PORT HAWKESBURY: The Desmond Inquiry heard from three witnesses last week, one of whom had already testified last year.
According to Nova Scotia’s chief firearms officer, a potential federal regulation aimed at reducing intimate partner violence involving firearms should give investigators more than 30 days to evaluate a firearms licence suspension.
John Parkin, who previously testified on March 2, 2020, told the inquiry on September 13 investigators may require additional time to collect police reports, medical documentation, and conduct interviews, before making a viable decision.
The provincial fatality inquiry is investigating what caused Desmond to kill his 52-year-old mother Brenda, his 31-year-old wife Shanna, and his 10-year-old daughter Aaliyah, before turning the gun on himself, in the family’s Upper Big Tracadie home on January 3, 2017.
The inquiry’s mandate is to determine the circumstances under which these deaths occurred, as well as some specific issues including whether Desmond should have been able to retain or acquire a license enabling him to obtain or purchase a firearm.
Parkin testified communications with his colleagues in other provinces have improved since the triple murder suicide that rocked the small, rural community of Upper Big Tracadie.
The inquiry had previously heard retired Cpl. Lionel Desmond had a series of run-ins with police in both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, resulting in numerous delays and a misunderstanding in the transmission of firearms-related information between the two provinces.
At the time, to acquire police records, firearms officers were forced to file requests with an RCMP liaison officer, a procedure that may take weeks in itself.
Parkin told the inquiry firearms officers now have access to RCMP’s Police Reporting and Occurrence System through a police portal, however it doesn’t provide them with full access to the files.
“We have more access than we used to through the portal,” he said. “We can glean bits of information from that.”
The focus on September 14 was that of the complex issues of domestic violence, when the executive director of the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women testified those facing intimate partner violence are more at risk when they are leaving an abusive relationship.
“Your highest level of risk in a domestic violence relationship is when you try to leave the relationship; that is across the board,” Stephanie MacInnis-Langley testified. “Experts will tell you that, the highest risk is the moment you’ve indicated that the relationship is over.”
She told the inquiry in order to minimize domestic violence in Nova Scotia, the province must provide greater services to males who use violence in their relationships, including education and housing.
Standing Together, which unites government and community organizations to combat domestic abuse, has supported 80 initiatives since its launch in 2019, according to MacInnis-Langley. It provided approximately $950,000 in grants last year.
“I really feel we need to increase our approach and our resources and services for men who use violence,” she said. “It’s about helping young men understand the issues around masculinity and the need to find a path that doesn’t involve violence.”
While MacInnis-Langley declined to comment on Shanna Desmond’s situation, she did suggest that women in abusive relationships typically underestimate the level of danger in the relationship, which is why education and awareness is so important.
“And we have to remember that in domestic violence relationships, the partners aren’t always bad people. They’re not monsters,” she said. “They’ve got coping issues, control issues, power issues. They’re not 24/7 bad people.”
By the end of the day on September 15, there had been 46 days of testimony over the past 18 months and the inquiry had heard from 62 witnesses.