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Vet with PTSD from Afgan, kills 3 family members and himself

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Veterans Affairs Minister won't comment on possible probe into veteran’s triple murder-suicide

Post by Guest on Sat 23 Sep 2017, 07:29

Veterans Affairs Minister won't comment on possible probe into veteran’s triple murder-suicide

Wilfred Desmond holds a framed photo of his grandson Lionel Desmond in his home in Lincolnville, N.S. in January.

Sept 22, 2017

The new Minister of Veterans Affairs says the government has taken the triple murder-suicide by an Afghanistan war veteran "very seriously," but he would not say whether he believes a fatality inquiry should be called to learn from the tragedy.

Minister Seamus O'Regan, appointed to the veterans' role nearly a month ago, spoke on Friday about the federal government's efforts to improve the support offered to seriously ill and wounded soldiers who are slated for release. About 10,000 military members are discharged every year and one-third of them struggle to adjust to life outside the Canadian Armed Forces, government research shows. Some vets also grapple with suicidal thoughts.

"Tragically, the taking of one's own life has become all too frequent," Mr. O'Regan told a group of senior military health officials from Canada and several other countries gathered in Toronto for a conference ahead of the Invictus Games. "We've done a remarkably good job at professionalizing recruitment and training while they're in service. We have to do as good of a job now preparing them for civilian life coming out."

Afghanistan war veteran Lionel Desmond was out of the army for just 18 months when he gunned down his daughter, wife and mother before killing himself in their home in the rural Nova Scotia community of Upper Big Tracadie in early January. An infantryman with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment in Gagetown, N.B., Mr. Desmond, 33, was struggling to overcome severe post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Relatives and veterans' advocates held a rally near Antigonish, N.S., last weekend to call for better support for mentally ill vets and to press for a public probe to examine the care that Mr. Desmond received while in the military and after his release.

The Nova Scotia chief medical examiner is still weighing whether to recommend a fatality inquiry, a spokesman with the province's Justice Department said. The National Defence Act also gives Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan the authority to order a military board of inquiry into such a tragedy, but no commitment has been made.

Asked whether he believes a fatality inquiry is needed, Mr. O'Regan told The Globe and Mail that he didn't want to comment on the Desmond case.

"This is obviously a very serious case and one that we have taken very seriously, but I have no further comment right now," said Mr. O'Regan, who is also the associate minister of National Defence.

Forensic pathologist John Butt, who formerly served as chief medical examiner in Nova Scotia and Alberta, said a fatality inquiry should be held in the suicide of Mr. Desmond and the murders of his wife, Shanna Desmond, their 10-year-old daughter, Aaliyah, and his mother, Brenda Desmond.

"I do think there are issues here for the public to understand," Dr. Butt told The Globe. "What type of support was available here?"

An inquiry could shed light on changes that are needed in both the provincial and military health systems and in the services offered by Veterans Affairs. A fatality inquiry was held in Alberta last year to examine the suicide of Corporal Shaun Collins, who had completed two Afghanistan tours. A provincial court judge found that the military had several opportunities to prevent or reduce the suicide risk for the Edmonton soldier. Mr. Collins, 27, who suffered from severe PTSD, hanged himself in a military cell on March 11, 2011.

A continuing Globe investigation has found that more than 70 Canadian soldiers and veterans who served on the Afghanistan mission have killed themselves after returning home. Suicide is a complex phenomenon and, often, many factors are involved, such as alcohol abuse, financial troubles and relationship breakdowns.

Veterans Affairs and National Defence have been working on a joint suicide-prevention strategy, which Mr. O'Regan said is expected to be released in the next few weeks. He told the conference that the strategy's goals are to build resilience in military members and veterans, reduce suicide risk and increase support to those who are in crisis and thinking about ending their lives.

He said the two departments are also focused on making sure soldiers have all their disability and financial benefits in place before their military discharge.

"We want the Canadian Armed Forces members to begin the new chapter of their lives with the support and services they need to maintain wellness, feel respected and know that they are being properly supported," Mr. O'Regan said on the eve of the Invictus Games, which begin Saturday.

Created three years ago by Prince Harry, the Games bring together wounded, ill and injured military personnel and veterans from around the world for a week of sports competition. More than 500 athletes are competing, including 90 from Canada.


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We owe veterans more

Post by Guest on Tue 19 Sep 2017, 07:49

We owe veterans more

September 19, 2017

More can be done to help veterans suffering from PTSD, such as Lionel Desmond.

For 12 long years, Canada sent men and women serving in this country’s armed forces on various military missions to Afghanistan.

Three-and-a-half years after the Canadian flag was formally lowered in Kabul in March, 2014, ending this country’s official involvement in what’s still a war zone, the aftershocks — in the thousands of veterans collecting disability benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — continue to be heard across the nation.

There’s no question Ottawa has stepped up efforts in recent years to improve mental health supports for both those now serving and veterans, although it has still not been nearly enough.

More help was promised in the federal budget last spring, including investing — beginning in 2018-19 — $17.5 million over four years to create a centre of excellence on PTSD and related mental health disorders.

This summer, the Canadian Forces accepted all 11 recomendations of an expert panel reviewing the military’s mental health programs, including hiring a suicide-prevention co-ordinator.

The military is reportedly working with Veterans Affairs on a joint suicide-prevention strategy to be rolled out this fall.

Canada’s shame is that it’s taken this long to attempt to do right by the men and women this country put into harm’s way.

And despite what’s been announced, more can be done.

We’d start by echoing what we and many others have long called for — a fatality inquiry into the case of Lionel Desmond, the 33-year-old Afghan war veteran suffering from PTSD who last January killed his mother, Brenda, 52, wife, Shanna, 31, and daughter Aaliyah, 10, at their home in Upper Tracadie before committing suicide.

If the province won’t call such an inquest, the federal government — to underline its seriousness in tackling the issue of PTSD among veterans — should strike its own public inquiry into the Desmond case and other suicides linked to the mission in Afghanistan.

