In a country often stereotyped as being too genteel, the Canadian city of Moncton, New Brunswick, prides itself on a special distinction: It was named the most polite.
So what happened there Wednesday seems unimaginable to some residents.
A man dressed in fatigues and carrying a rifle went on a rampage, killing three police officers and wounding two others.
On Thursday morning, the shooter was still on the loose.
Police say they know who the suspect is: 24-year-old Justin Bourque of Moncton.
On Thursday morning, police spotted Bourque at least three times in the area, but “results for apprehension have been negative,” New Brunswick Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superintendent Marlene Snowman said.
Police posted to social media a photograph of a man dressed in fatigues, carrying what appeared to be a rifle.
Police posted to social media a photograph of a man dressed in fatigues, carrying what appeared to be a rifle.
The search for the suspect is ongoing, and Snowman asked residents to continue to stay indoors and remain calm.
The victims were all officers of the RCMP, said Roger Brown, the commander for the New Brunswick RCMP.
“This is perhaps the darkest day in the history of RCMP New Brunswick,” he said.
Authorities have not released the names of the officers killed, saying they are waiting for all family members to be notified.
More than 16 hours into the manhunt, police don’t know — or haven’t disclosed — what prompted the attacks.
Police leaders appeared emotional as they conveyed the few details they had to reporters.
“As you can imagine, this is working through your worst nightmare,” Brown said.
3 officers wounded in Canada shooting
Terror outside the window
The rampage began Wednesday evening when police responded to a report of an armed man in the north end of Moncton.
The gunman opened fire.
Three RCMP officers were shot and killed, Constable Damien Theriault told reporters.
“Two of our officers were also injured, but their lives are not threatened at this time,” he said, his voice breaking at times.
Joan MacAlpine-Stiles recalled seeing the gunman when she opened a window.
“It was really warm in the house, so we opened up the windows in the family room, and there he was going across through the back with this rifle on his shoulder,” she told CNN partner CBC.
“I said, ‘Oh my God, there he is with camouflage and the headband and a gun,’ and it looked like a bow he had with him, and I mean he was just through our backyard,” she said.
After police arrived, neighbor Vanessa Bernatchez watched with a couple of others from a living room window. She uploaded a video of the confrontation to Facebook.
“He shot him. He shot the … cop,” a man in the video exclaims. “Call 911!”
‘That could never happen here’
Moncton, a city of about 140,000 people, is about 150 kilometers (93 miles) northeast of Saint John.
The Canadian magazine Chatelaine has described Moncton as one of the best places to live and work in Canada, according to the city’s website.
In addition, Reader’s Digest recently named Moncton as the most polite city in all of Canada, the city said.
Such accolades seem to matter little now.
The violence shook Moncton and beyond.
“It’s a lot. Especially for a city like this, where you wouldn’t expect something to happen like this,” local resident Jonathan Hurshman told CTV. “You see it all in the states, and you think, ‘No, that could never happen here’ — and sure enough, it happens here.”
There were no homicides in Moncton in 2011 and 2012, and the average number of homicides per year between 2006 and 2011 was one.
In 2012, the homicide rate in Canada was 1.6 per 100,000, while in the United States, it was 4.7 per 100,000, according to U.N. statistics.
Hurshman told CTV that he tried to get close to the confrontation with his video camera, only to be brusquely turned away by police.
He didn’t see the suspect, but he heard the gunshots and saw what he thought was a police officer on the ground.
“There was a lot going through my head. It was a lot to take in, seeing something like this happen here,” he said.
Hurshman’s family would remain inside their house all day, he told CTV, but early Thursday, he witnessed neighbors who didn’t feel safe packing their cars and leaving.
As the hunt dragged into Thursday morning, police continued giving updates and warnings throughout the night.
“Shooter still believed to be in Pinehurst Subdiv. area of Moncton. Stay locked inside. Avoid area,” the RCMP’s New Brunswick office tweeted.
All entrances to the neighborhood where the attack took place were blocked off, city spokeswoman Isabelle LeBlanc said Wednesday night. Her husband had not been able to get home.
Even some buses were pulled off the road out of concern for public safety, she said.
Hospital calls in more help
As the two injured officers were being treated, a local hospital had to get reinforcements.
“We have called in extra staff and physicians at The Moncton Hospital to help deal with this situation,” said John McGarry, president and CEO of Horizon Health Network.
“We are restricting visitors to those with critically ill family members, and ask all others to refrain from visiting at this time.”
Searching while grieving
As police keep looking for the gunman, they must do so while grieving the deaths of their colleagues.
When asked how officers would push through, Constable Theriault said, “We are professional.”
Moments later, he choked up and ended the news conference.
A Jamaica man who was deported from the United States after a fraud conviction 12 years ago was arrested at Peace Bridge on Sunday by US Customs and Border Protection field operation officers after a fingerprint check.
