'How could this happen to us?' N.S. councillor says of mass shooting
At least 19 were killed in and around the rural community of Portapique
Coun. Tom Taggart often struggled for words during an interview Monday about the mass shooting in rural Nova Scotia.
At least 19 people were killed, including an RCMP officer, in a lone gunman's 12-hour attacks across Portapique, N.S., and several other communities that began on Saturday night and stretched into Sunday.
The gunman — who wore a police uniform and drove a mock-up of a police cruiser during parts of the attack — was also killed.
Taggart is the councillor for Colchester, N.S., the municipality that encompasses Portapique. He first learned about the shooting the same way many Canadians did — on social media.
Here is part of his conversation with As It Happens host Carol Off.
How are people in your community ... doing? How are they coping today?
They're not doing well, I wouldn't say. They're kind of moving from shock and unable to understand more into an emotional state.
This is a difficult time for this little rural community, really the whole shore.
A very close community, as you point out. Everyone knows each other. And from what we've heard, people have not had very much sleep in the past 24 hours, have they?
No, they certainly have not.
Because of social distancing, you can't get out and you don't talk to people like you normally would. But I was out and about for a little bit this morning and you talk to people, and it doesn't matter who it is, young or old, people are just having real trouble with it.
What was your first knowledge that something terrible was going on?
Sunday morning, I get up, [have] coffee and I get on my messages, and then went to Facebook, and suddenly on Facebook ... there's this message, this alert, you know — Portapique's locked down, lock your doors, active shooter.
And to be quite honest with you, at that time, I thought, well now, there's been a party or a ruckus or whatever up there.
Nobody would ever dream that that's what was actually happening ... and it just progressed, it just continued to build and get worse and worse and worse, and more unbelievable. And the story's still rolling out.
What effect did it have on you as you started to get a sense of the full scope of what had happened in those hours?
It is really hard to understand how this could happen in our community.
I don't want to get into what happened. That will be discussed over and over and over again. But how could this happen to us?
You've got to think about the people that went to bed Saturday night ... and they had no idea that this horror story was in front of them.
As you know, people in your community, they trust the police, don't they? If a policeman comes to the door, they open the door. And … that trust was violated, wasn't it, from what we have been told about how this happened?
On Sunday morning, I'm watching this unfold on Facebook. And it's starting to just go crazy. And I'm on there saying, you know: Hey guys, let's just stay calm. You know, keep your door locked. Don't answer the door for anybody but the police.
And, you know, we came to find out — well, you know what we came to find out, right?
We don't know all the details, but this man seemed to have been impersonating a police officer ... which is such a violation of the trust, isn't it?
Absolutely. Like everything else, it's shocking.
You know what your community is like. And you know what that means to them, don't you?
Yeah. But this community will be OK eventually. And this community will for sure rally around those folks, the families of the victims, and we won't change a whole lot, I don't think.
It won't be short and it won't be easy, but I am absolutely confident that these rural communities — whether it's these communities or whether it's a community somewhere else in Nova Scotia — they'll look after the people.
Some people are saying, including the prime minister, that we should not name the shooter or make reference to him. I appreciate that. But as you know, others are trying to understand a bit more. And in the short term, we are asking questions and learning more about him. So just in that spirit, I will ask you if you knew the man.
I didn't know him personally, but I had … some communication with him on municipal issues, that sort of thing.
He is also a member of your community — or was.
That's correct, yes.
And do you want to tell us anything about him or what do you feel about his role in this?
No. I just, no. You know, this guy is nothing. I really don't want to talk about him. I really don't.
I appreciate that.
What he did was unbelievable and he doesn't deserve to be mentioned in any conversation.
He's a low piece of life. He killed a lot of good people. And that's all that needs to be said.
I don't need to tell you that all this has happened in the middle of a pandemic. And with all the distancing in place, how difficult is it going to be to be able to get together as a community and grieve?
It's going to be really tough, for sure.
We're going to have to do this in some kind of virtual manner.
But do you think at some point, folks need a hug, don't they?
Yeah, well, it is going to be hard to do that. It is.
I don't have the answer to that. I don't think anybody has the answer to that. You know, we've been watching the people pass away and hearing from family members that they passed away alone and that, you know, they aren't able to really grieve.
And this is just many, many, many, many times more difficult than that.
Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from CBC News. Interview produced by Kate Swoger. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.