No stone should be left unturned in learning more about the mental scars left by that conflict. Such an inquiry could suggest new answers in terms of what still needs to be done.

Canada owes its serving men and women, and its veterans, that much.


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Lionel Desmond, other veterans with PTSD ‘spit out’ by JPSU

Post by Guest on Sun 17 Sep 2017, 16:08

Lionel Desmond, other veterans with PTSD ‘spit out’ by JPSU

Published September 17, 2017

Virginia Shaw, who asked not to have her picture taken, wore her Canadian Forces Memorial Cross to a rally in St. Andrews on Saturday held by the family of Lionel Desmond to raise awareness about post traumatic stress disorder. Shaw’s husband committed suicide in 2014 after a long struggle with the illness. (Aaron Beswick/The Chronicle Herald)

Ten-year-old Aaliyah Desmond was killed by her father.

When Lionel Desmond entered his mobile home in Upper Big Tracadie with a rifle in January, he also killed his wife, Shanna Desmond, and mother, Brenda Desmond.

In the wake of the horror of that Guysborough County night, the media descended on Upper Big Tracadie and a debate began in columns and televised interviews: Does blaming his post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) cloud absolve Desmond from responsibility for an act of domestic violence?

“You have three females involved with a male, which just so happens to be the son, husband and father of the other victims found in that home deceased,” said Cassandra Desmond on Saturday, intentionally including her brother as one of the victims that night.

“But this was most definitely not a case of domestic violence.”

On Saturday, Cassandra held a rally at the St. Andrew’s and District Community Centre to raise awareness of PTSD and the failure of our institutions to rehabilitate veterans into civilian society.

There were more empty chairs than occupied ones at the event that drew 36 people, mostly members of the Desmond family and a handful of veterans, to discuss an issue this country began grappling with long before tormented soldiers like Lionel Desmond began returning home from the war in Afghanistan.

A month after Aaliyah’s birth in 2007, Desmond was deployed to Kandahar with the No. 9 Platoon of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment.

The rifleman, then 24, was in direct combat with the Taliban.

His other duties included carrying wounded on stretchers and collecting body parts of the dead.

Upon his return, Desmond was diagnosed with PTSD and eventually ended up in the Canadian Forces Joint Support Unit —- created in 2008 to help transition wounded soldiers back into civilian life.

“JPSU was more window dressing than something that could help people,” Barry Westholm told the small gathering on Saturday.

Westholm, a sergeant major in the unit, resigned after 31 years in the military in 2013 in a public protest against what he called the chronic underfunding and understaffing of the unit.

“JPSU was ill equipped to handle a person with Lionel Desmond’s needs and transition him out properly and then provide oversight,” said Westholm.

“I think very highly that that wasn’t done for Lionel Desmond because I know it wasn’t done for a series of great veterans who got tripped on their way through JPSU, spit out without transitional training and left to their own devices.”

Desmond’s immediate and extended family knew the war had changed him from the happy-go-lucky guy he once was.

“The impacts that affects me the most are the smells of dead bodies in front of me,” stated Lionel Desmond in a handwritten letter for a Veterans Appeal and Review Board review.

“. . . I seen dead/wounded people and now it plays back in my head; their memories are there. I love my country but how do I find the answer to all what’s haunting me. My wife and myself can’t even talk right to each other. I snap if anger is lashed out. I have been disturbed from sleeping and I have problems sleeping in the same bed as my wife. We have separate beds and I have trouble expressing myself.”

Despite his torment, Cassandra said that he did not submit his wife and daughter to domestic abuse.

“There is no record of my brother being violent toward Shanna,” said Cassandra.

“Anytime he would trigger an episode, he would be asked to leave. He would go willingly. He would not have to be taken out by police.”

To Cassandra, Lionel Desmond isn’t a murderer.

To her, he was a sick man who didn’t know what he was doing when he launched a raid on his family, as he had done on the Taliban in Afghanistan — approaching from the forest, slashing the tires to his wife’s truck in the driveway to prevent escape, stealing a key to the front door from his father’s truck and then going room to room.

Then he turned the gun on himself.

Shanna, who had recently become a nurse at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish, will never be able to give her opinion.

Neither will Aaliyah or Brenda, who was in the home for support.

At Saturday’s rally there was a woman who sat all alone, a woman who nearly met the same fate as Shanna.

In May 2014, Virginia Shaw was in trouble.

Her husband, Corporal Shane Porter, was beating her up and threatening to kill her in their Westville home.

“That was not the man I married,” said Shaw outside the rally.

“I had to let go when he

assaulted me. I called the police. He was removed and charged. I had to put my own safety and my children’s safety first.”

Porter, who had been diagnosed with PTSD for 16 years from his experiences serving in Afghanistan with the First Battalion, Nova Scotia Highlanders, and collecting bodies from the Swiss Air disaster, committed suicide three months later.

His hanging body was found by their 16 year-old daughter.

“This is my first outing,” said Shaw.

She also considers her husband a victim.

A man she forgives for involving her family in his own personal hell.

“The military tears you down and builds you up to a military way of living when you join,” said Shaw.

“When you get out, they should do the same. Tear you down and build you up to a civilian way of living. They never did that for my husband.”

For her part, Cassandra said the rally was not about laying blame for what happened to her family.

“Nothing good comes if we sit and continue to point blame,” she said.

“We are going to be the change we want to see.”


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Family of Lionel Desmond to hold rally Saturday, calling for change

Post by Guest on Sat 16 Sep 2017, 16:46

September 16, 2017

Family of Lionel Desmond to hold rally Saturday, calling for change

By Natasha Pace

A rally is planned for Saturday afternoon by the family of Lionel Desmond


Family and friends of Lionel Desmond are expected to gather Saturday afternoon for a rally – calling on the federal government to make changes

Desmond, 33, was an Afghanistan war veteran. He fatally shot his 10-year-old daughter Aalyiah, wife Shanna, 31, and mother Brenda, 52, in January at the family home in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S. before turning the gun on himself.

