Nova Scotia Mourns In an Uneasy Time

For Canada and particularly Nova Scotia, it was a terrible week in the midst of an uneasy time. A village that was once best known for a dance hall became a scene of horror and the starting point for the most deadly mass shooting in the country’s history: 22 victims plus the killer.

As is often the case after such terrible events, Dan Bilefsky, Catherine Porter and I set out to memorialize at least some of the people who died. The large number of people in this case made it impossible to write as much as I would have liked to about each of them. They included a Mountie who was a mentor to young women, a family of three, a woman out for her walk and a widely loved elementary schoolteacher.

“There is no template for this,” one of the organizers of Friday’s online vigil to remember the victims told Catherine. “We all feel so helpless.”

My family faced the question of how to replace the traditional funeral last month when my aunt, Frances Cornwall, died of causes not related to the virus here in Ottawa. A World War II veteran who performed in England with the Canadian Army Show, she was buried in a village near Windsor, Ontario. Our solution was, in effect, to delay. There was a private burial service with four family members. (I stayed in Ottawa). Like so much these days, a larger commemoration will come whenever the virus allows.

Catherine appeared Friday on The Daily, The Times’s podcast, with the moving story of how Wayne Irwin, a former United Church of Canada minister, commemorated the life of Flora May Litt-Irwin, who died from causes not related to the coronavirus in late March.

Along with friends and family members, Mr. Irwin created an online service that included elements of a wake, while Zoom provided an alternative to visitations.

[Listen: A New Way to Mourn]

As Nova Scotia focused on grieving, more details about the nightmare that began last Saturday night emerged. We learned on Friday that it was preceded by a dispute that led to the killer’s partner being tied up. She escaped, hid in the woods overnight and was able to warn police that he was impersonating an officer and driving one of his four replica police cars.

[Read: Police Seek Motive for Canada Killing Spree by Denture Fitter]

There have been questions as well about the use of Twitter rather than the emergency alert system by the police to warn people of the killings and to tell them to stay inside. An independent police investigation body is also looking into why officers fired shots into a fire hall being used as an emergency response center. And how did the killer, who did not hold a firearms license, manage to bring in several guns from the United States?

The answers to those questions will come. For now, Canada mourns.


There are suggestions that Prince Edward Island may ease up its coronavirus-related restrictions relatively soon. And this week Saskatchewan rolled out its five stages for reopening the province from its shutdown.

But throughout the coronavirus pandemic, health officials and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have emphasized that not all provinces are alike. And there’s been little suggestion that the premiers in large provinces like Ontario or Quebec, where the military is now helping out at long-term care homes, will look to an island with a population of just 157,000 for guidance.

Donald G. McNeil Jr., my colleague with the Science and Health desks who has long reported on plagues and pestilences, was one of the first reporters to forecast the world’s current situation. He’s now written a thorough and sobering analysis of what we can expect to come next. “We face a doleful future,” one leading physician told him.

Despite its headline, many, perhaps most, of the challenges explored in the article apply equally to Canada. Please set aside some time to read it.

[Read: The Coronavirus in America: The Year Ahead]

Much of the reopening discussion in the United States has centered on figuring out how to get professional sports running again, even if that involves playing in empty stadiums and arenas.

Matthew Futterman, The Times’s deputy sports editor, found that the rush-to-play movement is unlikely to gain much support in Canada.

A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.

We’re eager to have your thoughts about this newsletter and events in Canada in general. Please send them to nytcanada@nytimes.com.

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