RCMP say at least 18 people, including one of their veteran officers, are the victims of a mass killing in Nova Scotia, making it the worst in Canadian history.
But police warn the death toll could rise as investigators unravel the extent of the suspect’s violent path across the province Saturday night and into Sunday.
The suspect, who at one point in his rampage wore a police uniform and drove a car made to look like an RCMP cruiser, is also dead following the incident, bringing the death count to 19.
It is known that he shot some of his victims.
In a news conference in Dartmouth, N.S. on Sunday, investigators related the enormity of the incident.
“Today is a devastating day for Nova Scotia and it will remain etched in the minds of many for years to come,” said commanding RCMP officer Lee Bergerman.
“What has unfolded overnight and into this morning is incomprehensible and many families are experiencing the loss of a loved one.”
Police confirmed that Const. Heidi Stevenson, a 23-year veteran of the Nova Scotia RCMP, died Sunday morning while responding to the active shooter incident.
“Heidi answered the call of duty and lost her life while protecting those she served,” said Bergerman. “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.”
A male RCMP officer was also taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. His identity has not been released.
“He and his family will be supported and we will be alongside him as he begins his road to recovery,” said Bergerman.
Premier Stephen McNeil offered condolences to families of the victims and called the incident “one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history.”
The death toll surpasses that of the 14 victims killed in the 1989 Polytechnique massacre in Montreal.
But police are warning their investigation could lead to finding more victims because the suspect travelled across the province in a prolonged attack that appear to be “at least in part, very random in nature,” said RCMP Chief Supt. Chris Leather during a news conference Sunday evening.
Leather said it was hard to specify the exact number of victims, “because as we’re standing here, the investigation continues into areas that we have not yet explored across the province.”
SEVERAL PEOPLE FOUND DEAD AT PORTAPIQUE HOME
Leather said police first responded to a residence in Portapique, N.S. late Saturday evening after receiving several 911 calls about an active shooter.
When officers arrived, Leather said they found “several casualties” inside and outside of the home.
“This was a very quickly evolving situation and a chaotic scene,” said Leather, the criminal operations officer for Nova Scotia RCMP.
Officers secured the area in Portapique, which is approximately 130 km north of Halifax and 40 km west of Truro, and started searching for the suspect, but they were unable to locate him. Shaken residents of the rural area, already in lockdown because of the pandemic, were told to lock their doors and stay inside.
Leather said the search for the suspect led to several sites in the area, including structures that were on fire.
“The search continued overnight and into the morning,” said Leather. “This morning we actively sought out the suspect through multiple communities throughout Nova Scotia.”
Police provided updates on Twitter overnight and into Sunday morning as they tracked the suspect across the province. Police confirmed that they were responding to an “active shooter situation,” and asked residents to remain in their homes with their doors locked.
They also revealed that the suspect may have been dressed as an RCMP officer in a lookalike RCMP vehicle.
Investigators first released the suspect’s identity before 9 a.m. Sunday. They said 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman was considered armed and dangerous and warned that he should not be approached.
SUSPECT TRAVELLED IN VEHICLE RESEMBLING RCMP CRUISER
Police said that, at one point, the suspect was driving what appeared to be an RCMP vehicle and wearing an RCMP uniform — though he was not an RCMP officer.
Leather said the fact that Wortman had an RCMP uniform and a vehicle resembling a police cruiser indicates that the incident may have been planned.
“That’s an important element of the investigation,” said Leather. “The fact that this individual had a police car and a uniform at his disposal certainly speaks to it not being a random act.”
They later said he was driving a silver Chevrolet Tracker.
Police continued to track Wortman across the province, warning the public about sightings in Glenholme, Debert, Brookfield and Milford.
VICTIMS WERE ‘SCATTERED ACROSS THE PROVINCE’
Leather said the investigation involves “multiple crime scenes” and that there are victims “scattered across the province.”
“There are several locations across the province where persons have been killed.”
He said investigators believe the sole suspect is believed to be responsible for the killings.