Desmond’s family says he suffered from PTSD before the triple-murder suicide.

They previously said Desmond was a kind and funny person, who changed after a tour in Afghanistan in 2007.

A Rally for Change will take place from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the St Andrews District Community Centre, about 20 minutes from where the tragedy unfolded earlier this year.

The goal of the event is to help educate the public and call on the government to do more for Canadian veterans from one end of the country to the other.

The rally is open to members of the public.

Several speakers, including Cassandra Desmond, Lionel’s sister and Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard are among the speakers scheduled to take part in the event.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911. 911 can send immediate help. For a list of available mental health programs and services around Canada, please refer to the list here:


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Family of Lionel Desmond to hold rally in support of Canadian veterans

Post by Guest on Wed 16 Aug 2017, 16:11

Family of Lionel Desmond to hold rally in support of Canadian veterans

By Alexander Quon
August 16, 2017

Cassandra Desmond, left, and her sister Chantel Desmond are seen in Antigonish, N.S. on Wednesday, June 14, 2017.

Relatives of Lionel Desmond are set to hold a rally next month in support of Canadian veterans who have yet to receive support or resources that they need.

Desmond, a 33-year-old Afghanistan war veteran, fatally shot his 52-year-old mother Brenda, his 31-year-old wife Shanna and their 10-year-old daughter Aalyiah in January, before turning the gun on himself.

Desmond’s family has said he was suffering from PTSD before the triple murder-suicide.

Cassandra Desmond, the sister of Lionel Desmond and an organizer of the event, wrote in the Facebook page of the event that they are hoping to educate not retaliate.

“For years we have been trying to prevent tragedies such as my family now suffers, but have yet to get the proper action and resources in place to get it right and continue to keep it right,” wrote Cassandra Desmond.

WATCH: Lionel Desmond murder-suicide a ‘horrific tragedy’ priest says during funeral

“When Veterans Affairs Canada fails a veteran they fail a family, a community and the province. Everyone pays a financial and emotional price.” said David MacLeod, a disabled war veteran.

“The government of Canada has studied veteran suicide since the 1990s and the government has done very little to address the situation.”

The rally is set for September 16 at the Community Centre in St. Andrews, N.S.

The event is scheduled for 12:00 to 3:00 p.m.


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Vets’ advocates urge inquiry into Desmond case

Post by Guest on Wed 16 Aug 2017, 06:01

Vets’ advocates urge inquiry into Desmond case

Published August 15, 2017 - 8:01pm
Last Updated August 15, 2017 - 8:41pm

Shanna and Lionel Desmond hold their daughter Aaliyah in a photo from the Facebook page of Shanna Desmond.

Surviving relatives of Lionel Desmond and veterans’ advocates are demanding an inquiry into a triple murder-suicide that left four people dead in Upper Big Tracadie last January.

Desmond family supporters are hosting a rally for an inquiry Sept. 16 at the St. Andrews District Community Centre, organizing through the Facebook group Desmondfamilytragedy A Rally For Change.

The call for action will come roughly eight months after Desmond, an Afghanistan veteran, shot dead his mother, wife and 10-year-old daughter before turning the gun on himself, with post-traumatic stress disorder a likely factor in the killings.

“This screams for an inquiry,” said veterans’ advocate Peter Stoffer.

Veterans Affairs Canada says it has already increased access to mental health services and increased frontline staffing, including the hiring of extra caseworkers, to help former service members in crisis.

But that didn’t stop the 33-year-old Desmond from murdering his loved ones about 18 months after leaving the armed forces in July 2015, having suffered PTSD-type symptoms such as nightmares and angry outbursts after a 2007 combat tour in Afghanistan.

Stoffer said the federal government had already promised to investigate individual deaths of this nature, but he added that homicides are highly unusual, even though veterans’ suicides are not.

“It is extremely rare for someone to take the lives of other people with them,” said Stoffer.

Veteran David MacLeod, who will emcee next month’s rally, called for a wholesale medical and bureaucratic review of veterans’ care to prevent such tragedies in the future.

He said wide-ranging reforms to VAC care procedures is especially urgent in a province where the ratio of veterans to population is 4,559.92 per 100,000 — the highest such ratio in Canada.

But he warned the real number could be even higher as his figures count only those former military members signed up for care services with the VAC.

In addition, Desmond was one of many veterans with a family, meaning that the ripple effect of any homicide, suicide or conditions like PTSD affects whole communities.

“When Veterans Affairs fails vets they fail the family, fail the community and actually fail the province as well,” said MacLeod.

Desmond had received some help including medication and counselling before he was released from the military, and then again from VAC in 2016 after his discharge.

But his life unravelled in late 2016 in the last months before he murdered his loved ones and killed himself.

At the time of the killings, the Department of National Defence said there would be no board of inquiry as Desmond was not a serving soldier when he died.

“There are still really good questions as to how Lionel Desmond was treated by the Department of National Defence,” said MacLeod.

“He seems to have fallen through the cracks because information provided by the Nova Scotia Health Authority indicates that physicians were trying everything they could to get help (for him) from VAC.”

VAC spokesman Marc Lescoutre said in an email Tuesday that his department has a national network of about 4,000 community mental health professionals assisting former military and RCMP members with PTSD and other operational stress-related issues.

Other services include a VAC-funded network of 11 operational stress injury clinics across Canada, peer support clinics and face-to-face mental health counselling, and referral services for veterans and their families. Additionally, the VAC Assistance Service provides 24-7 comprehensive counselling services on a variety of issues including bereavement.

VAC and the DND are also working on a joint suicide prevention strategy to be released this fall. The strategy will outline ways to improve assistance to vulnerable veterans by ensuring better continuity of care and a more seamless transition from military to civilian life.

“One suicide is one too many,” said Lescoutre. “We have to do better when it comes to suicide prevention.”


