Yesterday morning I climbed onto the treadmill to listen to the Prime Minister’s briefing and the news. As I began to focus on the program, an image of a small town came into view, with white clapboard buildings and a white clapboard, steepled church.
The breaking news focused my attention and I learned, with all Canadians, that several beautiful, peaceful Nova Scotia towns had passed through hell in the previous twelve hours. Many residents of those small towns had lost their lives to a lone gunman, disguised as a police officer, who also burned buildings and cars in his wake.
Throughout the pandemic, I have been filled with a sense of dread: significant anxiety about what might happen, but this shooting of at least eighteen people in Canada’s deadliest mass shooting, was not one of the events I had ever envisioned.
With these two horrors, this rampage and COVID-19, Canada, and especially Nova Scotia are changed forever. Every Canadian is familiar with small Canadian towns – many of us were born or grew up in these towns. It will not take much imagination to recall being on a porch with a drink in one of these towns, or on a deck overlooking the water or picking up bread and cookies at the small bakery.
Until yesterday, this memory would have called up a feeling of deep peace and quiet, a setting untouched by the world’s contagion.
How naive we were! Imagine that, in this time when we are so separated from the United States, we would suddenly be hit by their great malady: the malady of gun violence. The peace of Canada’s small towns, now shattered, cannot go back to a time of innocence.
Each of these events – COVID-19: the greatest health threat in 100 years and Canada’s most deadly mass shooting – is significant on their own. Conjoined, they present a vision of life so changed, it will be impossible to live as we did before.
These are events that could destroy us as a country, but they are also opportunities for reflection, reflection on what we want Canada to be.
So far, over 1600 hundred people have died of COVID-19 and at least 18 people were killed by this gunman.
We must preserve the Canada these victims loved.
We who survive must ensure that they did not die in vain.
(This is my favourite image of Nova Scotia. This is Lawrencetown Beach, where my sister lived and her family still lives.)