'Stronger Together Nova Scotia' fund raises $5.5 million for families of shooting victims
HALIFAX -- For almost three months now, donations have been pouring in from throughout the East Coast, and around the world, to the "Stronger Together Nova Scotia" fund set up in the aftermath of the mass shootings.
Twenty-two people were killed in the attack, which also affected several communities throughout Nova Scotia's Colchester County, in April.
The fund was announced by the provincial government days after the tragedy, with the aim of supporting the families of those killed, and the affected communities, into the future.
The province partnered with the Red Cross, which accepts donations and manages the fund. To date, the fund has raised $5.5 million, but the Red Cross is still working out how best to distribute the money.
"Regardless of the amount of money distributed, it will never make folks whole again," says Bill Lawlor, the director of government relations for the Red Cross in Atlantic Canada.
Lawlor says the Red Cross has a responsibility to administer the funds equitably and is also accountable to the many donors to ensure it's done carefully.
"It's not just a matter of speed, and simply divide by 22 and move on and be done with it," he says. "We want to make sure we provide some equitable distribution to those who have been impacted."
On Tuesday, a family member of two of the victims expressed concern in a Facebook post about the process.
Harry Bond's parents, Peter and Joy Bond, were killed in the mass shooting.
In his post, Bond writes, "They [Red Cross] want to know how much life insurance each have received, and what our bills and expenses are…. What business is that of their's [sic]?"
His post drew concern from others online.
CTV News reached out to Harry Bond for an interview, but he did not provide any additional comment or agree to speak to a reporter.
Other families contacted by CTV News did not express any concern over how the fund is being managed.
The Red Cross says it has been in contact with the families to get an understanding of their unique circumstances. Bill Lawlor says that conversation can be a difficult one, but says the Red Cross is not asking families for specific amounts when it comes to their finances.
"But we want to make sure that there's some due diligence on our part, as guardians of the trust, to really get some comprehensive understanding of what has happened," Lawlor adds.
Lawlor says some commentary on social media has also suggested the Red Cross is keeping a percentage of the funds to cover administrative expenses but says that is not true and that anyone suggesting that is "misinformed."
"When the government of Nova Scotia asked us to be the guardians of this trust, they indicated that they will take care of any administrative expense, so that there's no need to have to take that from the trust itself," he says.
That's what Karen Dean has been hoping to hear. She's among those who became concerned after seeing the post online.
The Middle Musquodoboit woman has raised $95,000 so far with sales from the Nova Scotia Strong clothing line she created as a fundraiser.
"I do hope that they will give everybody that money without causing them any more grief," says Dean.
Lawlor insists the Red Cross "will get this right by the families."
The "Stronger Together Nova Scotia" fund is still accepting donations, and Lawlor says the Red Cross will evaluate over the next few months how long to keep it going.
The organization will publish a report online after that so donors can see exactly how their money is being used to help those touched personally by the tragedy.