The long-awaited inquiry into the deaths of the Desmond family is about to get underway next week in a courtroom in the Guysborough municipal building.
Lionel Desmond, an Afghan war veteran, killed his wife Shanna, 10-year-old daughter Aaliyah, and his mother Brenda before killing himself. Their bodies were found in their family home in Upper Big Traccadie on Jan, 3, 2017.
Over the next three weeks, a fatality inquiry will look into the life of Lionel Desmond and what drove the former Canadian soldier, who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to commit an apparent murder-suicide.
Ever since the tragedy, the family has lived through the pain and waiting for the public hearing, with hopes of answers and recommendations being found.
“As hard as it is going to be to have to relive this tragedy over and over again, for the next three weeks …. it’s a true blessing to know that my brother’s voice and his story is going to be told and be heard,” said Cassandra Desmond.
“Hopefully (the inquiry) will be able to put the proper recommendations in place and those things that are going to be seen through, are properly put in place, so no other family and no other veteran is going to have to go through what my family has gone through.”
Dr. Matt Bowes, Nova Scotia’s chief medical examiner, reviewed the evidence surrounding the deaths and eventually recommended to the minister of justice that a fatality inquiry be held, something the Desmond family had long been pushing for.
The inquiry’s mandate will be to try and determine the cause and circumstances surrounding the deaths, while addressing issues specific to mental health and whether Lionel Desmond had proper access to care, including domestic violence intervention services.
Retired Canadian Forces Sgt. David MacLeod, who is disabled and also lives with PTSD from his service, submitted a written statement to Judge Warren Zimmer. MacLeod says the hearings will have an impact across Canada.
“If Judge Zimmer looks at this in such a way, that he feels there’s more work that needs to be done or can be done or should have been done to prevent this very tragic event, then that will be used throughout the country by veterans and veteran advocates to encourage their provinces to make the changes to avoid unnecessary deaths,” said MacLeod.
The Desmond fatality inquiry will be live-streamed and at the conclusion, presiding judge Zimmer will file a written report with the provincial court, containing his findings and recommendations.
The inquiry is not a trial. There is no legal charges pending and it’s only being conducted to better understand how this tragedy occurred.