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Re: Vet with PTSD from Afgan, kills 3 family members and himself

Post by johnny211 on Sat 22 Jul 2017, 08:03

Ha Good on you for reaching out brother. You have come upon an awesome forum. A lot on here have ptsd and all the issues with it.
Feel free to pm me or anyone on here when you require a brother or sister to talk things out.. VVV...
CSAT Member

Number of posts : 623
Location : Down East
Registration date : 2014-12-26

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Re: Vet with PTSD from Afgan, kills 3 family members and himself

Post by Dameon on Sat 22 Jul 2017, 07:33

The irony for me is that this news story was the one that finally pushed my wife into pleading with me to get some help. If not for Lionel, I may not even be alive today. I realize that it is no consolidation for the family and friends, but their loss has at least saved one other person. Some stories never go away. RIP.

CSAT Member

Number of posts : 21
Location : Ontario
Registration date : 2017-07-14

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‘How can we hope for change?’: Nova Scotia avoiding inquests on high-profile deaths

Post by Guest on Wed 21 Jun 2017, 16:40

‘How can we hope for change?’: Nova Scotia avoiding inquests on high-profile deaths

In Nova Scotia, the last judicial inquiry was held in 2008 in the case of Howard Hyde, a musician with mental illnesses who died after an altercation with jail guards.

By MICHAEL TUTTONThe Canadian Press
Wed., June 21, 2017

HALIFAX—Lionel Desmond suffered rages from post-traumatic stress. He told relatives he struggled to access mental health services. Then he killed his family and himself.

Six months later, no public inquest aimed at preventing similar deaths is on the horizon — frustrating Desmond family members and repeating a familiar pattern for other Nova Scotians who’ve sought fatality inquiries.

Debbie Stultz-Giffin has followed the Desmond case since January, when the former soldier killed his wife, mother, daughter and himself in Upper Big Tracadie.

She sees links with her own fruitless calls for a public inquiry into the death of her 87-year-old mother, Dorothy Stultz. She died after a violent shove by a male resident with dementia in a nursing home on March 1, 2012.

“Again we are looking at other vulnerable individuals in a situation where if an investigation doesn’t happen, how can we hope for change?” she says of the Desmond case.

The Stultz death wasn’t made public until The Canadian Press discovered it last year among nine deaths classified as “homicides” by the medical examiner over the past decade — none of which have led to a fatality inquiry.

Meanwhile, since 2010 the province has had six non-natural deaths in its jails in cases that would trigger mandatory public inquests in most other Canadian jurisdictions.

Alberta held 24 public fatality inquiries last year, including one into the hanging death of Corp. Shaun Collins, an infantry soldier diagnosed with PTSD who had done two tours of Afghanistan.

Dr. John Butt, the former medical examiner for both Nova Scotia and Alberta, said in an interview that “without question” Nova Scotia should use its existing law to order a judicial inquiry into the Desmond case.

He also said the province should bring in reforms similar to Alberta’s, where a doctor, a lawyer and a layperson on a board would provide a recommendation for a discretionary cases like the Desmond murder-suicide.

He also called for Nova Scotia to create mandatory inquests for non-natural deaths in prisons.

“I can’t believe a province doesn’t have mandatory inquests under certain circumstances,” he said.

In the latest prison death, 42-year-old Jason LeBlanc died in a Cape Breton jail cell in January last year from an opiate overdose shortly after being arrested for an alleged parole violation.

Police reports said he told a prison nurse he’d taken five “nerve pill(s)” and appeared intoxicated, which has raised questions about why he wasn’t sent to a health facility for monitoring.

His father, Ernie LeBlanc, made repeated calls for a public inquest. Instead, he received a shortened version of an internal report by the Justice Department admitting corrections staff hadn’t followed procedures.

In Ontario’s system, inquests into such non-natural deaths of wards of the state are mandatory, and last year the province held 43 inquests into a variety of different types of deaths.

In Manitoba, six public inquests were held by judges, while British Columbia held seven.

In Nova Scotia, the last judicial inquiry was held in 2008 in the case of Howard Hyde, a musician with mental illnesses who died after an altercation with jail guards and a series of taserings in police custody.

There’s been nothing similar since.

Even in provinces that routinely hold inquests, cases like that of Lionel Desmond’s require a discretionary decision by the coroner or a review board, based partly on whether it could help prevent similar deaths.

But the prevention of future tragedies is precisely why Desmond’s twin sisters have confirmed they support an inquiry overseen by a judge that looks at health care for troubled veterans.

They told The Canadian Press their brother said he sought help in vain at St. Martha’s hospital in Antigonish before the murder-suicide.

“His exact words were, ‘They didn’t have my records.’ . . . That’s my understanding,” said Chantel Desmond. “He didn’t want to leave.”

That was on Jan. 2, the day before Desmond killed himself, 31-year-old Shanna, their 10-year-old daughter and his mother Brenda Desmond, 52.

A senior medical official in Nova Scotia has challenged the statement that Desmond, who had done two tours of Afghanistan, was turned away from hospital care.

Archie Kaiser, a Dalhousie University law professor with expertise on mental health issues, says the Desmond case is a clear example of where the medical examiner or the province’s justice minister should use their power to call an inquiry.

He argues the case fulfils provisions in the Fatalities Investigations Act that allowing for an inquiry when “in the public interest or the interest of public safety,” as it would provide insight into the treatment of veterans and into the issue of domestic violence.

“The complex relationships between employment-related PTSD for soldiers . . . the difficulties associated with reintegration into society and the availability of supportive services appear to be implicated,” he said.

Dr. Matthew Bowes, the province’s chief medical examiner, said he’s reluctant to call public inquiries if there are other means to examine the issues — even if they’re behind closed doors.

He says he wants to wait and see the results of a Nova Scotia Health Authority’s quality review — which are internal studies done by medical staff for educational purposes.

