Desmond Inquiry

First session of Fatality Inquiry concludes

Lawyers reflect on initial testimony

By Katherine Murphy    
March 4 2020

GUYSBOROUGH – The first evidentiary session of the Desmond Fatality Inquiry laid bare the problematic lack of information-sharing between medical professionals who treated Cpl. Lionel Desmond before he shot his wife Shanna, mother Brenda and daughter Aaliyah before turning the gun on himself on Jan. 3, 2017.

Speaking with The Journal, lawyer Tara Miller, who represents Brenda Desmond and shares representation of Aaliyah Desmond, stated that in a tragedy like this, it’s never a single thing that goes wrong.

“What we are seeing, from my perspective, is a common theme throughout all the different agencies that would’ve touched Lionel and the family,” she said. “In hindsight, if we didn’t trump privacy over people’s safety, we probably wouldn’t be here.”

Adam Rodgers, representing Lionel Desmond in the Inquiry, also points to the lack of information-sharing in Desmond’s treatment.

“The evidence showed that he was treated quite well (at St. Martha’s). But the provincial system, and the people within it, were hampered very significantly by not having information from Veterans Affairs. So that has been, I think, the main thing we’ve learned in this session.”

Miller said a significant takeaway for her was evidence that showed Veterans Affairs knew Desmond was leaving a military treatment centre early, as well as where he was going. After leaving in August 2016, Desmond didn’t receive any therapeutic services from the Veterans Affairs medical system until a Dec. 2 meeting with a prospective counsellor.

“Any medical attention he did receive (up to that point) was driven by him,” she said.

The inquiry is scheduled to resume in May, when witnesses and records from the Veterans Affairs Operational Stress Injury Clinic program will be on the agenda. Desmond received in-patient treatment from OSI for several months before leaving the program early.

Rodgers says these records will be key to the inquiry. “He left early without a plan in place,” he said. “It seems, from what we’ve seen so far, that (Veterans Affairs) knew there were problems with him leaving early without a support plan.”

Miller said she hopes to learn from OSI about supports available to family members when veterans reintegrate into civilian society. “The family is a key part, I would suggest, of a veteran’s reintegration and plan.” She also wants to know what resources are available to family members, in terms of support and counselling.

The second evidentiary session of the Desmond Fatality Inquiry is scheduled to begin on May 18, 2020 at the Guysborough Municipal Building.