“He alone moved across the northern part of the province and committed, it would appear, several homicides,” said Leather.
He didn’t specify where the crime scenes are located, saying the investigation is in the early stages. He also said it’s possible police could learn about additional crime scenes and victims in the coming days.
“Some of these crime scenes we’ve not even begun to process … it is an ongoing investigation that could reveal additional details in the coming days,” said Leather.
“The investigation continues into areas that we’ve not yet explored across the province.”
In Shubenacadie, N.S., there were several burned-out vehicles, which appeared to be police cruisers, along the highway. Witnesses also reported hearing between seven and 10 gunshots.
“I hear the shots and I look out and … there’s a guy running back-and-forth up beside the, what looks to be a police vehicle,” recalled one witness at the scene. “Then after a short bit I saw fire.”
Leather confirmed that Wortman did exchange gunfire with police at one point during the chase, but wouldn’t say where.
SUSPECT SHOT AND KILLED IN ENFIELD
Officers eventually tracked Wortman to the Irving gas station and Big Stop restaurant in Enfield, N.S., about 90 kilometres away from Portapique, where he was shot and killed late Sunday morning.
Leather wouldn’t confirm that Wortman was shot by police, but he did say “officers were involved in terminating the threat.”
He also confirmed that Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team — which investigates serious incidents involving police — is investigating the man’s death.
Witnesses heard gunshots, saw body on the ground
A truck driver from Ontario told CTV News he had stopped at the Irving for a shower and breakfast when he heard an employee shouting.
“She goes, ‘Oh my God, lock the doors, he’s here! And I peek out of the window and I saw some RCMP vehicles and there was four or five uniforms with guns,” said Tom Nurani.
Witnesses told CTV News they saw RCMP vehicles on scene, heard multiple gunshots, and saw a body on the ground.
“All I could hear was gunshots and my wife, I thought I was going to call 911, because she was going into panic, it scared her so bad,” said Glen Hines, who was driving by the Irving when he saw the Emergency Response Team arrive.
“There was multiple, like probably between five or 10 (gunshots). It was steady,” recalled Deon Wells, who lives nearby.
The Nova Scotia Teachers Union issued a statement Sunday that said a teacher at Debert Elementary, Lisa McCully, was among the dead.
She was known by colleagues and students “not only as a passionate teacher but as a shining love in their lives.”
The statement, signed by president Paul Wozney, also said that Dean Stevenson, husband to the RCMP officer who was killed, teaches at Cole Harbour District High School.
“We know that there are many others who died last night whose families are struggling to process what has happened,” Wozney wrote. “Their lives are no less precious. They are our neighbours and friends. Their children are our students. We hurt with you all too.”
A Gabriel Wortman is listed as a denturist in Dartmouth, according to the Denturist Society of Nova Scotia website. A suspect photo issued by the RCMP matches video footage of a man being interviewed about dentures by CTV Atlantic in 2014.
Some Portapique residents who spoke with the The Canadian Press said they knew him in passing as a part-time resident who divided time between the Halifax area and his properties in the community. Portapique’s population numbers about 100 in the summer months, but swells to about 250 during summer cottage season.
David George Crockett, who lives a three-minute drive from Portapique Beach Road, the area where the first 911 calls originated, said Wortman once fixed his teeth at his home in Portapique.
“I’m very surprised,” Crockett said in a brief interview outside his rural home. “I never thought he would do something like that.”
“From what I knew of him, he was quiet, gentle and very easy to talk to …. He was very nice. He kidded around a little bit. He seemed normal, not like someone who would do something like this.”
A little farther down the rural road, another neighbour said he and Wortman were friends until the two had a falling out over a piece of nearby property.
The neighbour, who declined to give his name, said Wortman had burned an old shed that contained some property that belonged to the neighbour. The man said he was too overcome with emotion to say more about his relationship with Wortman or what might have motivated his rampage.
