Desmond inquiry: Veterans Affairs submits internal review after initial refusal

·2 min read

PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. — Veterans Affairs Canada initially refused to disclose to an inquiry its internal review of how it handled the tragic case of an Afghanistan war veteran who fatally shot three family members and himself in 2017.

The provincial fatality inquiry investigating the case of Lionel Desmond, which resumed today, was told April 14 by federal lawyers that the review was beyond the inquiry's terms of reference — an assertion that raised questions about the inquiry's ability to determine what happened and how to prevent similar tragedies.

A spokesman for the federal department said today that after recent discussions with the judge leading the inquiry and with inquiry counsel, the review was shared "early this week."

The inquiry has heard Desmond served as a combat soldier in 2007, was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression in 2011 and received more than four years of treatment before he left the Canadian Armed Forces in 2015.

At that point, Desmond's care became the responsibility of Veterans Affairs Canada, which appointed a case manager to help him overcome barriers to his mental and physical wellness.

The inquiry was supposed to hear today from that case manager, Marie-Paule Doucette, but her appearance was postponed.

Doucette's evidence is considered key to the hearings because the inquiry has yet to hear from any Veterans Affairs employee who dealt directly with Desmond.

Instead, the inquiry heard testimony today from a senior manager in the department, Lee Marshall, who provided details about various protocols and services.

Marshall confirmed that it took Veterans Affairs six months to appoint Doucette as Desmond's case manager — a time lag he agreed was unacceptable.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2021.

The Canadian Press