Inquiry to probe Desmond’s access to mental health, domestic violence services

HALIFAX — A public inquiry into the deaths of Lionel Desmond and his family will examine the troubled Afghanistan war veteran’s access to mental health and domestic violence services — as well as how he managed to keep his guns.

A list of seven legally binding terms of reference for the judicial fatality inquiry were released Thursday, more than a year after Desmond fatally shot himself and his mother, wife and 10-year-old daughter in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S.

Desmond, 33, was diagnosed with PTSD after two harrowing tours in Afghanistan in 2007.

Justice Minister Mark Furey said the Nova Scotia government hopes to learn more precisely the circumstances of the deaths, and “more importantly, how can we prevent these circumstances from happening again.”

There were concerns, however, that Veterans Affairs and the Defence Department won’t be formally compelled to testify on wider areas of federal jurisdiction about the troubled experiences of many Afghan vets.

The rare probe will be the first in the province in over a decade. The date for the inquiry has not been announced, but it will be held in Guysborough, N.S., near the community where the deaths occurred.

The document calls for the inquiry to review whether Desmond had access to appropriate mental health services, and whether he and his family had access to domestic violence intervention services.

It also says the judge should consider whether health care and social services providers who interacted with Desmond were trained to recognize occupational stress injuries or domestic violence, and also whether Desmond should have been able to retain, or obtain, a licence enabling him to purchase a firearm.

In addition, the final report is to consider if there were any restrictions in the flow of Veteran Affairs or Defence records to provincial health personnel.

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