Portapique is finding ways to heal 3 years after a shooter's rampage
Residents working together to strengthen sense of community after 2020 mass shooting
Nearly three years after a deadly rampage started in Portapique, the small Nova Scotia community is finding ways to heal.
The mass shooting, which took place on April 18-19, 2020, left several people injured, homes destroyed and 22 people dead, including a pregnant woman.
The Mass Casualty Commission that has examined the causes and consequences of that deadly weekend will release its final report on Thursday in Truro.
Andrew MacDonald was one of the people wounded by the gunman that weekend.
He and his wife were driving through Portapique when the gunman pulled up beside them in a replica police cruiser and opened fire.
'It's the same place it was before'
MacDonald says he isn't dwelling on the past.
"That event had no bearing on the land and the places where we live here, it's the same place it was before," MacDonald said.
"Of course, something bad happened here but it was a short incidence of time. We wish it didn't happen, of course, but no, other than that, it's a great place to live."
Erin MacKinnon shares MacDonald's sentiment.
She has raised five children in the community and three still live there. They've never considered leaving.
"It was important for us to stay and it was even important to let people know that it was OK to stay," MacKinnon said.
MacKinnon said it's also important to add to the community. A playground completed in 2021 is a major part of that.
"The first thing we all were saying [was] we want a playground, we want somewhere where our kids can feel safe, because their healing was more important than our own healing as adults," MacKinnon said.
The residents have now turned their attention to a new community hall.
The Rotary Club of Truro is one of the groups spearheading the hall's construction.
"This project, we've labelled it the Portapique community buildup project, and it was all about creating an opportunity for the residents of the community to be able to come together and literally and figuratively rebuild their community," said Alana Hirtle of the Rotary Club of Truro.
The foundation was poured last fall. Construction workers are framing the structure with the goal of completing it by September.
A hall had stood on the site for about 200 years, but the old structure was too dilapidated to be saved. Some of its beams will be incorporated into the new structure.
Not interested in report's findings
As for the release of the commission's report this week, MacDonald said he isn't interested. He said worrying about that weekend would be like worrying about lightning striking the same place twice.
"It's a very rare odd chance that what happened here in Portapique happened, and I think for those lessons learned to be needed again here would be really bad luck," MacDonald said.
"Like … I would really hope that that's not something we need to worry about."
MacDonald said he's focused on completing the hall and to figure out how to make sure it's sustainable for the future.
How to remember that weekend remains a subject of debate.
In the days following the murders, when the COVID-19 pandemic prevented people from gathering together to mourn, an impromptu roadside memorial — stuffed animals, flowers, signs and cards — popped up.
"The shrine at the side of the road, although well-intentioned, was difficult for residents to drive past every day," Hirtle said.
It was a constant reminder, she said, adding that everything from the memorial has been saved. "There may be a few pieces put in the hall once we have walls up and we can see what we've got for display space."
MacKinnon said a more fitting memorial will be the programs offered through the community hall.