Inquiry announced into Nova Scotia murder-suicides by former soldier

Inquiry announced into Nova Scotia murder-suicides by former soldier

The Nova Scotia government has announced an inquiry into the deaths of a former soldier and his family nearly a year after the tragic murder-suicides sent shock waves across the country.

Dr. Matt Bowes, the province’s chief medical examiner, said Thursday he is recommending an inquiry into the Jan. 3, 2017, deaths in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S.

Retired corporal Lionel Desmond shot his wife Shanna, 31, their 10-year-daughter Aaliyah and his 52-year-old mother Brenda, before turning the gun on himself.

The Justice Department said in a news release the inquiry’s terms of reference, and the judge who will oversee it, will be announced in the new year.

Desmond had been diagnosed with PTSD and post-concussion disorder after completing two difficult tours in Afghanistan in 2007. Two of Desmond’s sisters, twins Chantel and Cassandra, have led a high-profile campaign calling for an inquiry.

“There have been many questions raised by the family and members of the community relating to how this tragedy could have happened and whether anything could have been done to prevent these deaths,” Bowes said in a statement Thursday.

“I have reflected carefully on this case, I have reviewed the circumstances of these deaths, and I have had the privilege of speaking with some members of the Desmond family. I believe that an inquiry could help us to learn from this tragedy and, in so doing, I am hopeful that we may prevent future deaths in similar circumstances.”

Trev Bungay, a retired soldier who served in Afghanistan with Desmond, questioned why it took almost a year to recommend an inquiry into the horrific murder-suicides.

“It’s about time,” he said in an interview from Fredericton, N.B., adding that Ottawa and the province “wasted a lot of time blaming each other and trying to figure out whose fault it was.”

Still, Bungay said he’s hopeful the inquiry will provide some badly needed answers for the family, as well as ensure better services are in place for veterans in the future.

“At least the family can have some sort of closure. For them this has been a nightmare,” he said. “They want answers and this is how to get them and more importantly how to stop this from ever happening again.”

Such investigations are rare in the province. The last time a fatality inquiry was held in Nova Scotia was almost 10 years ago.

“Our thoughts continue to be with the family at this difficult time,” Justice Minister Mark Furey said in a statement. “I thank Dr. Bowes for his review of this matter and will be acting on his recommendation in the new year.”

Family members say Desmond was a radically changed man when he was medically discharged, and returned home to Upper Big Tracadie in 2015. They say his outgoing sense of humour had dimmed and, more importantly, he seemed withdrawn and in a defensive posture much of the time, as if he was still in combat mode.

Within hours of the killings, relatives came forward to complain Desmond did not get the help he needed to cope with civilian life, and they demanded a public inquiry to determine what went wrong and how to prevent similar tragedies.

Dr. John Butt, the former medical examiner for both Nova Scotia and Alberta, had called for an inquiry. And several veterans groups and individuals have also come forward to call for action, including Vets Canada and Wounded Warriors Canada.

Veterans’ advocate Peter Stoffer said there are several questions the inquiry will need to address.

The former Nova Scotia NDP MP said the inquiry will need to examine Desmond’s transition from military to civilian life, including gaps in services provided by Veterans Affairs Canada and the province.

“The number one recommendation would be that nobody leaves the military or for that matter the RCMP until all support systems are in place,” he said. ”The services need to be in place before the uniform comes off.”

Stoffer added that the inquiry must be open and inclusive.

“It should have access to all the information that it asks for in order to determine, if it’s possible, what happened and where lessons can be learned so that this tragedy will not happen again,” he said. ”I’m just hoping at the end of the day the inquiry will provide some of the answers the family is asking for to give them some comfort and most importantly give them some closure.”

More than 130 serving military personnel have taken their own lives since 2010, according to National Defence.

In October, Ottawa promised to improve support for military personnel through a new suicide prevention strategy, which focuses on easing the transition from a military career to civilian life.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

If you're heading out to the West Country have a plan in case things go wrong, says Clearwater Regional Fire Rescue Services fire chief Steve Debienne.
(Photo from CRFRS Facebook)
West Country visitors should have an emergency plan: regional fire chief

Cellphones can’t be relied on in many back country areas

Rode
Sarcevic leads an impressive list of additions to RDC Kings soccer

In 2019 the RDC Kings soccer program took a major step forward… Continue reading

The Red Deer PCN Women's Fun Run will take on a different look this weekend with rising COVID-19 numbers.
Women’s Fun Run goes ahead this weekend in Red Deer

With new public health measures in place because of rising COVID-19 case… Continue reading

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw asked Albertans to limit travel throughout the province as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer nears 900 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports additional 2,211 COVID-19 cases

David Eggen, the NDP’s advanced education critic, said the UCP government has been focused on cutting funding to post-secondary institutions across Alberta. (Contributed photo)
NDP worry new status for Red Deer College doesn’t mean more funding

This week the province announced that RDC will become a polytechnic institute

Alberta Health Services locked the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror on Wednesday morning after owner Christopher Scott refused to comply with health orders. (Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff)
UPDATED: AHS shuts down Whistle Stop Cafe for defying health orders

Justice minister promises to get tough with those ignoring public health orders

Wizards beat Raptors in OT, Toronto playoff bid nearly over

Wizards beat Raptors in OT, Toronto playoff bid nearly over

Toronto Blue Jays' Teoscar Hernandez (37) hits a single to drive in two runs against the Oakland Athletics during the sixth inning of a baseball game in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Grichuk drives in 5, Jays beat A’s 10-4 for series split

Grichuk drives in 5, Jays beat A’s 10-4 for series split

Canada's Sports Hall of Fame 2019 inductee Jayna Hefford speaks in Toronto on Wednesday, October 23, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Three Canadian teams to play in women’s hockey Dream Gap Tour in Calgary

Three Canadian teams to play in women’s hockey Dream Gap Tour in Calgary

Rugby Canada says some members of women’s sevens team have tested positive for COVID

Rugby Canada says some members of women’s sevens team have tested positive for COVID

Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson, centre, makes a shot as lead Briane Meilleur, left, and second Shannon Birchard sweep against Denmark at the Women's World Curling Championship in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, May 6, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Einarson’s five-game win streak ends with loss to Japan at world curling playdowns

Einarson’s five-game win streak ends with loss to Japan at world curling playdowns

FILE - In this Feb. 24, 2020, photo, the Olympics rings are reflected on the window of a hotel restaurant as a server with a mask sets up a table, in the Odaiba section of Tokyo. The vaccine rollout in Japan has been very slow with less than 1% vaccinated. This of course is spilling over to concerns about the postponed Tokyo Olympics that open in just over three months.(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
Canadian athletes, coaches applaud news of vaccine doses ahead of Tokyo

Canadian athletes, coaches applaud news of vaccine doses ahead of Tokyo

Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals pressed to ease access to EI parental leave to help unemployed moms

Liberals pressed to ease access to EI parental leave to help unemployed moms

Katie Telford, Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, appears as a witness via videoconference during a House of Commons finance committee in Ottawa, Thursday, July 30, 2020. The Canadian Press has learned that Katie Telford has written members of the defence committee inquiry into allegations of sexual misconduct against Canada's former top military commander, offering to testify at their meeting Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
PM’s chief of staff offers to testify on Vance sexual misconduct allegations

PM’s chief of staff offers to testify on Vance sexual misconduct allegations

Most Read