus shared with those who survived, families of the deceased. He ended the interview by saying that prayers from across the country “would be very much appreciated.”

Canada isn’t immune to mass shootings; at Ecole Polytechnique on December 6, 1989 where14 women were murdered, the Quebec Mosque shooting where 6 were killed in January, 2017 and in the summer of 2018 on the Danforth in Toronto.

But what we are not used to is grieving in the time of COVID-19, a time of social distancing, for victims of mass murder.

We have seen it here and around the world, patients in hospital without families close by, residents in seniors’ homes without family visits and those grieving death without the human contact of loved ones.

The celebration of the lives of the deceased in Nova Scotia will be anything but ordinary, constrained by COVID-19 but starting with a virtual vigil on Friday.

In this time of COVID-19, those who grieve will need an incredible amount of support, being forced to grieve in a very different way, without contact.

The children who are left will need support as will the children taught by Lisa McCully.

The vigil on Friday can’t be the usual ‘all hands on deck’ for those in positions of power and authority, who then carry on with their lives with these deaths in the rear view mirror. Those in positions of authority and power must move now to ensure that support is provided.

There was an outpouring of sorrow in the House of Commons yesterday where the prime minister said to those grieving “you can count on our government’s full support during this incredibly painful time.” At his media availability yesterday Trudeau spoke to children saying “we’re here for you and we’re going to get through this together. I promise.”

Opposition leaders made similar promises and offered words of support but they should hold the prime minister to his word to ensure that there is help for those who grieve.

These can’t be hollow promises. They have to be backed up by action and support, because families, friends and children need it now.

COVID-19 has not made us insensitive to death; in fact, we seem now to value life more than ever.

The people of Nova Scotia will be going through a very dark time and will need that promised support to help with grieving and then with healing.

Caring for others in their time of need has become a defining characteristic as to who we are as Canadians. We have seen it in fighting forest fires and holding back floods. Now that caring and compassion is needed once again as feelings of helplessness and sorrow will be magnified by COVID-19 and the restrictions it places on sharing our feelings physically with others.

We can demonstrate our caring and support during Friday evening’s vigil, but it can’t end there and if Canadians’ past actions mean anything, it won’t.

To Come

  • Retail trade numbers for February to be released
April 22
  • CPI numbers for March to be released
April 23
  • Employment Insurance numbers for February to be released
April 28-29
  • U.S. Fed meets
April 30
  • GDP numbers for February to be released