Christine Mills, another resident, said it had been a frightening night for the community, which was suddenly filled with armed officers patrolling the streets. In the morning, helicopters flew overhead searching for the suspect.
She said she was fearful the shooter might have gone through the woods and attempted to enter her home.
“It’s nerve-wracking because you don’t know if somebody has lost their mind and is going to beat in your front door,” she said.
Tom Taggart, a councillor who represents the Portapique area in the Municipality of Colchester, said the quiet community is in shock.
“This is just an absolutely wonderful, peaceful quiet community, and the idea that this could happen in our community is unbelievable,” Taggart said by phone from his home in Bass River, about three kilometres away from Portapique.
Taggart said he didn’t know Wortman well, but spoke to him a few times when he telephoned about municipal issues, and described knowing Wortman’s “lovely big home” on Portapique Beach Road.
With files from Holly McKenzie-Sutter, Michael Tutton and Jim Bronskill.
Canada sees fewer than 1,000 new coronavirus cases for 3rd consecutive day – Globalnews.ca
For the third day in a row, the number of new coronavirus infections in Canada remained below 1,000.
But every province except for Prince Edward Island reported at least one new case on Thursday, with New Brunswick reporting a cluster of cases linked to a health-care worker who failed to self-isolate after returning from Quebec.
Canada reported 994 new cases of COVID-19 — slightly more than Wednesday’s 872 — and 112 new deaths, for a total of 88,501 cases and 6,877 deaths.
Nearly 47,000 people across the country are deemed recovered, and more than 1.6 million tests have taken place, the majority of them in Ontario and Quebec.
The two provinces together account for more than 86 per cent of Canada’s cases, and 94 per cent of the national death toll.
With the exception of PEI, all the Atlantic provinces reported new cases on Thursday.
Saskatchewan company creates coronavirus decontamination unit using ozone gas
New Brunswick saw three new cases linked to a health-care worker, casting a pall on provincial reopening plans and bringing the total number of cases to 126. Zero deaths have been reported so far.
Premier Blaine Higgs has said the “irresponsible” health-care worker had been in contact with “multiple patients” over two weeks. The worker could be charged with violating public health orders, he added.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case, for a total of 261, including three deaths and 255 recoveries.
Nova Scotia saw two new cases, bringing its figures to 1,055 cases. Fifty-nine people have died so far, many of them linked to a long-term care home in Halifax. More than 970 people have recovered.
Quebec saw 563 new cases and 74 new deaths. The province has seen nearly 48,000 cases, with more than 15,000 recoveries, and 4,302 deaths. Premier Francois Legault has asked the Canadian military to remain in long-term care homes till the fall.
Coronavirus: Toronto wants ability to reopen at its own speed amid COVID-19 pandemic
Ontario announced 383 new cases — nearly 100 more than the previous day’s report — and 34 new deaths, bringing its figures to almost 26,900 cases and 2,189 deaths. More than 20,600 people are considered recovered from the virus.
Saskatchewan and Manitoba reported two new cases each. Saskatchewan has seen 10 deaths so far and 639 cases, including nearly 570 recoveries. Seven people have died in Manitoba, which has 283 cases.
Alberta reported two new deaths and 29 new cases on Thursday. One hundred Albertans over the age of 80 have died of COVID-19 so far, out of 143 fatalities.
The province has seen close to 7,000 cases overall, including more than 6,000 recoveries.
British Columbia reported nine new cases and two new deaths. The province also declared a major outbreak in a prison was officially over. B.C. has seen 2,558 cases — 84 per cent of them recovered — along with 164 deaths.
All cases resolved
Prince Edward Island is currently the only province without any active cases, after it declared all 27 of its cases resolved weeks ago.
The Northwest Territories and the Yukon also have no active cases, with all cases resolved for weeks now.
City of Toronto map shows COVID-19 hotspots across city
Nunavut remains the only region in Canada that hasn’t seen a confirmed case of COVID-19.
Globally, there are more than 5.8 million cases of COVID-19 around the world as of Thursday evening, according to data tracked by Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 360,000 people have died.
