Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says he believes the responsibility for an inquiry into the death of Afghan war veteran Lionel Desmond and three of his family members rests with Ottawa.
McNeil made the comment in the legislature Wednesday in response to a question from Opposition Leader Jamie Baillie, who noted that Ottawa doesn’t seem interested in investigating the horrific crime.
Desmond shot and killed his mother, wife and daughter before taking his own life earlier this year in a rural community near Antigonish, N.S.
“We believe the responsibility for the inquiry rests with Ottawa,” McNeil said in the legislature.
He noted that the province’s Justice Department is examining its options, but he stopped short of saying he would call a provincial inquiry.
“I will commit that our department of justice … will continue down that road in the spirit of potentially looking at whether or not there should be an inquiry in our province and what role we would play with the national government,” he said.
Outside the house McNeil said that he wasn’t either ruling an inquiry in or out, as the provincial government waits for a report from the medical examiner.
When pressed by reporters he wouldn’t commit to calling one.
“There may be other steps that we as a province can take but it’s premature for me to make any of those assumptions until I finally see what we hear back from the investigation that’s ongoing,” McNeil said.
Desmond’s sisters, Cassandra and Diane Desmond, journeyed to Ottawa last week to get answers from federal officials but say they were largely ignored.
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Federal officials insisted the decision on whether to call an inquiry rests solely with the Nova Scotia medical examiner’s office.
Lionel Desmond, a former infantryman who served two tours in Afghanistan, fatally shot his mother Brenda, his wife Shanna and their 10-year-daughter Aaliyah in their home last January.
The tragedy gained national attention after relatives said he didn’t get the help he needed to deal with PTSD after he was forced from the military for medical reasons in 2015.
In Ottawa last week, a spokesman for Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan said the federal department had conducted its own internal review of the case, but hadn’t made the results public because of privacy concerns.
The renewed call for an inquiry from Desmond’s sisters came two weeks after Ottawa released a suicide prevention strategy aimed specifically at current and retired military personnel.