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Heal-NS Research Program

At a time when the world was struggling to face unprecedented challenges from COVID-19 – the coronavirus pandemic – the province of Nova Scotia witnessed the worst mass shooting in Canadian history. The shootings began on April 18th 2020 in Portapique, a close-knit beachside village of about 100 residents on the Bay of Fundy and ended at a gas station outside of Halifax; the gunman took the lives of 22 Nova Scotians in this act of horrific violence. The impact to the affected, to the province and to the health system has been unlike anything ever experienced before. There are many lessons to be learned from this tragedy and research can be an important facilitator in this learning process for a province and a health system that is ever willing to heal and strengthen.

The Portapique mass shooting put an additional heavy burden on a community already deeply concerned about COVID-19 and the extraordinary measures put in place to contain the virus including physical distancing restrictions. The lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19 exacerbated the horrors of the violence at a time when people were already feeling isolated and disoriented. The rampage claimed the lives of people from all walks of life including a member of the RCMP, a teacher, a retired firefighter, and workers on the front-lines of the pandemic. Many more were impacted by the shootings – children lost parents, spouses lost partners, countless others lost friends and colleagues, and thousands of people in Nova Scotia and around the world mourned the loss of life. The shootings also put additional stress on a health care system struggling to cope with COVID-19. In the wake of the shooting, many unanswered questions remain, both specific to this incident and concerning violence in general. Finding answers to these questions may aid in coping, understanding and healing for those affected by this tragedy in Nova Scotia and beyond.

To help find answers, a multidisciplinary group of individuals from the Nova Scotia Health Authority, IWK Health Centre, and Dalhousie University have partnered with DHW and other universities across the province to establish Heal Nova Scotia (Heal-NS), a program devoted to bringing together researchers to investigate topics related to violence with the common goal of helping Nova Scotians find answers and healing in the aftermath of the Portapique mass shooting. Areas of research interest may include (but are not limited to) gunshot trauma, domestic violence, post-traumatic stress disorder, mental health issues related to shootings, mandatory physician reporting of gunshot wounds, emergency response to a mass casualty incident, and the preparedness of the trauma system.

We are seeking input from the community to help identify topics related to the Portapique shootings that Nova Scotians believe are most important to investigate. You can submit your comments to Heal-NS using the form below, or directly to

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Thanks for your interest in Heal-NS

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