The U.S. accounts for the majority of cases and deaths, with more than 1.7 million infections and more than 100,000 deaths.
— With files by The Canadian Press
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Canada, allies condemn China on Hong Kong law after contentious Meng ruling – CBC.ca
Canada joined with its major allies Thursday in condemning China for imposing a new national security law on Hong Kong, one day after a contentious B.C. court ruling in the Meng Wanzhou affair.
The statement of “deep concern” with the United States, Australia and Britain comes as experts warn that two Canadians imprisoned in China could face retaliation because Wednesday’s court ruling in the Meng case didn’t go the way the People’s Republic would have liked.
The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa angrily denounced the decision by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Heather Holmes in the extradition case of the Huawei executive, who is wanted on fraud charges in the U.S., as it once more called for her immediate release.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday, to reporters after an online UN conference, that Canada’s independent judicial system “rendered a judgment without any political interference.” He noted Meng would “undoubtedly avail herself of” further legal moves to fight the extradition request.
The Meng dispute — which has plunged Sino-Canadian relations to an all-time low — did not dissuade Canada from signing on to the statement that criticizes China for imposing a national-security law on Hong Kong.
Watch: Trudeau comments on B.C. court decision on Meng Wanzhou:
The Chinese territory is supposed to have autonomy under a “one country-two systems” agreement.
The statement said the law is “in direct conflict” with China’s “international obligations under the principles of the legally binding” agreement that saw Britain hand over its administration of Hong Kong to China on July 1, 1997.
“Hong Kong has flourished as a bastion of freedom. The international community has a significant and longstanding stake in Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability,” the statement said.
“Direct imposition of national-security legislation on Hong Kong by the Beijing authorities … would curtail the Hong Kong people’s liberties, and in doing so, dramatically erode the autonomy and the system that made it so prosperous.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wouldn’t say if the security law violated the agreement between China and Britain when asked about it during a virtual press conference with Trudeau on Thursday afternoon.
The sharp criticism comes as the Trudeau government has been dealing with its own China crisis since December 2018.
Michael Kovrig, an ex-diplomat working for the International Crisis Group, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur who did business in North Korea, have been in Chinese prisons with no access to lawyers or their families since they were detained nine days after Meng’s arrest by the RCMP on Dec. 1, 2018.
They are accused of violating China’s national security interests, and they have been denied regular monthly visits by Canadian diplomats since January because of COVID-19 restrictions on Chinese prisons.
“We will continue to advocate for the two Canadians arbitrarily detained in China and I take this opportunity to thank the international community for standing by so strongly with Canada in this situation,” Trudeau said.
Some analysts say their treatment could get a lot worse, especially based on Chinese government statements leading up to the ruling.
The fate of Michael Spavor, Michael Kovrig
“The PRC authorities’ statement of consequences of ‘continuous harm’ to Canada if Ms. Meng is not returned to China forthwith suggests that there will be further retaliation,” said Charles Burton, a China expert with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, who has been a diplomat in Beijing.
“I am concerned that Kovrig and Spavor may be forced to make false confessions on Chinese TV followed by a sham secret trial and possible sentences of death, usually suspended for two years before commutation to life imprisonment.”
David Mulroney, the Canadian ambassador to China between 2009 and 2012, said China is furious over the Meng case.
“Unfortunately, two innocent Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, will bear the brunt of that anger. It is likely that the detentions will be extended until China has some clarity as to Ms. Meng’s eventual fate. Unfortunately, that could take some time,” said Mulroney.
“China will also seek to lash out at Canada.”
‘Delaying the inevitable’
Fen Hampson, a global security expert with the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University, said Canada should rethink whether it needs to intervene politically to end the case rather than let it play out in the courts for years.
“You’ve got two Canadians who are in jail under fairly perilous circumstance, given COVID-19, and broader considerations at play in terms of Canada’s trade and investment relations with China,” said Hampson.
