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From Queen to rock bands: tributes pour in for Canada mass shooting victims

Flags of Nova Scotia and Canada fly at half-staff outside the Nova Scotia Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) headquarters in Dartmouth -- an RCMP constable was among the victims of the weekend killing spree

(AFP)

A message of condolence from Queen Elizabeth II and musical tributes for the victims of the worst mass shooting in Canadian history poured in on Tuesday as the death toll continued to rise.

According to public broadcaster CBC, police uncovered in the rubble of a home burned to the ground by the suspect the remains of a couple reported missing, bringing the total number of victims to 20. 

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The gunman, 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman, had begun his rampage late Saturday in the seaside village of Portapique, Nova Scotia, dying 14 hours later in a hail of police gunfire outside Halifax, 100 kilometers (60 miles) away.

Queen Elizabeth II said she and Prince Philip “have been deeply saddened by the appalling events in Nova Scotia.”

Canada’s head of state also paid tribute to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers — one of whom died, and another wounded — and others who “selflessly responded to these devastating attacks.”

Across Canada, flags flew at half-mast, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proclaimed: “Today we are all Nova Scotians.”

He recounted how members of his RCMP security detail knew and remembered fondly Constable Heidi Stevenson, who was killed while responding to the shootings.

“It really goes to show just how tightly knit, not just the RCMP is as a force, but how close we are as a country,” Trudeau said.

A “virtual vigil” was planned for Friday evening, but already several popped up on social media.

A plane’s flight path marked a heart-shape over the Atlantic coast town in mourning, unable to gather for in-person memorials or even hug each other due to coronavirus restrictions on large gatherings.

“I wanted to reach out to the community. I wanted to be there with them. I wanted to tell them that I love them,” pilot Neonakis told CBC, adding that because of social distancing, “my only avenue was through the air.”

His flight was shown on flight tracker website FlightAware.

A church in Banff, Alberta, meanwhile, rang its bells to the tune of “Farewell to Nova Scotia.”

The Canadian rock band Northern Pikes and others posted online bagpipes and acoustic guitar versions of “Amazing Grace,” while Toronto-based Choir! Choir! Choir! offered to lead an online rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” at 8 pm (2400 GMT).

And Winnipeg musician Scott Nolan wrote a new “gentle tune” for Nova Scotians.

“Tonight I grieve for sons and daughters who never got to say goodbye… from Portapique to Shubenacadie, no one here will forget today,” he sang.

“The neighbor said he couldn’t believe it… I thought I heard distant sirens, I see fire down the road, we can still hear the gunshots, at night it’s hard to be alone.”

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