Port Hawkesbury, NS – The complex issue of domestic violence was the focus on Tuesday for investigation into why Lionel Desmond, a former Nova Scotia soldier, killed three family members and himself in 2017.

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Stephanie McInnis-Langley, executive director of the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, told Inquiry that those experiencing intimate partner violence are most at risk when they are about to leave an abusive relationship.

The investigation revealed that Desmond, who served in Afghanistan in 2007 and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder in 2011, fatally shot his wife, mother and 10-year-old daughter shortly after calling a doctor. and told it to his wife Shanna. She made it clear that she wanted a divorce.


McInnis-Langley testified, “Your highest level of risk in a domestic violence relationship is when you try to leave the relationship—that’s across the board.” “Experts will tell you that … the highest risk is the moment you indicated that the relationship is over.”

Several witnesses told interrogation that Desmond had admitted to arguing with his wife as part of a long-running conflict within their marriage. At the same time, she told health care providers that she had hit a table and at one point startled her daughter, but she denied repeatedly abusing her husband.

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One of the key orders of the provincial fatality investigation, which began hearings in January 2020, is to determine whether Desmond and his family had access to domestic violence prevention services.

McInnis-Langley told interrogation that it would be inappropriate for her to comment specifically on the Desmond family, partly because she was not familiar with their file.

Speaking in more general terms, she said that victims of domestic violence underestimate the level of danger they are facing.

At an earlier hearing, the investigation revealed that three hours before the murders, Shanna Desmond had called a community group that provides assistance to women and children experiencing domestic violence.

Nicole Mann, executive director of the Naomi Society in Antigonish, NS, told interrogation that she received a call from a woman who gave no indication that she was at risk.

Mann told interrogation on February 25, 2020, “He didn’t talk about any domestic violence.” “She was clear and straightforward. This person was in no way distressed or distraught …. There was nothing alarming in the call.”

Mann said that the woman, whom he later identified as Shanna Desmond, calmly asked how to obtain a peace bond, which is a type of court order used to prevent harm to a person. .

During the call, Shanna Desmond mentioned her 10-year-old daughter, and Mann asked about her safety and whether she was in danger of harm. “Her response to that was, ‘No,'” Mann said. She also asked Shanna Desmond whether the RCMP should be notified. Then, the answer was no.

During Tuesday’s hearing, McInnis-Langley said that women facing intimate partner violence are generally resolute in their resolve to correct the situation.

“There is some prejudice in the public that we (as women) should be able to manage everything except Mount Everest,” she said in interrogation.

“For any woman to ask for that kind of information – unless they’re in a situation where the police are in their living room and they’re in trouble – it would be very unusual for them to call and offer anything . Systematic Questions and Answers.”

According to provincial statistics, only one in four Nova Scotian women who experience spousal violence report it to the police, and only one in three reports it to a service agency.

McInnis-Langley noted that most women in abusive relationships usually focus on ending the violence rather than ending the relationship.

“If it involves children, if it involves finances, if it involves housing, it is difficult to leave a domestic violence relationship,” she said.

“And we have to remember that in domestic violence relationships, partners aren’t always the bad guys. They’re not monsters. They have coping issues, controlling issues, power issues. They’re bad 24/7 The people are not.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on September 14, 2021.