‘We’re all in the same circle’

Members of the Prince Albert Fire Department stand at attention for two minutes of silence to honour fallen RCMP officer Cst. Heidi Stevenson on Friday, April 24 as part of Wear Red Friday. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

COVID-19 restrictions have made it difficult to honour Cst. Heidi Stevenson, the 23-year veteran of the RCMP who was killed during the recent mass shooting in Nova Scotia.

With that in mind, police, fire and EMS crews across Canada set out to remember her the best way they could with Wear Red Friday. Emergency workers donned red shirts, scarves, jackets or patches, and stood for two minutes of silence at 2 p.m. Atlantic Time at the request of the National Police Federation to honour their fallen colleague.

“We’re all in the same circle,” Lakeland and District fire chief Chris McShannock said. “We all hang out and support each other. We’re very close to the RCMP that we deal with here and we just thought it would be a good gesture, not only for the officer who lost her life, but all the officers out there every day.”

The Lakeland and District Fire Department was one of several emergency service organizations to stop for two minutes of silence to honour Stevenson’s memory. McShannock said the tragedy was a heartbreaking reminder of the dangers police officers face in the line of duty.

In Prince Albert, city firefighters in full dress uniform lined 15th Street East as a way to pay their respects while still following social-distancing measures. Like McShannock, PA fire chief Kris Olsen said emergency responders form a close community. It doesn’t matter whether it’s police, fire or EMS, or whether it’s in Saskatchewan or Nova Scotia, tragedies affect everyone.

“We all know the inherit dangers of the occupations we all take on and we all do, but you never truly anticipate or expect it to happen,” Olsen said. “Nova Scotia, though it’s far away, we’re a tight-knit community in emergency services and our heart goes out to the RCMP and their members, the family, and all the victims as well.”

It was a busy day for officers from the Prince Albert Police Service, but a few members were able to pause for a moment of silence to honour Stevenson and all the victims in Nova Scotia.

PAPS spokesperson Charlene Tebbutt said it was difficult to find the words to describe the tragedy. Despite a hectic schedule, Prince Albert police still wanted to honour the victims as best they could.

“We wanted to do our part to show our support and pay tribute to Cst. Stevenson, and all the victims of this senseless violence,” Tebbutt said. “It’s such a tragic situation. We wanted to make sure we did what small part we could.”

It wasn’t just emergency crews honouring Stevenson’s sacrifice either. City employees dressed in red shirts stepped away from their jobs to honour all the victims of the tragedy with two minutes of silence in front of City Hall.

Police say 23 victims died in six Nova Scotia communities during the mass shooting. The first was killed in Portapique, Nova Scotia on April 18. Police shot and killed the shooter the next day at a gas station in Enfield, roughly 100 km away.

Stevenson was born in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, and joined the RCMP after graduating from Acadia University in 1993. Despite not knowing how to ride a horse when she joined, she eventually became a member of the RCMP’s musical ride. She later worked as a high school liaison officer and a drug recognition expert. She leaves behind a husband and two children.