These reviews provide no open testimony, do not result in a written report on the facts of the case, and the health authority itself determines, in consultation with the families, who gets a copy of its action plan and recommendations.

Such studies also have been unsatisfactory to some families who’ve initially called for public inquests.

“Private investigations . . . opens up the gate for things to be overlooked, swept under the carpet and dismissed. It’s just not a healthy situation for everyone involved,” said Stultz-Giffin.

She received a brief report in her mother’s death — after an outburst of publicity about the case — from Health Department investigators that she said “left me feeling flat. There weren’t any real answers.”

Still, Bowes says that when he came to the province 14 years ago, senior bureaucrats told him “that judicial reviews as part of public policy renewal really ought to be more of a decision on the part of the minister.”

Nova Scotia’s new justice minister, Mark Furey, who has the power to call for a fatality inquiry, has declined requests for an interview on the topic of an inquest.

Meanwhile, Stultz-Giffin will be wishing the Desmond family well in their quest for an open inquiry even as her own hopes for such a process have long faded.

“It’s a societal issue and as a society we need to discuss these very types of issues,” she said.


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NDP demands inquiry into Afghanistan war veteran’s triple murder-suicide

Post by Guest on Mon 19 Jun 2017, 05:24

NDP demands inquiry into Afghanistan war veteran’s triple murder-suicide

The Globe and Mail
Published Sunday, Jun. 18, 2017 9:15PM EDT
Last updated Sunday, Jun. 18, 2017 9:15PM EDT

Calls are growing for an inquiry into a triple murder-suicide involving a mentally ill Afghanistan war veteran as serious questions persist about the medical care and support he received before and after his military release.

NDP Veterans Affairs critic Irene Mathyssen said the Canadian Forces have an obligation to examine how they handled Lionel Desmond, who in January shot and killed his wife, Shanna, 10-year-old daughter, Aaliyah, and his mother, Brenda, before turning the gun on himself in their Nova Scotia home. Mr. Desmond was released from the Forces just 18 months earlier.

“He wasn’t just one of those 70 poor souls who went somewhere quietly to end the pain,” Ms. Mathyssen said. This is “about a horrific act that took a mother, a child, a spouse, and we risk that [happening] again and again, if we don’t pay attention, if we don’t have the soul-searching and difficult inquiries that this begs.”

To date, no inquiries have been called.

The Forces maintain they don’t have the authority to investigate what happened because Mr. Desmond was no longer in the military, while the Nova Scotia Premier’s Office wouldn’t comment Sunday on the prospect of leading a probe.

Mr. Desmond, 33, is one of more than 70 Canadian soldiers and veterans who have killed themselves – and in rare cases, others – after serving in the Afghanistan war. A Globe and Mail investigation published on Friday revealed that the retired corporal, who had been an infantry soldier with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment in Gagetown, N.B., was struggling at home and at work after his return from Afghanistan in August, 2007. Yet, he wasn’t assessed for post-traumatic stress until 2011.

Diagnosed with PTSD and major depression, Mr. Desmond was prescribed several drugs and advised to attend psychotherapy, but his mental state deteriorated, according to a psychiatric assessment obtained by The Globe. He was hyper-vigilant, quick to anger, had dissociative experiences and frequently thought about suicide, his psychiatrist noted.

His mental health worsened after he was released from the Forces on July 16, 2015. With no job prospects, suicidal thoughts lingered. Yet, Mr. Desmond was able to obtain a firearm licence from New Brunswick’s Department of Public Safety, The Globe investigation revealed.

Not long afterward, the family moved to the rural Nova Scotia community of Upper Big Tracadie, where both Mr. Desmond and his wife, Shanna, grew up. Relatives said the young vet was struggling to access the medical care he needed through the provincial health system.

Former veterans’ ombudsman Pat Stogran said the life and death of Mr. Desmond highlight long-standing problems with how the military deals with soldiers who are injured on the job. Many of them are medically discharged, even though they want to keep working.

“They’re kicking them out. They’re deeming them unfit for service,” said Mr. Stogran, who supports calls for an inquiry. “This is a huge problem that has to be splayed open for the Canadian people.”

Military boards of inquiry are routinely called when serving members take their own lives. The inquiries are designed to uncover what factors contributed to the death and offer recommendations to help prevent further suicides.

The Forces maintained they have no legal mandate under the National Defence Act to investigate the death of a veteran, but the language in Section 45 of the Act appears to offer Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan some latitude. The minister may convene a board of inquiry into “any matter connected with the government, discipline, administration or functions of the Canadian Forces.”

Military spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande said work is under way to improve the support and programs offered to soldiers slated for release. A new model is expected next year.

“Regardless of what led to Mr. Desmond’s actions or whether or not there is an official inquiry, we know that we need to do more,” Ms. Lamirande said. “We need to keep working towards implementing changes to our transition services and improve our delivery to those transitioning to civilian life.”

Retired Nova Scotia MP Peter Stoffer, a former NDP Veterans Affairs critic, is urging Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil to step up.

“There’s nothing stopping the Premier of Nova Scotia from taking a leadership role and saying to his federal counterparts, ‘Let’s work together, let’s develop an inquiry that involves all three levels and then let’s get to the bottom of this.’ Most importantly, open it up, so that the general public has an idea of what’s going on.”

The Premier’s Office wouldn’t comment on the prospect of leading an inquiry into the Desmond family tragedy. A spokesperson noted that the Nova Scotia Health Authority has completed a review of Mr. Desmond’s interaction with the health system and officials will meet with the family to discuss the findings and recommendations. Nova Scotia medical examiner Matthew Bowes has the authority to order a provincial fatality inquiry, but has yet to decide whether one will be convened in this case.

Conservative MP John Brassard, the party’s Veterans Affairs critic, said the Forces and Veterans Affairs have received a slew of recommendations over the years for improving how they deal with mentally ill members.

