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Afghan war veteran, relatives killed killed to be investigated

Michael McDonald, Canadian Press

Posted on Sunday, November 17th, 2019 7:27 pm EST

HALIJAX – Nearly three years ago, Lionel Desmond – a deeply distressed Afghan military veteran diagnosed with PTSD – bought a rifle and headed to his modest home in rural Nova Scotia.

As the night fell on January 2, 2017, the retired 33-year-old entered the Upper Big Trakadi house and killed his mother, wife and young daughter before taking his own life.

On Monday, relatives, government officials and lawyers will gather at the municipal building near Gisboro, NS, to launch a mortality investigation that will try to determine what happened to Desmond and what could be done to Desmond. to prevent similar tragedies

"Desmond had a serious PTSD," said lawyer Adam Rogers, who represents Desmond Cassandra's sister – Desmond's personal estate representative.

"He tried to treat him 10 years in different ways, and none of that worked. He never found the answers. His family wants to find those answers for him and others."

Rogers said the investigation would begin with the opening of statements by the commissioner overseeing the investigation, Provincial Court Judge Warren Zimmer, followed by statements by various lawyers.

"There were different points when the system failed," said Rogers, who practices in Glasgow, NS but grew up in Gisborough. "He was returned to his community without proper support and without knowing how to deal with it."

The first witness to give evidence is expected to be Nova Scotia's chief medical examiner, Dr. Matt Bowes, the man who reviewed the circumstances of the deaths and recommended that an investigation be carried out under the province's Mortality Investigation Act.

The Government of Nova Scotia has promised an investigation in December 2017.

"Canadians need to pay attention to what's happening in Gisboro because these problems have not disappeared," Rogers said.

"There will still be soldiers who go into combat and come back with PTSD, come back to reintegrate with their families and deal with medical and social problems. We want to come up with better ways to handle such situations. is something that can affect all parts of the country. "

The investigation will be recalled that on January 3, 2017, Desmond entered his neat home near Upper Big Trakadi armed with a rifle he had purchased earlier that day. Moments later, he shot his wife, Janaana, 31, their 10-year-old daughter, Aliiah, and his 52-year-old mother Brenda – before turning his gun on himself.

In the months that followed, family members repeatedly said that Desmond – a veteran of two particularly violent tours of Afghanistan in 2007 – sought treatment for his mental illness and post-concussion.

However, they insisted he did not get the help he desperately needed.

Cassandra Desmond, who lost her mother in the suicide, only a brother and the entire family, said she hoped the investigation's recommendations would help prevent similar deaths.

She and her twin sister, Chantel, fought a lengthy public battle to persuade the government to investigate. They said Desmond's combat experience in Afghanistan had a profound effect on his personality.

After a discharge, he returned home in 2015, a shell of who he was. The nurses say his sense of humor faded, and he seemed defensive most of the time – as if he were still in the fight.

The investigation will examine whether Desmond had access to mental health and domestic violence services – and whether he should have been able to buy a rifle.

The investigation will also investigate whether the health and social service providers they were trained to recognize injuries from occupational stress or domestic violence.

Provincial officials will also be asked if they have faced restrictions in trying to gain access to Desmond's federal health records.

Bowes said the initial review of the case indicates a lack of co-operation between government agencies, saying "the interconnection between them all may be better".

Among those expected to testify in the coming weeks are representatives of the federal public prosecutor who will talk about Health Canada, Veterans Affairs, RHMP and the federal Department of Public Safety.

The Nova Scotia Attorney General's Office will talk about the inclusion of provincial departments of justice, health, education and community services, as well as the Nova Scotia Office of African Affairs and the Women's Status Advisory Council.

Zimmer will eventually submit a report containing his findings and recommendations. It will not contain findings of legal responsibility.

Mortality claims are rare in Nova Scotia. The last time the government called for such an investigation was in 2008.

This Canadian press report was first published on November 17, 2019.

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