HALIFAX – The public inquiry into the deaths of Lionel Desmond and his family will examine whether the troubled Afghanistan war veteran had access to mental health and domestic violence services – and whether he should have been able to buy a gun.
The 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.
The inquiry, promised by Nova Scotia last December, will examine whether Desmond had access to appropriate mental health services, and whether he and his family had access to domestic violence intervention services.
It will look at 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.
Desmond’s family members have said he did not get the help he needed from the federal Defence or Veterans Affairs departments.
Cassandra Desmond, who lost her mother, only brother and his entire family in the murder-suicide, said the hope is the inquiry brings lasting change to help prevent similar deaths.
The 27-year-old younger sister to Lionel Desmond said after a lengthy battle advocating for the inquiry, it will be emotional for her to attend the hearings, but she believes it will create an enduring legacy.
“This is going to be a break into the reality of all this for me. For the last year-and-a-half I’ve been battling over ? what went wrong and how are we going to get this inquiry done. I’ve been putting my own emotions and pain behind me,” she said.
“It’s going to be hard but at the end of the day it (the inquiry) is going to shed new light and it’s going to help another family not go what we’ve been going through.”
Dr. Matt Bowes, Nova Scotia’s chief medical examiner, had recommended a fatality inquiry after his review of the case.
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 next step in the inquiry process will be the announcement of a provincial court judge and designated Crown counsel to conduct the inquiry. That announcement is expected in the coming weeks,” a press release from the Nova Scotia Judiciary said.
Due to public interest, the judiciary said it’s also possible the inquiry will be live streamed, but that would need to be approved by the presiding judge.