News

The Victims of Canada's Deadliest Mass Shooting

At least 19 people, including an RCMP officer, a teacher, and two health care workers, were killed in a mass shooting spree over the weekend in Nova Scotia.
20 April 2020, 10:19pm
Nova Scotia shooting victims include RCMP veteran Const. Heidi Stevenson, left, and schoolteacher Lisa McCully, right.
Nova Scotia shooting victims include RCMP veteran Const. Heidi Stevenson, left, and schoolteacher Lisa McCully, right.

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

A Nova Scotia man who went on a shooting spree Saturday night and well into Sunday has killed at least 19 people.

The rampage marks the worst mass murder in modern Canadian history.

The victims include RCMP veteran Const. Heidi Stevenson, an elementary school teacher, and two health care workers.

Speaking to Canadians Monday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the shooting as an act of “senseless violence” that took place in small towns, where people look out for each other.

“These communities are in mourning and Canada is in mourning with them,” Trudeau said. “We are so sorry for your loss. Such a tragedy should have never occurred. Violence of any kind has no place in Canada.”

If you'd like to share a story about a loved one who was killed in the Nova Scotia shootings, contact Manisha Krishnan by email at manisha.krishnan@vice.com or Anya Zoledziowski at anya.zoledziowski@vice.com.

Trudeau said public vigils can’t take place because they would violate physical distancing measures in place to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, a virtual vigil will be held at 7 p.m. on Friday. It will be accessible through a Colchester community page on Facebook.

Here’s what we've learned about the victims so far. This list will be updated.

Heidi Stevenson

Heidi Stevenson

Heidi Stevenson. Photo courtesy of RCMP

Const. Heidi Stevenson, a 23-year veteran with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), was one of the first victims identified following the deadly shooting spree in Nova Scotia. She was responding to the active shooter when she died, but the circumstances of her death have not been confirmed yet.

“She died protecting others,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday. “She was answering the call of duty—something she had done every day she went to work for 23 years.”

Stevenson, who is originally from Nova Scotia, was a wife and mother of two children, ages 10 and 13. Her husband, Dean Stevenson, teaches at a Halifax-area high school, according to the Globe and Mail.

“There are no words to describe their pain,” Nova Scotia Commanding Officer Lee Bergerman told reporters on Sunday. “Two children have lost their mother and a husband has lost his wife. Parents have lost their daughter and countless others lost an incredible friend and colleague.”

Lisa McCully

Lisa McCully

Lisa McCully. Photo via Facebook

Lisa McCully was a mother of two young girls and a grade 3 and 4 teacher at Debert Elementary School.

Her sister, Jenny Kierstead, wrote in a Facebook post Sunday, “This is so hard to write but many of you will want to know. Our hearts are broken today as we attempt to accept the loss of my sister, Lisa McCully, who was one of the victims of the mass shooting in Portapique last night (Saturday).”

Last month, McCully posted a video to Facebook of her and two young kids singing “Tonight You Belong to Me.”

“Here’s a little goodnight song to all our family and friends. We miss you,” McCully says in the video as she plays the ukulele.

Paul Wozney, the president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, said in a statement posted to Facebook on Sunday, “9300 NSTU hearts are broken along with those of her colleagues and students at Debert Elementary, as well as her family and friends who knew her not only as a passionate teacher but as a shining love in their lives.”

Heather O'Brien

Heather O'Brien

Heather O'Brien. Photo via Facebook

Heather O’Brien is a wife, mother, grandmother, and nurse. She worked as a licensed practical nurse with the Victorian Order of Nurses team for about 17 years.

“She shared her deep caring of others,” said VON president, Jo-Anne Poirier, in a statement released Monday.

O’Brien’s daughter confirmed the death in a Facebook post Sunday: “A monster murdered my mother,” said her daughter, Darcy Dobson, adding that by 10:15 p.m. Saturday, her mother was gone. In the post, Dobson said she wants her mother to be remembered for her kindness, her passion for her career as a nurse, and “the way her eyes sparkled when she talked to her grandchildren.”

Kristen Beaton

Kristen Beaton

Kristen Beaton. Photo via Facebook

Kristen Beaton was a continuing-care assistant for the Victorian Order of Nurses for more than five years.

