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Lionel Desmond fatality inquiry to resume next week after nearly a year of delays

Click to play video: 'Family says race and racism yet to be addressed in Lionel Desmond Inquiry' Family says race and racism yet to be addressed in Lionel Desmond Inquiry
The Desmond Fatality Inquiry wrapped up its first series of meetings in Guysborough, N.S., on Monday. But as Jesse Thomas reports, the family of Lionel Desmond says the issue of race and racism within the military ranks has yet to be addressed. – Mar 2, 2020

The inquiry into why a former soldier killed his family and himself in 2017 will resume after being adjourned for nearly a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fatality inquiry into Lionel Desmond will resume on Feb. 16 at a court in Port Hawkesbury, N.S.

The provincial fatality inquiry had originally started hearing testimony in January 2020 but was adjourned in March. Testimony was supposed to resume in May of that year but was delayed due to concerns of the pandemic.

Read more: Lionel Desmond inquiry to resume mid-February, barring technical delays

Lawyers representing the Desmond family have said the goal was to resume the inquiry in the summer or early fall but faced scheduling obstacles. The family has described the repeated delays as shameful and despicable.

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Now, four weeks have been set aside for the proceedings, with testimony expected to run from Tuesday to Fridays.

The pandemic has forced a number of changes to the inquiry.

Click to play video: 'Courtroom reserved for Lionel Desmond inquiry in November' Courtroom reserved for Lionel Desmond inquiry in November
Courtroom reserved for Lionel Desmond inquiry in November – Oct 28, 2020

Proceedings have been moved from a municipal building in Guysborough, N.S., to a larger courthouse in Port Hawkesbury — located approximately 60 kilometres to the northeast.

Although the Port Hawkesbury location is larger than the building in Guysborough, there will be restrictions on in-person access to the inquiry as a result of the pandemic. However, the court has now confirmed that proceedings will be livestreamed online.

On Jan. 3, 2017, the veteran of the war in Afghanistan used a semi-automatic rifle to fatally shoot his 31-year-old wife Shanna, their 10-year-old daughter Aaliyah and his mother Brenda Desmond, 52.

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He then turned the gun on himself in the family’s home in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S.

Read more: Desmond Fatality inquiry delayed again, family calls it shameful and despicable

The probe was first announced in December 2017 after Desmond’s twin sisters raised questions about the former infantryman’s inability to get adequate treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder after he was released from the military in 2015.

The inquiry has the mandate to determine the circumstances of the deaths as well as whether Desmond and his family had access to appropriate mental health and domestic violence services leading up to their deaths.

At the conclusion of the inquiry, Judge Warren Zimmer, who is presiding over the case, will report his findings and recommendations.

The report will not determine legal responsibility and a copy will be provided to Nova Scotia’s minister of justice.

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