Buffalo News reported that 42-year-old Christopher Hagigal, who still faces six-year-old marijuana charges in Titusville, Florida, where he passed himself off in 2008 as a ‘D Williams’, was on a commercial bus from Canada entering the US. He had in his possession a Jamaican passport and a US Green Card, both carrying the name Adrian Bandoo.
The report said he was taken off the bus and a fingerprint check confirmed his identity.
Hagigal faces prosecution by the US Attorney’s office on charges ranging from misuse of a passport, fraud and making false statements and misuse of identification documents, among other charges.
The Peace Bridge is an international bridge between Canada and the US at the east end of Lake Erie about 20 kilometres upriver of Niagara Falls.
On Friday, a bill opening marriage and adoption to same-sex couples passed the French Senate, following a week of intense, often acrimonious debate. “We simply acknowledge full citizenship for gay couples,” said Christine Taubira, the French Minister of Justice, following completion of the controversial vote. The Bill will now return to the National Assembly, which has already approved the proposition, for a second reading, followed by a final reading in the upper house.
Two days earlier in Montevideo, Uruguayan campaigners packed the public seats of the legislative building to watch lawmakers vote in favour of allowing gay marriage by a majority of 71 to 92.
According to Federico Grana, the leader of a gay rights group that drafted the proposal, the vote represented “an historic moment” for Uruguay, a country that becomes the third across the American continent, following Canada and, more surprisingly, the deeply Catholic Argentina, to recognise equality in marriage.
Before this week, eleven countries had already passed legislation to allow same-sex marriage, with 10 other states, including Britain and Ireland, currently in the process of pushing through bills.
Although change may appear to be happening at pace, the campaign for gay rights is decades old, with incremental steps leading back to the sixties responsible for the swathe of parliamentary successes currently being celebrated by advocates around the globe.
As human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told The Huffington Post UK: “Marriage equality is an idea whose time has come. It’s an unstoppable global trend.” It’s a sentiment BJ Epstein, a lecturer at the University of East Anglia who specialises in queer literature, agrees with.
“Governments are starting to look quite ridiculous not giving equal rights to all people and all relationships,” she tells The Huffington Post UK. “In a few years people are going to wonder why it took such a long time.”
But why has it taken such a long time for governments to recognise such a basic principle as equality in marriage for same-sex couples? For Stanislas Kraland, a journalist for the Le Huffington Post who has reported extensively on the gay marriage debate in France, the answer is both generational and political.
“The answer stems from an analysis of who is against gay marriage in France,” he said. “It’s the elderly, right-wingers (because gay marriage is a left wing project) and the majority of Catholics. That’s a lot of potential voters.”
The Netherlands became the first country to pass gay marriage legislation in 2001, which Kraland argues, in sociological terms, is only very recent, while the push for equality in this area only started in France in the 1990s.
“During the 1970s, French homosexuals were against the idea of marriage per se,” he said, however, once equality became an issue for the French homosexual community in the Nineties, the law moved relatively quickly, making civil unions legal in 1999, and same-sex marriage legal this year.
In Britain, civil partnerships were made legal in 2004, while the current gay marriage Bill wrestled its way through the House of Commons in February, and is due to be debated in the House of Lords later this year. Following amendments, the Bill should be handed back to the Commons, with political commentators expecting it to be signed into law by the end of the year.
Unlike many of the countries that have already passed legislation, most notably Spain and Argentina, Britain isn’t saddled with a strong religious voice to offer sustained opposition. Yet, rather than pioneer gay marriage, as some might expect from such a secular society, the UK has lagged behind Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and even South Africa.
“People are becoming less religious which helps,” said Epstein, “but in many ways the UK is a rather conservative country. As a foreigner living in the UK (she’s originally from Chicago), Epstein admitted she has been surprised at just how conservative the British are. “If you go to places like London and Manchester it’s very diverse, but go to a small city or town and it’s not diverse at all. People are scared of otherness.”
Still, the lecturer believes the world has reached a tipping point on gay marriage. “Some countries are going to take a long time, but I think we’ve got there and it is just a matter for the other countries to catch up.”
So with much of Europe adopting or having adopted equality for same-sex couples, campaigners are now looking towards the next major battle, the USA. Still, for Epstein there’s plenty of optimism.
“Even conservative religious people in the US are beginning to see that they have no choice but to go along with it,” she said.
Since Obama’s re-election last year, arguably a watershed moment for the GOP, which was plagued throughout the campaign by outspoken representatives offering a series of public faux pas on social issues, a number of politicians have “evolved” their thinking on the issue of gay marriage.