According to the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU), Beaton dedicated her life to caring for the province’s most vulnerable. “She was killed on the job, doing this critical work during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the NSGEU said in a statement on Monday. “In the aftermath of her loss, her husband has asked us all to use our voices to advocate for proper protections and equipment for all of the coworkers who remain on the job during this crisis.”

Her husband Nick Beaton posted on Facebook Monday morning, “She cried (every day) before and (every day) after work scared to bring this covid home to her son she loved more than I could even imagine anyone could love one person.”

He goes on to say that she was doing a job she truly loved. “So please for Kristen’s sake protect the ones who are protecting us,” he said.

Corrie Ellison

Corrie Ellison

Corrie Ellison. Photo courtesy of Ashley Fennell

It was 3 a.m. on Monday when Ashley Fennell first learned Corrie Ellison was one of the victims. She told VICE she immediately sent Ellison a message—asking him to go for a drive—because she didn’t want to believe the news.

“I was hoping they got the wrong person,” Fennell said.

According to Fennell, Ellison was in his early 40s and a “beautiful soul,” always ready to help those around him.

The two have been friends for about nine years—since Ellison helped Fennell overcome addiction.

Ellison became a big part of Fennell’s support system; anytime Fennell needed support, Ellison was there, ready to take Fennell out for a coffee.

The two remained close for nearly a decade, often spending summer days going swimming together. Over Christmas, Ellison helped Fennell with some financial struggles as well, Fennell said.

“It’s hard to believe that this is true,” Fennell said. “Corrie was awesome. I want everyone to know just how special he really is.”

On Facebook, Clinton Ellison shared a photo of him and his brother Corrie as children with their father, the Globe and Mail reported. “RIP my brother,” Clinton wrote in the caption Monday morning. “(He was) killed for going to help someone.”

A woman who referred to Ellison as her cousin took to Facebook to pay tribute to her lost loved one. “Just texted him this (morning) to see if his dad was OK...not knowing he was out (in Portapique) and already killed,” Juliene Henderson wrote.

Jolene Oliver, Aaron Tuck, and Emily Tuck

Emily Tuck, Jolene Oiver, Aaron Tuck

Emily Tuck, Jolene Oliver, and Aaron Tuck. Photo via GoFundMe

Jolene Oliver, Aaron Tuck, and their 17-year-old daughter Emily Tuck were killed in their home, according to a GoFundMe page started by Jolene’s sister.

Tammy Oliver-McCurdie wrote that all of the family’s relatives are in Alberta and they need help paying for funeral expenses in another province.

On Facebook, a woman who said her son was Emily’s boyfriend wrote a tribute to Emily.

“This young lady of 17 was one of the smartest girls I know. Could fix anything with her hands cause her dad taught her that and could play strings that made you feel just at peace!” the post said. “(Seventeen) years old graduating this year, still so much life ahead.”

Sean McLeod and Alanna Jenkins

Sean McLeod and Alanna Jenkins

Sean McLeod and Alanna Jenkins. Photo via Facebook

In an emotional Facebook post, Taylor McLeod wrote about losing his father Sean McLeod and his dad’s wife Alanna Jenkins.

Taylor confirmed to the National Post that both are dead. According to the Post, both were corrections officers, with McLeod working at Springhill Institution and Jenkins at the Nova Scotia Institution for Women. In a statement to VICE, a spokesperson with Corrections Canada, Anick Charette, said she’s aware that news reports are identifying two corrections employees as victims, but couldn’t confirm their identities.

Taylor said he will miss their presence in his daughter’s life.

“I’m heartbroken that Ellie’s two favourite people in the whole world have been taken from her and she won’t understand why she won’t be going over for sleepovers anymore,” he wrote.

He said he’ll miss river tubing with them and asking his dad for advice.

“I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that I’ll never be able to call my Dad to ask him some silly question about being a grown up, or see the way my baby’s face would light up and squeal ‘nana’ when she walked through the door,” he wrote.

Lillian Hyslop

Lillian Hyslop lived in the Wentworth area. Her mother-in-law, Carol Hyslop, confirmed to VICE that Hyslop was one of the victims.

