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Atlantic Canadians Need Comfort, Not Reminders of Prejudice
April 22, 2020

My connection to Portapique

I grew up in Five Islands, Nova Scotia, a community of a couple hundred people. Yes, everyone knows everyone. Yes, we’re nice.

Five Islands is located about 30 km away from Portapique. As a kid, I took art classes with a Portapique-based painter. I went to a birthday party in Portapique in the fourth grade and went to school in nearby Bass River with children from Portapique between grades three and nine. For grades 10, 11, and 12, we all took the long bus ride to and from Truro.

Five Islands and Portapique both have a small number of residents, relying on tourists to boost the population during the summer, and both communities depend on the slightly larger communities nearby for many essential services. Both Five Islands and Portapique are located along the same stretch of highway that runs along the Bay of Fundy, famous for having the highest tides in the world.

Canada’s deadliest mass shooting began in Portapique during the night of Saturday, April 18th, 2020. For over 12 hours, the suspect murdered 22 people (although this number could increase further) and burned down several houses before being killed in Enfield, a town located 60 km from the aforementioned Truro. The victims include a long-time RCMP officer, an elementary school teacher, a nurse, a continuing care assistant (who was pregnant with her second child), two correctional officers, a firefighter, a denturist, volunteers, and a teenager.

All who were killed had families that loved them. They had friends and hobbies and memories and hopes.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing measures, traditional funeral arrangements are likely to be denied, making the grieving process for the loved ones of victims even harder than they already are.

Under regular circumstances, this tragic event would be devastating. In an isolated world, it’s even worse.

I’m bound to the Maritimes. Here is where I will stay.


Atlantic Canada’s position within Canada

I noticed several people on Twitter mention that the Nova Scotia shootings weren’t getting the attention from the rest of Canada that they would have if they had taken place elsewhere in the country.

This started the discussion of Atlantic Canada’s relationship with the rest of the country: Ontario and Quebec, for some reason, are called “eastern Canada” on a regular basis, despite there being four entire provinces to the east of them. Prince Edward Island sometimes gets left off of maps of Canada entirely.

My fellow Atlantic Canadians and I usually have a sense of humor about all of jokes from the rest of Canada. But we’re not really in a laughing mood right now.

An insensitive take

An editorial about the shooting made its way across various media outlets yesterday, penned thoughtfully by a Toronto journalist. Well, I’m sure he felt it was thoughtfully written. The piece is basically a collection of stereotypes that have been heaped upon Atlantic Canadians for decades, describing us like he is trying to educate his fellow Big City Folk on our simple way of life, in addition to our simpleness. (Note: Tight-knit, rural communities exist all over Canada, not just over here.)

I’m not going to call the author out by name or where it was published. They don’t deserve the views. I don’t understand why these media outlets assigned such a task to someone who obviously has no knowledge of the nuances of smalltown life outside of “I went to rural Nova Scotia one time and the people are weird. hyuck hyuck hyuck.” It was just so obtuse in its execution.

Why not ask one of the many writers and journalists within Atlantic Canada to write it?

Right now, Atlantic Canadians need support and sensitivity, not reminders of how the rest of Canada thinks we’re uneducated and backwards.

We’re already hurting. We don’t need to be your punching bag right now.

Peggy’s Cove photo by Nataliia Kvitovska.

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Jillianne Hamilton is the author of the Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire trilogy and The Lazy Historian's Guide to the Wives of Henry VIII. Learn more.

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