Inquiry Basis

On January 3, 2017, the bodies of Lionel Desmond, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, his wife Shanna, their 10-year-old daughter Aaliyah, and Mr. Desmond’s mother Brenda, were found in a home in Upper Big Tracadie, Guysborough County. It is believed that Mr. Desmond took the lives of his family members, before he took his own life.

Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Matt Bowes, reviewed the circumstances of the deaths and recommended to the Minister of Justice that an inquiry be held under the province’s Fatality Investigations Act.

A recommendation under Sec. 26 of the Act requires the Minister to order that an inquiry be held. With that order, the Chief Judge of the Provincial and Family Courts of Nova Scotia appoints a Judge to conduct the inquiry and make recommendations on any issues identified in the order of the Minister.  

Inquiry Mandate

The Inquiry’s mandate is to determine the circumstances under which these deaths occurred, as well as some specific issues, including, but not limited to whether Lionel Desmond and his family had access to the appropriate mental health and domestic violence intervention services leading up to their deaths. Read the complete Ministerial Order.

At the conclusion of the proceedings, The Honourable Warren K. Zimmer, the presiding Provincial Court Judge for the Inquiry, will file a written report with the Provincial Court containing his findings and recommendations. His report will not contain any findings of legal responsibility. A copy of the report will be provided to the Minister of Justice.

Inquiry Schedule

On May 21, 2019 the Desmond Inquiry began with opening remarks by the Presiding Judge followed by Applications to Participate at the fatality inquiry, pursuant to Section 36 of the Fatality Investigations Act. On May 23, 2019, an application seeking a funding recommendation was made by several of the parties. On November 18, 2019, the Inquiry reconvened and a request for an adjournment was made by several of the parties who had recently retained new counsel and requested additional time to prepare for the hearings. The adjournment was granted.

The first evidentiary session of the Inquiry is expected to reconvene on Monday, January 27, 2020 and continue through to Thursday, March 5, 2020. The Inquiry will sit Monday through Thursday of each week commencing at 10:00 a.m. Unless otherwise noted, the proceedings will be held at the Guysborough Municipal Building, 33 Pleasant Street, Guysborough, NS. The building will be open to media and the public starting at 8:30 a.m.

Participation in the Inquiry

The Fatality Investigations Act provides that a Crown attorney or counsel for the Minister shall appear at a fatality inquiry and may examine and cross-examine witnesses and present arguments and submissions.

The Act also sets out that participants include a personal representative of the deceased and any person who applies to the Judge before or during the inquiry and is declared by the Judge to be an interested person.

If you are interested in participating in the Inquiry proceedings, you must complete and submit an application form.

Applications can be submitted to the Antigonish Justice Centre, 11 James St., Antigonish, NS , faxed to 902-863-7479 or by e-mail at

Apply to participate