'This has to come to an end': Sightseers urged to stay away from site of mass shooting so community can heal
PORTAPIQUE, N.S. -- More than four months after the mass shooting in Nova Scotia, a councillor from the area where the tragedy started to unfold is urging sightseers to stay home.
The weekend of April 18 and 19, a gunman went on a roughly 13-hour rampage, during which time he claimed the lives of 22 people in several Nova Scotia communities. He started in Portapique, where 13 of the 22 of the victims died.
A steady parade of visitors have been making their way through the community of Portapique, N.S., and Coun. Tom Taggart says it has to stop so the community can heal.
On Monday, Virgil Dykeman of Saint John, N.B., and his friend Bill stopped to pay their respects at the Portapique memorial.
They were in the area to pick up a motorcycle for Dykeman's son and had no idea they were near the site where Canada's worst mass shooting began, until they drove by all the flowers and tributes.
"I said, 'Well, let's just stop,'" Dykeman said. "So we stopped and we said, 'Wow, that's that memorial.'"
For the handful of families on Portapique Beach Road, the last four months have been surreal.
An endless stream of traffic -- sightseers and picture-takers -- are fascinated by the macabre nature of what happened in the community.
Janice Gilbert, a 20-year resident, says the unwanted attention is wearing on everyone.
"It is a constant reminder of why they're here," Gilbert said. "And there's nothing to see. It's still our beautiful beach area."
The local councillor says the formerly sleepy community in West Colchester found itself thrust into a dark spotlight it didn't ask for -- and doesn't want.
"This has to come to an end," says Tom Taggart.
Complaints have been piling up.
"I had one lady contact me on Facebook, I'm going to say two months ago, and she said, 'I counted 187 cars go by my door before dinnertime. I just went in the house and shut the door,'" Taggart said.
Traffic has eased up considerably since the early days, but picks up again nearly every weekend.
"No trespassing" signs have become the rule, not the exception, on Portapique Beach Road.
Even at the shooter's property, a homemade sign tells souvenir hunters to stop taking things from Portapique -- including rocks.
"It really has turned into, unfortunately, almost a tourist attraction," said Taggart.
He says that can't continue, and he's urging anyone without legitimate business in Portapique to respect the community's privacy as they move toward healing.
Taggart says he’s written to the province for help in removing the few things left at the shooter’s former property.
The time has come, too, to remove the memorial to the victims at a local church. That could happen as soon as this weekend, but he insists everything won’t be disposed of, but properly stored until a permanent home can be found.