Doctor doubted Desmond would get firearms approval, signed off anyway

By Katherine Murphy    
February 26 2020

GUYSBOROUGH – In the comment section of Cpl. Lionel Desmond’s application to have his firearms licence reinstated, Dr. Paul Smith wrote: “not suicidal, stable,” adding he had no concerns about the former soldier, who suffered from PTSD, obtaining a firearm. As previously reported, Desmond applied for the reinstatement of his licence following the seizure of his rifles in November of 2015.

The N.B. doctor's long-awaited testimony in the Desmond Fatality Inquiry got underway on Monday, Feb. 24, as he faced a full day of questioning from inquiry lawyer Shane Russell. The inquiry learned that Desmond, while living in Oromocto, NB, had a check-up appointment in Feb. 2016 with Smith, and showed up with a medical form for his doctor to complete, a requirement to receive his gun licence.

Lawyer Tom Macdonald, representing the Borden family, asked Dr. Smith if he understood what he was signing was for the reinstatement of a licence that was at the time under review by the N.B. Chief Firearms Officer. Dr. Smith said he did not, he thought it was a simple renewal application.

Based in Fredericton, Smith had been treating Desmond with cannabis for his PTSD symptoms, a process that started in July 2015. In his practice, Smith said he depends on "witnesses" to report on a patient's progress. Shanna Desmond, Lionel’s wife, agreed to fill that role.

Shanna contacted Smith on Nov. 18, 2015 to report that her husband was "angry" and "manic," he said. In Dec., Smith discussed the incident with Lionel, and over the phone, Smith could hear that he was upset.

“The only thing he was stressed out about was the money, from what I gather," Smith said. “I didn’t think their money affairs were any of my business.”

Dr. Smith didn’t know that RCMP had been involved with Desmond and his family in N.S. multiple times in Nov. 2015, and when Desmond arrived at his office three months later, he gave him the medical go-ahead to receive his firearms licence, as part of the application process.

Yet even without the seizure information, Dr. Smith reported that at their Feb. 2016 meeting he told Desmond, “I highly doubt you’ll get this application (approved).” In his testimony, Dr. Smith reduced his role as Desmond’s physician to "just one link" in the chain of decision-making regarding the fate of Desmond’s licence.

“I didn’t think I was the final decision-maker here.”

Although he signed off on Desmond’s medical form, the doctor testified that “I was almost expecting him to be turned down. I was almost expecting that I would hear from (the Firearms Office).”