“Whatever happens, it will end up on the desk of the justice minister — he’s the one who has to decide whether she gets extradited or not. In some ways, you’re delaying the inevitable. The government is still going to have to make that decision.”
The roots of Canada’s current problems with China predate the Meng-Kovrig-Spavor affairs, said Wendy Dobson, an author and China expert who is co-director of the Institute for International Business at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.
The government’s current preoccupation with “diversifying” its trade relations with other Asian countries reflects a long-standing inability to do just that, she said. “We’ve been saying this to ourselves for years, but we haven’t gotten very far,” Dobson said.
“We have not done a very good job of educating Canadians and deepening their understanding of who this partner is, where this partner comes from, and how to contribute in a way that is useful to both of us in the long term.”
The president of Canada Hong Kong Link said her group and others planned to launch a comprehensive lobbying and educational effort aimed at different parties, and especially members of key Commons and Senate committees to influence Canada’s foreign policy towards China.
Gloria Fung said a minority Parliament gives her group and other greater leverage to affect change.
“It is very important for Canadian voters, civil society, to realize the kind of power we have towards our government,” she said. “I think, so far, the Liberal government has been very weak, as far as the foreign policy towards China is concerned.”
Ontario needs to be more transparent with COVID-19 data, critics say – CBC.ca
If information is power, Ontario seems to be experiencing a brownout.
Three months into the COVID-19 crisis, one of Canada’s hardest-hit provinces is still unable to share some basic details about the spread of the disease, including the number of tests being performed per region, statistics on the success of contact tracing, the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) or the location of outbreak “hot spots.”
The sort of data that is often readily available in other Canadian provinces and jurisdictions around the world.
On Wednesday, Toronto Public Health bowed to public pressure and released COVID case numbers for all of the city’s postal codes — information that may well spur more residents to get tested. This came just one day after Ontario Premier Doug Ford had rejected calls for a similar province-wide disclosure, saying he worried that the information could be “very stigmatizing” for people living in those areas.
Now, critics are calling for even more COVID transparency as Ontario struggles to flatten its curve and find a safe way to relax its lockdown.
“The province’s unwillingness and inability to collect the appropriate data, and in turn share it with the public, and public health units, is hindering our response to COVID-19,” said Joe Cressy, a Toronto city councillor and chair of the Board of Health.
Absence of information
Cressy cites not just the imprecise testing numbers but the absence of information on the race, occupation and living conditions of those who have fallen ill — details that might help authorities understand who is most at risk and how the disease is spreading.
WATCH | Toronto Coun. Joe Cressy says more COVID-19 data is crucial:
“In order to tackle a virus, you need to understand it,” said Cressy. “So for us to be able to tackle COVID-19, to test for it proactively, to respond with the appropriate protections in place, we need to know who it’s hurting and who it’s hurting most.”
It’s a call echoed by Dr. Andrew Morris, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto’s Sinai Health and University Health Network.
“Having data is really important for all aspects of tackling COVID-19. It lets us know where we’ve been. It lets us know where we’re going,” he said. “If we don’t have that information, we don’t really have a good idea of the best ways for us to approach it. And we also don’t have an understanding of where our blind spots are.”
Morris said that hospitals in the province are still operating in the dark when it comes to things like the availability of hand sanitizer and PPE or localized surges in positive tests — something that might allow them to plan for busy emergency rooms days in advance.
Last week, Ford vowed yet again to “ramp up” testing, to levels that “this province has never seen.”
“I’m going to be all over this testing,” said the premier.
Meanwhile, his health minister, Christine Elliott, has defended his government’s record to date.
“Do we hit the targets every single day? No. There is an ebb and flow to this but we are increasing our capacity on a daily basis,” she said.
Complicated reporting systems
Part of the problem, Morris said, are “archaic” systems that don’t allow hospitals, regional health authorities and the province to readily and easily share and analyze the data they have on hand.
“I think a lot of this relates to the chronic under-funding of public health in Ontario,” said Morris. “Many of the problems that we’re experiencing today were experienced during [the 2002-03] SARS crisis as well… Our public health infrastructure has really not ramped up to the level that we’ve needed to.”