“We’re very good at building up our soldiers to prepare for combat, but we need to do a better job when they come back,” said Mr. Brassard, who, along with Ms. Mathyssen, is part of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. The committee has recently focused its work on mental health and suicide prevention and its report is expected to be tabled in Parliament on Monday.


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The struggle of 'Lionel Demon'

Post by Guest on Sat 17 Jun 2017, 15:17

Murder-suicide: The struggle of 'Lionel Demon'

By The Canadian Press Saturday, June 17, 2017

Lionel Desmond (front row, far right) was part of the 2nd battalion, of the Royal Canadian Regiment, based at CFB Gagetown and shown in this 2007 handout photo taken in Panjwai district in between patrol base Wilson and Masum Ghar in Afghanistan. Nova Scotia's medical examiner has ruled out conducting a fatality inquiry into a horrific murder suicide involving a former Canadian soldier who killed his wife, mother and young daughter before killing himself in the family's rural home earlier this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Facebook-Trev Bungay

HALIFAX — As Nova Scotia’s health system continues to grapple with the disturbing case of Lionel Desmond, two of his sisters have come forward to shed new light on what happened to the former Canadian soldier, who was transformed from a fun-loving family man to a paranoid killer after serving two tours in Afghanistan.

“His shell came back, but that beautiful soul inside of him became a dark cloud,” Cassandra Desmond, one of his twin sisters, said in one of her first in-depth interviews this week.

It’s been almost six months since the murder-suicide in Upper Big Tracadie, in which Desmond killed his wife, mother and daughter.

Even though the killings fuelled a national debate about how Canada treats former soldiers, sailors and airmen living with PTSD, the RCMP and government officials have said little about a case that has raised questions about what happened to Desmond, and how such a tragedy can be prevented from happening again.

On Friday, a senior Nova Scotia health bureaucrat publicly apologized to the Desmond family for miscommunication that led to a delay in setting up a meeting to discuss an internal review of the man’s interaction with the health-care system.

“I did (apologize) in the sense of the frustration that they are experiencing in being able to come together with us,” said Colin Stevenson, the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s vice-president of quality. “It was miscommunication on my part.”

Earlier in the week, Cassandra and her twin sister Chantel demanded a judicial fatality inquiry, and they spoke at length about their brother and his struggles with his mental illness.

Diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and post-concussion disorder after his deployment in 2007, Desmond was 33 when he fatally shot his 52-year-old mother Brenda, his 31-year-old wife Shanna, and their 10-year-daughter Aaliyah in January. He then took his own life in the family’s rural Nova Scotia home.

Before he was deployed to Afghanistan, Desmond was a healthy, animated man with an infectious sense of humour and an endless capacity for hard work, Chantel Desmond told The Canadian Press.

“He was one of the happiest guys,” she said during an interview at her sister’s home in Antigonish, N.S. “You could be down in the dumps and he would lift you up. He was awesome.”

Cassandra Desmond was more emphatic, saying Lionel was the “clown of the family” and a definite ladies man.

“He was always imitating somebody or something,” she said, adding that his broad smile matched that of their mother Brenda. “There was never a dull moment around him ... I think of Lionel and I laugh and I smile.”

As a young man, Lionel Desmond met Shanna Borden when the two were attending high school, not far from where they would later live in Big Tracadie.

“He loved her,” said Chantel Desmond. “They were good.”

He enlisted in the military soon after graduating from high school and would later be promoted to corporal as a member of 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, based at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick.

Lionel and Shanna Desmond’s daughter, Aaliyah, was born shortly before he left for Afghanistan in 2007.

A well-circulated photo from that time shows Shanna Desmond holding their infant daughter close to her smiling face as her husband snuggles in close, his right cheek touching Aaliyah’s forehead.

“Aaliyah, she was his life,” said Cassandra Desmond. “My mother, that was his best friend.”

However, Lionel Desmond was a radically changed man when he returned home from Afghanistan, and not much had changed by the time he was medically discharged in 2015, his sisters said.

They talked about how his sense of humour had dimmed and, more importantly, how he seemed withdrawn and in a defensive posture much of the time.

“He was still in combat mode,” Chantel Desmond said. “At dances, he would be spinning on the floor and thinking he was still in combat. Anything could set him off. He would wake up in cold sweats ... He would back into corners, have his back against the wall.”

And then there was his sense of guilt. In his personal journal, he wrote that the people he was fighting in Afghanistan “were people, too.”

Trev Bungay, a retired soldier who served in Afghanistan with Desmond, has said Desmond was a great soldier who did his job well, but he said it was a stressful deployment marked by heavy combat, many casualties and decidedly grim duties, including the body-bagging of dead Afghans and Taliban fighters.

The carnage on the battlefield left its mark on Lionel Desmond.

Cassandra said his wife, Shanna, could calm him down when certain sounds and smells would trigger a PTSD flashback. Even the rustling of the leaves in a breeze could set him off, even though he spent a lot of time in the woods.

“When my brother came back, they did nothing for him,” Chantel said, referring to the military and Veterans Affairs Canada. “He had to wait for his pension. He had to wait for everything. They was so much stress on him.”

Despite his struggles, Lionel Desmond and his wife worked hard to get help. He spent three months receiving some sort of treatment at a facility in Montreal. He was supposed to be there six months. The couple had appointments with many doctors. There was marriage counselling. And Lionel had a prescription for medical marijuana.

Some days, he seemed like his old self. There were many other days when he would mumble to himself and withdraw.

But it was clear that he was well aware of what he was dealing with.

“My brother was no stranger to his sickness,” Chantel said, noting that his Facebook page includes many entries in which he talks about wanting to be well again.

“I’m truly sorry for freaking out at my wife (and) daughter and people who know me,” one entry says. “I’m not getting a lawyer. I’m getting my life back.”

That was on Dec. 3, a month before the shootings.

“I apologize for anything out (of) my control,” he wrote. “I will fix it, if not I’ll live with it.”

At one point during his deployment, he hit his head on an light armoured vehicle after falling off a wall, and was later told he had post-concussion disorder as well as PTSD.

