Calls continue for probe of murdersuicide involving former Canadian soldier

first_imgHALIFAX – A suicide review may have been conducted after former Canadian soldier Lionel Desmond fatally shot his wife, daughter and mother before turning the gun on himself earlier this year, but Veterans Affairs Canada declined Tuesday to confirm what specific steps were taken in the wake of the horrific murder-suicide in rural Nova Scotia.“Suicide reviews are systematically carried out … when the department becomes aware of the tragic circumstances of a veteran suicide,” spokesman Zoltan Csepregi said in an email, adding that grief counselling is provided to family members when a veteran dies.“The department is legally bound to protect client privacy (and) confidentiality. Therefore, we cannot comment on any specific veteran’s care. This means we cannot even comment on whether or not the veteran was receiving health-care support … and whether the department has or has not reached out to the deceased’s family.”The department’s comments, which include a long list of broader measures taken to address suicide in the military, were issued a day after The Canadian Press confirmed the province’s medical examiner has recommended against conducting a fatality inquiry in the high-profile case.Meanwhile, the Department of National Defence also confirmed Monday that it will not be investigating what happened, saying it has no authority “to investigate the lives of retired members.”Desmond was discharged from the military in July 2015, having been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Afghanistan in 2007. Military sources say he had spent a year receiving treatment from a joint personnel support unit at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in central New Brunswick.However, family members have said the retired corporal did not receive the help he needed when he returned to his home in Upper Big Tracadie in northern Nova Scotia, where on Jan. 3 the 33-year-old veteran took his own life after shooting his 52-year-old mother Brenda, his wife Shanna, 31, and their 10-year-daughter Aaliyah.The Nova Scotia Health Authority has completed a “quality review” that looked into how he was treated by the province’s health-care system, but the report won’t be released to the public.Catherine Hartling, Shanna Desmond’s aunt, is continuing to push for some sort of public inquiry.“In order to move forward with some of these things, we have to understand what took place,” she told CTV News on Tuesday. “We want to find out what was at fault. Why didn’t Lionel receive the care that he was supposed to receive.”Scott Maxwell, executive director of Wounded Warriors Canada, said the non-profit group has been left to wonder why the province and the federal government have decided not to do more to ensure this kind of tragedy doesn’t happen again.“It’s something that has dumbfounded us,” said Maxwell, whose national group develops and delivers mental-health programs to ill and injured Canadian Armed Forces members, veterans, first responders and their families. “It seems very ‘case closed.’”However, Maxwell said he was surprised to note that the Defence Department openly admitted it had to improve its services for those transitioning to civilian life.Maxwell said his organization often deals with former military members who are struggling to cope as they make the transition from military to civilian life. Former soldiers, sailors and airmen released on medical discharges typically encounter a wildly complex process that leaves them frustrated, he said.“It’s a very isolating place,” he said. “It’s so important that members of the Canadian Forces are retained and not released until all the benefits and services are put in place … We can do a far better job in Canada in supporting the transition to civilian life.”As for the joint personnel support unit, Maxwell said Lionel Desmond would have been seeking help at a time when the unit was under fire for failing to live up to its mandate.The unit was supposed to help military members deal with mental and physical challenges before being returned to service, but Maxwell said it has evolved into something quite different.“What it has become is a means to slowly and inevitably release members of the Canadian Forces,” he said. “That simply was not what it was set up to do.”In its statement, Veterans Affairs said it is addressing suicide in the military and among veterans by joining National Defence in producing a suicide prevention strategy, which should be rolled out this fall.“It will inform the two departments on ways to improve assistance to vulnerable Canadian Armed Forces members and veterans by assuring better continuity of care and a more seamless transition from military to post-military life,” the statement said.The two departments are also working with Statistics Canada to determine suicide rates among veterans. Findings are expected by this December, and will be followed by annual updates.Veterans Affairs will also spend $147 million over the next six years to expand access to the Veteran Family Program for families of medically released veterans. And another $17.5 million will be spent over the next four years to establish a Centre of Excellence on PTSD.last_img

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