Even the flow of basic information between the province and its 32 public health units is complicated. For example, Ontario’s daily COVID update pulls together information from four different databases — the provincial integrated Public Health Information System (iPHIS), which dates back to the early 2000s, as well as newer, municipally run reporting systems in Toronto, Ottawa and Middlesex-London.
Meanwhile, in the hastily constructed testing system — which is administered by the province — samples travel all over Ontario to both public and private labs for analysis. As a result, many local health regions say they don’t know how many tests they have performed, and can only disclose how many positive results have come back.
The way that news of positive tests is shared with public health officials depends on which lab or hospital has processed the swab. A Toronto Public Health spokesperson told CBC that it has been receiving lab reports through a variety of ways: electronically, by phone, fax, even through the mail.
As of Wednesday, Peel, York, Ottawa, Durham, Waterloo and Windsor-Essex County followed Toronto as regions with the greatest number of COVID cases.
CBC News canvassed these additional six public health units to determine recent counts of COVID-19 swab testing. The response was scattered.
While each unit publishes detailed COVID-19 updates online, York Region Public Health Services, Windsor-Essex County Health Unit and Ottawa Public Health are the only regions in the group that publish daily testing numbers. York’s website provides the most comprehensive daily counts, broken all the way down to specific testing centres. According to the data, the entire region tested 705 people on May 25.
All of this is a sharp contrast to British Columbia and Alberta, which have both managed to share regional testing numbers throughout the crisis. Or Quebec, which provides case numbers by district for its major urban centres.
New York City, perhaps the hardest-hit spot in the worldwide pandemic, has a municipal website that tracks everything from hot spots to local testing levels to the distribution of PPE and free meals.
Then there’s South Korea, where the government has been providing the public with detailed information on where novel coronavirus patients reside, so they can steer clear of specific streets or neighbourhoods.
False impression of spread
The man quarterbacking Ontario’s COVID-19 response, Dr. David Williams, the chief medical officer of health, defended the provincial approach on Wednesday, suggesting that things like Toronto’s list of postal code hot spots might actually give a false impression of the spread of the disease.
“You may find that you have a number of people in an area because you have the same postal code,” Williams said. “Does that mean that neighbourhood is the problem? Or that the people went and worked in different companies that happen to have outbreaks in those companies?”
Government transparency advocates say they don’t buy such claims.
“We feel that governments in general should be more open with the information that’s coming out,” said Ian Bron, a project co-ordinator with the newly formed Canadian COVID-19 Accountability Group.
“Many Canadians don’t know where the hot spots are. And that’s the kind of information that citizens should have in order to make informed decisions about where to go and where to go afterwards. For example, if you’re going to visit a loved one in a long-term care facility.”
Bron acknowledged that governments have been forced to improvise during the crisis but said that shouldn’t be an excuse for obscuring information that could be ultimately useful for public health.
“It’s a little too easy to say we’re in the middle of an emergency so we can’t do anything right now. That doesn’t mean you can’t start taking steps in the right direction,” he said. In a new report, his group is calling for measures like federal and provincial COVID ombudspersons to help improve transparency.
U.S. produces ‘much better data than we do’
Bron points to American jurisdictions as a positive example for Canadian governments.
“Although it seems like a terrible mess in the States, they produce much better data than we do. They go to much greater levels of granularity,” he said.
There are worries about the consequences of too little information as the COVID outbreak grinds on. Morris pointed to a recent mass gathering in a Toronto park as evidence that the public might be at risk of losing the COVID plot.
“Today, I’m not sure that the average citizen really understands why there’s a need to physically distance, self-isolate and [wear a] mask, and part of that relates to not having a clear [government] strategy,” he said. “I think if there were one overarching challenge that we haven’t overcome yet, it’s a clearer message.”
It’s an absence of illumination that threatens to leave an entire province groping around for a way forward.
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