“That (explains) my jealousy towards my wife and being over-controlling and (my) vulgar tongue towards my family,” he wrote on his Facebook page, in which he called himself Lionel Demon.

His twin sisters said this week they were keen to get the recommendations from the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s quality review, but they made it clear they have grown frustrated by delays and what they perceive as a lack of disclosure and accountability.

Stevenson, spokesman for the authority on the Desmond file, confirmed Friday that the review was completed in March. However, he said he has been unable set up a meeting with relatives because of confusion over who would be represented.

Meanwhile, the province’s medical examiner, Matthew Bowes, has said he is also waiting to see the results of the quality review, which Stevenson said will not be released to the public, even though the authority has the option of doing so if all personal health information is deleted.

Stevenson said the authority wants to ensure those taking part in such reviews have the “confidence that they can come forward ... without the fear of the information they shared as being made public.”

“Anybody can ask, but we’re not actually obligated to release,” he said.

Stevenson also noted that the results of the review include only recommendations with no accompanying report.


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What happened to Lionel Desmond? An Afghanistan veteran whose war wouldn’t end

Post by Guest on Sat 17 Jun 2017, 05:24

What happened to Lionel Desmond? An Afghanistan veteran whose war wouldn’t end

No one knows for sure why, 10 years after serving in Afghanistan, Lionel Desmond took a gun to his wife, his daughter, his mother and then himself. But an investigation by Lindsay Jones sheds new light on the pressing need to better understand soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder – and to find ways to support them before it’s too late



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Veteran who killed family was cleared for gun licence, despite suicide concerns

Post by Guest on Fri 16 Jun 2017, 16:57

Veteran who killed family was cleared for gun licence, despite suicide concerns

Lionel Desmond fatally shot three family members and killed himself in January in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S.

By Sherri Borden Colley, Karissa Donkin, CBC News June 16, 2017

Lionel Desmond's sister, Cassandra Desmond, holds up a doctor's letter recommending that her brother attend the gym and yoga to help with his severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

A Nova Scotia family is frustrated with a lack of answers about whether a former Canadian soldier got proper help for severe mental-health problems in the months before he fatally shot three members of his family and himself.

Afghanistan war veteran Lionel Desmond, 33, killed his 52-year-old mother Brenda, his wife Shanna, 31, and their 10-year-old daughter Aaliyah, in the family's Upper Big Tracadie, N.S., home on Jan. 3.

Desmond's family has provided CBC News with documents that offer a glimpse into the year leading up to the deaths.

Still, many of the family's questions remain unanswered.

According to a medical assessment obtained by CBC News, a Fredericton family doctor determined Desmond was "non-suicidal and stable" and that he had "no concerns for firearms usage" in February 2016, three months after Desmond's wife called RCMP to report her husband was threatening to harm himself with a gun.

It's not clear from the documents the status of any gun licence Desmond might have had at the time, but the assessment was done for New Brunswick's Chief Firearms Office.

Firearms officers in each province have the power under federal legislation to revoke a person's firearms licence if they believe the person could harm him or herself or others, based on evidence from medical professionals, police and others.

What changed in those final months

Dr. Paul Smith said Lionel Desmond was stable and doing 'extremely well' a year before his death.

Dr. Paul Smith, the doctor who signed off on the form, told CBC News that Desmond was stable and doing "extremely well" at the time. He had suicidal thoughts in the past, he said, but improved after he began using medical marijuana.

Desmond had served in the war in Afghanistan in 2007 and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The doctor lost contact with Desmond in the spring of 2016, after the former soldier sought treatment in Ontario and then moved to Nova Scotia.

Smith is struggling to piece together what changed in Desmond's life in those final months.

"We were shocked and saddened, like everybody," Smith said in an interview with CBC News.

"My initial thoughts were, 'He was doing so well. What happened?'"

Desmond threatened to self-harm

On Nov. 27, 2015, RCMP in New Brunswick received a call from Shanna Desmond stating that her husband had sent her text messages saying he was on his way to the garage and was going to use a firearm to harm himself, according to the medical assessment signed by Smith.

'He told her to say goodbye to their daughter and that he would see her in heaven.'
- Desmond's medical assessment

At the time, he was living in New Brunswick while his wife and daughter were living in Nova Scotia.

"He is a military veteran and has PTSD. He told her to say goodbye to their daughter and that he would see her in heaven," the assessment said.

"Police attended the residence; our client met with them and said he did not have any intention of hurting himself, but that he was very depressed. He is concerned for his wellbeing. He was driven to the hospital, where he was seen by a doctor."

RCMP in New Brunswick declined a CBC News request for comment on the incident.

No concerns that Desmond posed risk

On the medical assessment form, Smith checked off that he had no concerns that Lionel Desmond posed a safety risk to himself or others.

The form was also signed by Joe Roper, an area firearms officer with New Brunswick's Department of Public Safety, on Jan. 20, 2016.

A collage of Lionel Desmond, his wife Shanna, mother Brenda and daughter Aaliyah and his military comrades.
Lionel Desmond's sister, Cassandra Desmond, doesn't understand why her brother was permitted a firearms licence.

"What type of physician is still going to sign off and allow a man to have his gun licence if he states that he's concerned for his wellbeing and he was threatening his own life? But you're still going to deem him responsible enough to hold a firearm?" Cassandra Desmond asked in an interview.

New Brunswick's Department of Public Safety declined to comment on the specifics of Lionel Desmond's case, but described it as a "tragic situation."

In an emailed statement, spokesman Paul Bradley said the assessments are taken "very seriously" in accordance with the federal Firearms Act.

"Provincial officials make the determination based on the assessment of the medical professional and the data provided," Bradley wrote.

'He was very stable'

Smith said his assessment would have been one of several pieces of evidence that would have been used to decide whether Lionel Desmond should have firearms.

"My involvement simply was an opinion given at the time that I had known him," Smith said.

"He was very stable."

