Inquiry plans move to Port Hawkesbury

By Helen Murphy    
November 18 2020

GUYSBOROUGH – Lawyers involved with the Desmond Inquiry have been told that hearings will resume on February 16, 2021, in Port Hawkesbury. To date all sessions have been held at the Municipal Building in Guysborough.

Guysborough lawyer Adam Rodgers, counsel for Cassandra Desmond (representing the estate of Lionel Desmond), said lawyers received an update from Inquiry Commissioner, Judge Warren Zimmer, last week saying the inquiry will resume evidentiary hearings at the Justice Centre in Port Hawkesbury, 60 kilometres from Guysborough.

"Judge Zimmer advises that the sitting is expected to last four weeks, and will involve sittings on Tuesday-Friday each week," Rodgers told The Journal via email.

Asked about the move and resumption date on Monday, Nov. 16, Jennifer Stairs, spokesperson for the N.S. Judiciary told The Journal the inquiry is "not prepared to publicly confirm dates and other information until Judge Zimmer receives the remaining information he requires." Stairs said information provided to counsel last week "was for planning purposes only and would not be considered official until a news release goes out to the public."

As previously reported, the Dept. of Justice determined that the Municipal Building in Guysborough "cannot accommodate the number of people expected to participate in the Inquiry" given pandemic restrictions. Dept. spokesperson Heather Fairbairn said, "the Port Hawkesbury Justice Centre was identified by the Inquiry Judge as the preferred location. Court Services is working with the Inquiry Judge on any requirements that may be needed to support a move."

The inquiry did not consult with the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) about safety measures that could be taken to keep the inquiry in Guysborough.

Evidentiary hearings in Guysborough began on Jan. 27, 2020 and adjourned on March 2, 2020. The inquiry had anticipated resuming hearings in late May; however, the resumption was put on hold due to the pandemic.