Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil is offering the province's condolences to the RCMP after a shooting rampage in Moncton left three police dead and two injured.

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Flags are at half-mast of RCMP headquarters and government buildings across the Maritimes. (Angela MacIvor/CBC)

For McNeil, this tragedy hits close to home. He has five brothers, a sister-in-law, as well as nieces and nephews involved in law enforcement.

“Law enforcement is a big part of our family. They get up every day to go do their job and most of us in many ways take it for granted. I don’t think we truly appreciate  the challenge law enforcement officers face today...It’s causing all people to pause,” he said.

"Each and every day, their families send them off to work with the full expectation, like each of us, that they would be coming home."

"It's just unfathomable to try to understand what's taken place in Moncton and the unbelievable pain that those families are now suffering simply because their loved one went to work to protect us."

One of those brothers is Chris McNeil, the former Halifax Regional Police deputy chief.

"This is really an unimaginable day," he said. "It's incomprehensible."

While the community recognizes what a big loss this is today, Chris said over time people will realize it is an even bigger loss.

“We’re only going to be understand the level of grief and loss when we start to understand who these men and women were and what they’ve left behind," he said.

Chris's thoughts immediately went to his family when hearing about the tragedy.

“It’s moments like this that remind you how vulnerable they are when somebody who is committed to do harm to them and how truly vulnerable they are," he said. "So obviously as a father, that’s one of your thoughts, but you quickly shift and realize there are fathers and mothers and husbands and wives and children who are feeling this in a deeply personal way today.”

McNeil said his "thoughts and prayers" are with people in Moncton.

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Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil looks on at a press conference following the 2013 Council of the Federation fall meeting in Toronto, Friday November 15, 2013. McNeil has several family members who serve with the RCMP. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

"Pass on our sympathies, our condolences to the families of the officers who have lost their lives and the families of those who have been forever changed by what has taken place in Moncton. It's unbelievable. Each time they send their loved ones off to work. No one can even imagine what has taken place in Moncton," he said.

“When one things happen to one family quite frankly it happens to all of them, but for three families in New Brunswick this has been a devastating period of time and as a province our hearts go out to them."

The premier said flags at Province House and all government buildings will fly at half mast as a show of respect for the officers who were killed Wednesday.

McNeil and his liberal caucus are in Amherst this week for a caucus retreat.