Funds for a memorial for the victims of Nova Scotia mass shooting are being moved to a municipal government trust, while some communities and families are continuing their own fundraising efforts.
The permanent memorial project was initially led by the registered charity Nova Scotia Remembers Legacy Society, which was founded by a group of volunteers after the shooting deaths of 22 people from 18 to 19 April 2020.
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However, councilor Cees van den Hoek said in an email on Tuesday that the charity would move about $ 200,000 to other groups to manage, with $ 90,000 of that money going to a trust held by the Colchester County Municipality .
He said the charity will respect the wishes of the original donors on how they want their donations to be used, including for memorials, scholarships and mourning projects.
Van den Hoek said the small group of volunteers believes the Colchester County municipal government is better positioned to take on the task of creating the memorial.
Colchester Mayor Christine Blair said of the $ 90,000 put into trust by the municipality, $ 50,000 is intended for the permanent memorial site, while $ 10,000 is intended for a potential memorial in Portapique, NS. She said another $ 10,000 for a memorial site in Debert, NS, with the remaining $ 20,000 for grief and trauma counseling.
Blair said she was consulting with the mayors of Halifax and Cumberland County and the guardian of East Hants – all regions where murders took place – to decide on a location and design of a permanent memorial project.
She said the project would unfold slowly and in consultation with victims’ families. Funds will be sought from the province and likely the federal government, she added.
“We are very gentle about it, you might say, as people are still suffering and will be for a long time to come,” she said.
Meanwhile, some families and communities have made efforts to remember the lost and to rebuild communities damaged by the shooters’ 13-hour violence. The shootings began on April 18 in Portapique and included further murders the following day in the Wentworth, Debert and Enfield areas.
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The family of Kristen Beaton, a pregnant woman who was shot during the second day of the riot in Debert, joined the family of Heather O’Brien, a VON nurse who died a short distance away, to raise money in to collect for a seven-acre memorial park near the site of their deaths.
Their proposal envisions heart-shaped terrain with a creek running down the middle, symbolizing broken hearts, said Nick Beaton, Kristen’s husband.
Blair said $ 10,000 of the funds in the trust had been earmarked for this project, adding that the country had approved the use of the land as a memorial park. She added that the district government will consider the proposed draft in future meetings.
“We’re trying to take a very bad place and turn it into a happier place,” Beaton said in an interview earlier this week. He added that his family’s focus will be on a playground, in honor of Kristen’s close relationship with their four-year-old son, Daxton, while the O’Brien family envisions a flower garden on site.
Marie Benoit, the local councilor who is assisting with the project, said in an interview on Tuesday that the families have a goal to raise between $ 250,000 and $ 300,000 and that about $ 24,000 has been donated to date.
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In Portapique, the community shyed away from creating a memorial site and instead opted to raise funds with the Rotary Club of Truro, NS, for a playground and community center to help build relationships between neighbors. Funds were managed by the Nova Scotia Community Foundation.
The playground opened last fall, and the next phase is the demolition and redesign of the historic Portapique Community Hall, which will be used for activities such as dances and community gatherings. The total project is about $ 822,000.
Andrew MacDonald, president of the board’s board of trustees, said in an interview on Tuesday that the group is still trying to raise between $ 75,000 and $ 100,000 in cash donations.
“It’s for sure because of the shooting, but we are not going to be defined by the shooting,” said MacDonald, who had a terrifying encounter with the killer during his riot.
“We do not need a reminder of what happened. We are very aware of what happened. The aim of this project is to allow the community to move forward from this tragedy, ”he said.
However, MacDonald said he was hopeful that a permanent memorial site would eventually be created in the province for all who suffered. “I think it’s important for families to get what they need to reflect and remember,” he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on January 25, 2022.
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