'Mummy is in heaven': Husband of N.S. shooting victim gives emotional interview
TORONTO -- In the weeks before she lost her life on the side of a road during the deadly rampage in Nova Scotia, Kristen Beaton was fighting for more personal protective equipment for front-line workers in the COVID-19 pandemic.
One day before the attack that left at least 22 victims dead, Beaton posted a selfie on Facebook wearing a surgical mask and safety glasses, calling for other health-care professionals to do the same.
Now, her husband has vowed to carry on her fight.
“She took that picture trying to get her voice out there,” Nick Beaton told CTV News' Chief Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme on Tuesday.
“She’s not here and we can do nothing about that, but from here on out it’s my goal to make sure that no front-line worker has to go through what she went through on a daily basis.”
Kristen Beaton, who was a continuing care assistant with the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON), received two single-use surgical masks a day, Nick Beaton said, adding that she wasn’t provided with an N95 mask, which are recognized as the high standard for health-care professionals. In recent weeks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced efforts to expand the production and procurement of PPE for front-line workers.
During his interview, Nick Beaton implored the prime minister to provide more PPE for the country’s health-care professionals.
Asked minutes later at his near-daily news conference, Trudeau responded to Beaton’s plea.
“To Nick and to all the families going through a heart-wrenching loss right now, looking for answers, looking for reasons, looking for support, we are there for you and we will be there for you,” he said. “Like so many people across the country who are worried about what the next days will bring, our front-line workers have been worried about the availability of PPE.”
Trudeau acknowledged that there are many workers “trying to stretch out” personal protective equipment for as long as possible, and said that the government has been supporting requests from provinces for more supplies.
“Different provinces are managing their stockpiles differently. The federal government is there to support provinces in their requests and, up until this point and beyond this point, have been able to respond to the specific requests that the provinces have made,” he said.
“At the same time, we have been fighting in a very competitive international environment where everyone is looking for PPE, which is why we’ve made significant investments in domestic capacity to make the kinds of equipment that is going to help keep frontline health workers safe across the country.”
Jo-Anne Poirier, the president and CEO of the Victorian Order of Nurses, the organization with which Kristen Beaton was employed, told LaFlamme on Tuesday that she has had “several conversations” with Nick. She acknowledged the limited resources available during the pandemic.
“The situation … across Canada and around the world is that there is very limited supply, but we have been complying all along with public health standards and guidelines,” Poirier said.
“The other thing that we've said to reassure staff is that if they go into a home where they do not feel that they have the appropriate PPE, that they are to contact their management and we will send someone else or we will divert them to do something else where they will feel safe. Safety is our primary concern for our front-line staff.”
Health Minister Patty Hajdu addressed the interview on Tuesday, saying that the federal government has been supporting the provinces and territories to procure equipment.
“Obviously my heart is with Mr. Beaton in this terrible time of loss,” she said. “I will say to Mr. Beaton that we all have to redouble our efforts so that there aren’t stories of people that have to reuse masks.”
Nick Beaton said that shortly before his wife died, the couple had heard about the rampage happening several kilometres away in Portapique, N.S.
“Me and Kristen laid in bed the night before and watched him in Portapique, reigning terror on people,” he said.
“We woke up (Sunday) morning and we just assumed it was over.”
That morning, Kristen was on her way to the home of “one of her favourite clients,” Beaton said. “If I had known he was on the loose, I would have not let my wife leave the house that day.”
An extensive investigation is underway as families seek answers to many questions following the hours-long rampage. Among the questions is why the province’s emergency alert system, which has been employed for COVID-19-related messaging, wasn’t used in this case. The RCMP instead opted to use Twitter over the course of the shooting spree.
“I don’t use Twitter, and I don’t know anyone that does use Twitter,” he told CTV News. “This gunman (was) going around… burning houses and taking lives… and there’s no warning. Everyone was under the assumption that it was taken care of in Portapique.”
At some point after his wife left their home that morning, Nick Beaton learned police were still in pursuit of the shooter. He told CTV News that he spoke to her on the phone just minutes before her life was taken, he believes, to tell her where the suspect was last seen. At the time, he didn’t know that the shooter was posing as an RCMP officer. He sent her a picture of the suspect that had been shared online and warned her that if she saw a suspicious vehicle or someone hitchhiking, to avoid them and keep driving.
“She never read my next text message,” he said.
Kristen Beaton was killed by Wortman, who was later shot dead by police at a gas station north of Halifax.
She is survived by her husband and their three-year-old son, Dax. During his interview, Nick Beaton said his wife was pregnant with another child. They had planned to tell their families about the pregnancy this week while she had some time off work.
“Our son Daxton was going to wear a shirt and let everybody know,” he said.
Instead, the boy learned that his mother won’t be coming home.
Nick Beaton said that he waited for his son to ask before he told him. The father and son often spend time to themselves because of Kristen’s work schedule, so her absence may have seemed normal to Dax at first. When the boy finally asked, he told him that his mother was “in heaven” with other family members.
A GoFundMe page in Kristen Beaton’s memory has already raised more than $58,000 for the family as of Wednesday morning.
The page was started by family friend Greg Johnston, who told CTV News that he “wanted to do something to help,” when he heard about the tragedy.
Johnston says he didn’t know Kristen Beaton well, but has known Nick since he was a child.
In an interview with CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday, Johnston said he was a long-time friend of Nick Beaton’s dad, who died of cancer about 15 years ago. At the same time, Johnston’s sister’s husband also died of cancer.
He says he created the fundraiser because he didn’t want Beaton and his son to have the financial worries that can come with a sudden crisis like this.
“Nick being Nick … he’s not always the type of guy who … asks for help,” Johnston said. “He’s a pretty humble guy."
Johnston said he is grateful so many people have come together to support his friend and Kristen.
“[The fundraiser] is a testimonial to who Kristen was as a person. I wish I had known her better,” he said. “When I read the sentiments from the GoFundMe page, it’s amazing.”
Beaton said that his wife is a loss that “cannot be replaced.”
“I want (Canadians) to know, and I want my son to know for his entire life that she loved him more than I’ve seen anybody love anything… Amazing mother, amazing wife. I didn’t realize how good I had it, how much she did in between working these hours, the stress of the COVID, caring about clients.”
With files from CTVNews.ca's Alexandra Mae Jones and Brooklyn Neustaeter