Nova Scotians mourn the loss of three inspirational women who died in the line of duty
HALIFAX -- Over the span of just one month, Nova Scotia has lost three inspirational women who died in the line of duty.
Nova Scotia residents were already grieving the loss of RCMP Const. Heidi Stevenson and Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough, when the tragic news came of Capt. Jenn Casey’s death.
Casey was killed when a Snowbirds jet crashed in Kamloops, B.C., on Sunday.
“She was bright, she was smart, she had the most infectious smile. It was impossible to reciprocate,” says Corinne MacLellan, a friend of Casey’s.
“She just was living her dream, she absolutely was. She was an inspiration.”
Casey, a Halifax native, was the public affairs officer for the iconic Snowbirds. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the military aerobatic team took off on a cross-country tour to boost the morale of Canadians.
“It’s incredible that she would be working her final days on something called Operation Inspiration,” says MacLellan.
“She certainly was an inspiration to me 16 years ago and she continues to be one today.”
Stevenson, a 23-year veteran of the RCMP, was killed while trying to stop the gunman responsible for Canada's worst mass shooting in Nova Scotia last month.
“I was in training with Heidi… I didn’t know her well outside of work. However, what we are hearing through social media and through different channels, the more I hear about her, the more I wish I knew her better. She’s just all around a fantastic individual,” says Cpl. Jennifer Clarke, with the N.S. RCMP.
Following the deadly shooting, which claimed the lives of 22 people, Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough played “Amazing Grace” on board HMCS Fredericton as a tribute to Stevenson and the other victims.
Less than two weeks later, the naval officer was one of six people killed in a helicopter crash off the coast of Greece.
Retired RCMP officer Brian Carter knew both Stevenson and Cowbrough.
“Both women were amazing women. Differences in age obviously, and experiences, but very, very impressive women,” says Carter.
The loss of the three women has struck a chord with many Canadians.
“Look at those role models and the impact they have made,” says Joyce Carter, the president and CEO of Halifax International Airport Authority.
“They all had one common thread, which was how positive they were in what they did and how they really felt they could make a difference, and so that is still the case, they won't change. That will live on beyond those tragedies.”
Stevenson, Cowbrough, and Casey were all in professional roles typically dominated by men.
Meredith Ralson, a professor of women’s studies at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, says all three women were important role models.
“It shows how women are integrated into the police forces and into the military and also the unfortunate risks that go along with those jobs that have to be accepted and it has to be accepted when the tragedy happens to women as well,” says Ralson.
Former Nova Scotia politician Joanne Bernard says the three women’s dedication and service will leave a lasting legacy.
"You can hope, out of all this tragedy, that there are little girls and young women looking at these stories, looking at these women, looking at the outpouring of respect that they have gotten from their peers, from their community and from their country, and saying, you know, I can do that,” says Bernard.