Lionel Desmond Investigation: Latest Evidence

More than five years after the Nova Scotia murders, a provincial commission of inquiry heard its latest witness Tuesday: the province’s chief of firearms.

John Parkingwho previously testified, had to answer additional questions regarding Mr. Desmond’s purchase of the semi-automatic rifle he used on January 3, 2017 to kill his wife, mother and daughter for ten years before turning the gun on himself.

The inquest, which heard its first witnesses in January 2020, learned on Tuesday that the former infantryman’s firearms license was suspended in December 2015 after he was arrested in New Brunswick due to the mental health of this provinces.

At the time, his wife Shanna, then based in Nova Scotia, notified the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) that she had received reports indicating that the former corporal, who was diagnosed with major depression in 2011 and was suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, contemplated suicide at their home in Oromocto, New Brunswick.

An old photo taken from Facebook shows Shanna and Lionel Desmond with their daughter Alia when she was still a baby.

Photo: Facebook

However, Mr. Desmond’s firearms license was reinstated in May 2016 after a New Brunswick doctor signed a medical clearance form confirming that he was non-suicidal and stable.

He expressed his emotions easily and had a reason to live., – said Dr. Paul Smith at the inquest on February 24, 2020. At the time, the doctor said he had no idea his recommendation would carry so much weight. In fact, he expected that the permit would then be rejected by the authorities. Royal Canadian Mounted Police or another instance.

Unstable state

At the time Dr. Smith signed the form, Mr. Desmond was also receiving help from medical professionals at the Fredericton Stress Injury Clinic. These specialists determined that his mental state had become so unstable that he required specialized care at a Montreal clinic.

Dr. Anthony Njoku, a psychiatrist at the Fredericton Stress Injury Operational Clinic, told investigators in February 2020 that Mr. Desmond was irritable, distracted, frustrated, and prone to intrusive thoughts that forced him to experience traumatic events as a soldier. in Afghanistan. in 2007.

A group photo of soldiers in uniform in Afghanistan with weapons in their hands.

Lionel Desmond (bottom right) took part in the 2007 Canadian Forces mission to Afghanistan.

Photo: The Canadian Press / Photo courtesy of Trev Bangay

The psychiatrist, however, said that the ex-serviceman was actually more worried about his wife, whom he suspected of embezzling money and conspiring against him, which the psychiatrist described as bordering on delusional. Dr. Njoku said he could not determine whether Desmond’s anger towards his wife was a result of his post-traumatic stress disorder or a by-product of the breakup.

At the time, this information was not released to federal or provincial firearms officials as it was not required of the Fredericton Clinic.

Mandatory declaration?

The judge of the regional court, who presided over the inquiry, Warren Zimmer suggested Mr. Parkingon Tuesday that health care providers should be required, or at least encouraged, to notify authorities when they discover a deterioration in the mental health of firearms licensed patients.

Judge Zimmer noted that health officials in some provinces are now required to alert authorities when drivers-only patients have a mental or physical illness that could make them dangerous on the roads.

There are provinces that make it mandatory and it doesn’t seem to cause much controversy because it’s mandatory.noted Mr. Zimmer, responding to the concerns expressed earlier by Mr. Parking.

The judge hinted that his final report, expected this fall, will include recommending that governments pass legislation that would require medical professionals to disclose such information to gun officials, including updates on medications and relationships with relatives.

It is important to get this information into your own hands so that you can decide how to proceed.– said the judge.

Work in silos

At a previous hearing, the judge indicated that state and federal officials appeared to be acting in elevators which prevented them from sharing key information.

For example, health and firearms officials in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick testified that they did not know the extent of Mr. Desmond’s mental illness because they did not have access to his federal records.

Among other things, the investigation is also trying to determine whether the Desmond family had access to mental health and domestic violence prevention services. The investigation also aims to determine whether the healthcare professionals who met with Mr. Desmond were properly trained to identify mental health issues and domestic violence.

Lawyers involved in the investigation must submit their closing arguments within a week of April 18.

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