Hyslop’s walking partner and neighbour, Heather Matthews, told CBC News that Hyslop was out for a walk in the Wentworth Valley on Sunday morning when she was killed.

Tom Bagley

Tom Bagley

Tom Bagley. Photo via Facebook

Tom Bagley was a volunteer firefighter who worked for three decades as part of the fire brigade at Halifax International Airport up until 2006. As reported by the Chronicle Herald and CBC, Bagley was shot and killed Sunday morning, according to neighbours, near the explosion on Hunter Road in West Wentworth.

His daughter Charlene Bagley referred to him as a “beautiful soul” in a Facebook post late Sunday. “He died trying to help which if you knew him, you knew that was just who he was all the time. I know he meant something to so many people.” She said friends and family described him as a hero, and someone who was caring and always making people laugh.

Leah Batstone, a spokesperson for Halifax International Airport Authority, told VICE in an email, “We’d like to share our deepest condolences to his loved ones, and to all the Nova Scotians impacted by this unimaginable situation, at this incredibly challenging time.”

Jamie and Greg Blair

Greg and Jamie Blair

Greg and Jamie Blair. Photo via Facebook

Married couple Jamie and Greg Blair are among the dead. According to the Canadian Press they were gunned down in their Portapique home.

“I honestly don’t really know what happened. They were both shot. That’s all we know, we don’t know why. We don’t know,” Greg’s sister, Kelly Blair, told CP.

Jamie’s aunt, Judy MacBurnie, told CP that the pair has two small children, who are now with their grandparents. Greg also has two sons from a previous relationship.The couple also reportedly ran a business specializing in servicing, selling, and installing natural gas and propane units in the area where the shooting took place.

In a public post shared more than 1,700 times on Facebook as of Monday afternoon, relative Jessica MacBurnie honoured the Blairs: “Two beautiful souls were lost today,” she said.

“My heart is breaking for my family, my heart is breaking for everyone else suffering through this tragedy,” MacBurnie said.

Joanne Thomas and John Zahl

Joanne Thomas and John Zahl

Joanne Thomas and John Zahl. Photo via GoFundMe

Joanne Thomas and John Zahl lived next door to the gunman, according to a GoFundMe page set up for their two sons by a woman named Gena Lawson. They are missing and presumed dead.

One of their sons, Justin, 22, told the CBC he hasn’t heard from them since Saturday evening and that John didn’t show up Monday to take him to an appointment. He said police told him to “prepare for the worst.”

The fundraiser said the couple lived in a home on Portapique Beach Road that was burned down; their cats are also missing.

“Both of them were volunteers at St. James Presbyterian Church often and Joanne was the head of the ‘Laundry Project,’ a nonprofit group that helps people in need have clean laundry,” the GoFundMe says.

Gina Goulet

Gina Goulet

Gina Goulet. Photo via Facebook

Gina Goulet, 54, was a denturist in Shubenacadie. Her daughter, Amelia Butler, confirmed to the National Post that her mother was one of the victims.

She told the Post that her mother had fought hard for her life: Goulet beat cancer—twice. In 2016, Goulet was diagnosed with brain cancer, and despite all odds, she survived, Butler said. Late last year, Goulet was diagnosed with cancer again and had almost beat it by the time she was shot and killed.

Goulet loved to salsa dance and travelled to Cuba when she could, Butler said.

“That was the place where she was the happiest,” Butler added.

Goulet’s sister, Micheline Kerekes, wrote on Facebook that she’s an “angel now” while a friend described her in a Facebook post as someone who was “funny, feisty, and loved to dance.”

Dawn and Frank Gulenchyn

Dawn and Frank Gulenchyn were longtime Oshawa residents who recently moved to Nova Scotia, according to Durham Radio News.

Dawn Gulenchyn was employed at Hillside Terraces, a long-term care home, for decades, according to a statement from John Henry, Durham regional chair and chief executive officer.

“This tragedy hits especially close to home, as two of the victims were longtime Durham residents. Dawn, who was a former employee working at Hillsdale Terraces long-term care home for decades and retired in 2019, and her husband Frank,” he said.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the couple’s son, Jon Farrington, set up by Jon’s friends and colleagues. On Facebook, the couple’s other son, Ryan Farrington, wrote, “I love you mom and Frank.”

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