At the time of publication of this article, 14 Senators – 13 Democrats and one Republican – had publically changed their views in favour of accepting gay marriage in the past month alone, along with former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
Whether this is a genuine evolution in thinking, or just the realisation that opposing equality is not a vote winner, is up for debate. Either way, the 2012 election marked a significant step forward for gay rights in the United States with three states voting in favour of gay marriage, while Wisconsin, the home state of Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, elected the first ever openly gay senator, Tammy Baldwin.
Other social issues came to the fore, with a record number of women voted into office, as well as several states voting to legalise cannabis. As a colleague quipped the morning after the election, “Americans woke up gayer, more female and slightly stoned.”
For Noah Michelson, the Editor of Huff Post Gay Voices in the US, the post-election change has been driven by two factors. “It’s both people truly evolving with their thinking, but also not wanting to be seen as having fallen on the wrong side of history,” he said.
“I don’t think we can discount that, as it gets easier for people to come out of the closet, more people than ever know someone who is LGBT… and these personal relationships really can transform the way someone (re) considers equal rights.”
Last year’s election also brought into focus the political necessity for change on this issue. “Many politicians are realising that marriage equality is heading our way whether they like it or not and if they don’t come out in favour of it, they’re going to look foolish – and it could even cost them their positions,” said Michelson.
For Epstein, it’s a matter of urgency that the US adopts equality in marriage. “Many countries look to the US, and for a country that’s so religious and so conservative to say ‘yes, we accept gay marriage’, it would be a huge boost for the cause. Other countries would take note.”
And there’s the rub: America remains a country deeply enthralled by God and, unlike many other countries in the first world, America’s brand of religion is not only political but has a very loud voice.
“Religious opposition to gay marriage is still a huge issue in the US,” said Michelson, “but not necessarily because the majority of people actually believe that marriage equality is antithetical to believing in the Bible, but because the far Right and Evangelical movement is so vocal and has worked so tirelessly to ensure that their message is heard.”
Still, the Defence Of Marriage Act (DOMA) is currently under review, with the Supreme Court due to decide in June whether it should be overturned, paving the way for states where gay marriage is legal to be afforded federal marriage rights.
Yet the grand prize – national legalisation – remains obscure. As Michelson said: “I do not think we will see gay marriage legalised on a national level any time soon… if ever. It’s frustrating to have gay marriage be decided on a state by state level because in my view, we’re talking about basic civil and equal rights.”
Casting the current fight for equality as a civil right places the campaign in a broader context, one that perhaps mirrors the civil rights movement of the sixties. The importance of the first decade of the 21st century as a social revolution is a question for future sociologists to debate, yet for Epstein, there’s little doubt: “It’s hard to predict the future, but I think it will be viewed as a moment of change, similar to the way we look back on civil rights or giving women the right to vote.”
As a note of caution, though the trend in the first world is seemingly heading in the right direction, many countries around the world, particularly in Africa and Eastern Europe, appear to be going the opposite way.
This week, a human rights activist was granted bail in Zambia after being arrested for calling for gay relationships to be decriminalised on live TV, while in January, Russian lawmakers passed a bill making gay public events and the dissemination of information about the LGBT community to children punishable by a fine of up to $16,000. In the Muslim world, basic human rights for LGBT individuals is a battle yet to be won.
Still, Tatchell remains certain on the course of history: “The ban on same-sex marriage will eventually go the way of the ban on inter-racial marriage. In a democratic society, everyone should be equal before the law. Most people accept that, which is why the ban will sooner or later be history.”
Bermuda (CMC) — Two men appeared in court Monday charged with the murder of Jamaica-born George Lynch almost three years ago.
Wolda Gardner, 33, and Rickai Dickinson, 28, have also been accused of using a firearm to commit the indictable offence. http://http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/9086708/black-man-handcuffs.jpg
Lynch, 40, an innocent bystander, was shot dead outside a house on Midland Heights Crescent in Hamilton Parish on May 5, 2010.
Gardner and Dickinson were remanded in custody and their case set for mention on January 28. They were not required to enter a plea.
It was Gardner’s second court appearance on a murder charge this year. He also appeared in court for the murder of 20-year-old Malcolm Augustus, who was shot and killed on the St George’s golf course on Christmas Day last year.
Lynch, a father of three, died from a single shot to the chest outside a home that was the subject of a trial involving an earlier mob attack there.
Lynch had gone to the house to visit his friend Philmore Phinn, who gave evidence just days before in the case against several men accused of the mob attack.
Police confirmed Lynch, a hospital housekeeper, had no links to Bermuda’s gang underworld.
His father, Leonard Lynch, then living in Branton, Ontario, Canada, described him at the time as a bystander who found himself alone and vulnerable when two masked men opened fire.
“Life is not the same, it has really upset our whole family and the worst part of the whole thing is his young family. His three young children have been left without a father,” the father said then.
Lynch, who moved from Canada to Bermuda 18 months before his death, never saw his third daughter, Itana, who was born after his death.