Ministerial Question Period: Tragedy in Nova Scotia

By: The Hon. Jane Cordy

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Parliament Hill from across the Ottawa River, Ottawa

Hon. Jane Cordy: Thank you, minister. I’m asking this question on behalf of my colleague Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard.

Minister, seven years after the Lionel Desmond tragedy, we now have the Desmond Fatality Inquiry to lead the way to healing for this community. My question today was not covered by the inquiry.

The murder-suicide occurred in the Borden family home in Guysborough — the family home of Shanna, Lionel Desmond’s wife. The Borden family relives this nightmare in that house every single day. As human rights advocate Rubin Coward aptly stated, “Nobody can heal in the environment where the harm took place.” The Borden family is pleading for help, minister, to move out of this house. Does Veterans Affairs plan on helping this veteran’s family?

Hon. Ginette Petitpas Taylor, P.C., M.P., Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence: Thank you so much for that question. The tragedy that happened on January 3, 2017, in Upper Big Tracadie, Nova Scotia, is nothing short of an absolute tragedy. The community, the province and the country as a whole are devastated.

As a result, the Province of Nova Scotia launched an inquiry, and, just last month, we received the recommendations of that report. The judge in question prepared a 572-page report that I have reviewed, and that our department continues to review. There were three appointed recommendations, if you will, for Veterans Affairs Canada. Our department will continue to review that and also work collaboratively with the Province of Nova Scotia.

Senator Cordy: Thank you very much. The follow-up is mine, minister, in case Senator Bernard is listening.

Minister, the inquiry didn’t address the family home because it was outside its mandate. I know you talked about everything that was reported, but that was not within its mandate.

Shanna’s parents still live in the house, but they want to leave because of the memories. It’s also challenging to sell the house because of the stigma. Compassion is needed for these survivors.

Lionel Desmond’s case fell through the cracks. Please help the family find some solace by giving them a new place to live. Can your department allow this request for the family so that it, too, doesn’t slip through the cracks?

Ms. Petitpas Taylor: Again, I certainly want to recognize the devastation that the Desmond family continues to endure. This is, as I’ve indicated, nothing short of a tragedy for everyone that’s involved.

With respect to the report, we are closely going over the recommendations that have been brought forward. I have also asked my officials to follow up with the family with respect to the situation at hand.

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