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Lionel Desmond inquiry: Judge calls for another round of final submissions next week

HALIFAX — The Nova Scotia inquiry that investigated why former Canadian soldier Lionel Desmond fatally shot three family members and himself in 2017 is set to resume for at least one day of hearings next week.

In June 2018, the provincial government appointed provincial court judge Warren Zimmer to lead the fatality inquiry, but Zimmer was fired on June 30 of this year after Premier Tim Houston decided Zimmer was taking too long to complete his final report.

Zimmer was later replaced by provincial court Judge Paul Scovil, who has released a statement saying the inquiry would resume next Tuesday to hear from participating lawyers.

The statement says Scovil has been reviewing transcripts, archived video and hundreds of exhibits introduced during 56 days of hearings, which wrapped up with closing submissions in April 2022.

Scovil says participating lawyers will be given the opportunity to again make final submissions before he prepares his report and recommendations, though he does not include a deadline.

During the previous hearings, the inquiry learned that Desmond served in Afghanistan as a rifleman in 2007 and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression in 2011.

Despite four years of treatment while he was in the military, the inquiry heard that he required more help when he was medically discharged in 2015. Though he took part in a residential treatment program in Montreal in 2016, his discharge summary concluded he was still a desperately ill man.

During the last four months of his life, Desmond received no therapeutic treatment, mainly because provincial heath-care professionals could not gain access to his federal medical files.

On Jan. 3, 2017, Desmond legally purchased a semi-automatic rifle and used it later that day to kill his 31-year-old wife, Shanna; their 10-year-old daughter, Aaliyah; and his 52-year-old mother, Brenda. Their bodies were found the next day inside the family’s home in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 5, 2023.

The Canadian Press