In the past, Smith said he has told firearms officers that a person with PTSD shouldn't be allowed to have a firearms licence. Other times, he's suggested the person isn't ready and to check back in a few months.

But Smith didn't have those concerns with Lionel Desmond.

Cassandra Desmond speaks about her family's frustration trying to find answers about the help her brother received before he killed three family members and took his own life in January.

The RCMP's firearms licence renewal form asks if the person applying has threatened or attempted suicide in the past five years or suffered from or been diagnosed or treated by a medical practitioner for depression, behavioural or emotional problems or alcohol, drug or substance abuse.

Typically, mental-health concerns are reported by a person's family, law enforcement or a concerned member of the public, according to the RCMP.

But Smith doesn't believe every soldier who's had mental-health issues should be barred from owning firearms.

"Every PTSD soldier has suicidal thoughts. Everybody," Smith said.

"That's part of the definition of [PTSD]. When we first met him, he certainly admitted to having suicidal thoughts in the past, as they all do. With his therapies, it virtually disappeared."

Yoga and gym recommended for PTSD

Lionel Desmond was on prescription drugs prior to being prescribed medical marijuana to treat his PTSD, but his sister does not know what other treatment her brother received before the shootings.

'My initial thoughts were, 'He was doing so well. What Happened?''
- Dr. Paul Smith

A second document shows that just four weeks before the killings, a psychiatrist at St. Martha's Regional Hospital in Antigonish, N.S., recommended Desmond go the gym and do yoga to cope with his severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Mr. Desmond has severe problems with PTSD and post-concussion disorder. He would benefit from regular participation in a gym and in yoga but needs financial assistance to afford them," Dr. Ian Slayter, of the hospital's department of psychiatry, wrote in a letter dated Dec. 2, 2016.

"That right there ... just disgusts me," Cassandra Desmond said. "This is how they feel that they should help our veterans."

The family claims that Lionel Desmond was turned away from St. Martha's Regional Hospital in Antigonish one day before the shooting. A doctor at the hospital has previously denied that allegation and said that it has never turned anyone away.

Lionel Desmond was part of India Company, 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment in Afghanistan in 2007

However, Slayter's letter alone leaves Cassandra wondering what other information the Nova Scotia Health Authority "is hiding" that may show her brother was not receiving the help he needed.

Smith also questions whether Lionel Desmond was allowed to continue using medical marijuana during his treatment in Nova Scotia, saying the province is "lagging behind" in accepting it as a valid treatment.

Family waiting for answers

Months after the tragedy, Desmond's family is waiting for answers about what care the former soldier received. They are still trying to set up a meeting with the health authority and say they are frustrated by the lack of response.

'It's not easy ... seeing the people you love suffer in silence.'
- Cassandra Desmond

Slayter was not available for an interview. However, Kristen Lipscombe, a spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Health Authority, said in a statement that the authority has an obligation to protect personal health information under provincial legislation.

The authority cannot answer questions or release details about individuals. And that includes sharing or confirming information related to a person's care or treatment, she said.

Authority says it will meet with family

The health authority completed a quality review into Desmond's dealings with the Nova Scotia health-care system in March. But that report will not be released to the public.

Colin Stevenson, vice-president of quality system performance and transformation with the Nova Scotia Health Authority, confirmed on Friday they are trying to set up a meeting with Desmond's family.

"My understanding, based on conversations to date, is what they would like to be hearing from us includes the results of and the recommendations associated with that quality review and we are prepared to discuss that with the family," Stevenson said in an interview.

Stevenson said the quality review will not be made public because the process is confidential so staff are protected and can be open about any flaws in the system.

"And as a general rule we don't speak to reviews within specific cases," he said. "And good practice within health care across the country is to create an environment where people are willing to disclose incidents and that really is what we're trying to encourage."

Stevenson would not say how many recommendations came out of the review or the nature of those recommendations.

"We'd be having a conversation with the family before any information is shared beyond that," he said.

If asked, the health authority would fully co-operate with a public inquiry, Stevenson said.

Night terrors, cold sweats, fear of water

Cassandra Desmond said her brother had night terrors, cold sweats and was afraid of water for a while after he returned from the war.

"He couldn't be around family too long. I'm not saying he couldn't be around us period," she said.

"He was raised in a large family and a loud family and … just loud noises, and stuff like that, anything loud or even sudden whispers, would remind him of, say, for an example, trees [rustling]."

Lionel Desmond went from a carefree, down-to-earth, free-spirited person — the family comedian — to "fight or flight" and just constantly feeling that he was mentally under attack by things, his sister recalled.

"And, there were days, you know, where he could still be that happy-go-lucky guy, but then anything could have triggered off to … things that relayed back to whatever it is that he discovered and seen and went through over on the grounds of Afghanistan," Cassandra Desmond said. "It's not easy … seeing the people you love suffer in silence."

Lionel Desmond and his mother Brenda Desmond were two of four family members that died in a murder-suicide in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S., in January.

In New Brunswick, Smith thinks about his former patient every day.

So do many of the clients in his office who are struggling with PTSD and coming to terms with the decisions Lionel Desmond made.

"I would love to have known what was going through his head in that last few months or weeks or days or whatever it was that he came to that kind of conclusion," Smith said.

"I wish that more people had been there for him and he didn't feel alone like he did. He must have felt extremely distraught and alone in the world in order to make that kind of decision."

No decision on fatality inquiry

Last week, Dr. Matthew Bowes, Nova Scotia's chief medical examiner, said he'll consider ordering a public inquiry into Desmond's death under the province's Fatality Inquiries Act, if a provincial review of Desmond's mental-health treatment isn't adequate. Bowes also said he will consider family members' views on the issue.

Bowes also was not available for an interview. However, his office issued a statement through the Justice Department.

"Dr. Bowes does not have a set timeline on his decision," the statement said. "The Nova Scotia Health Authority quality review and response need to be determined before a decision is made."

'I wish that more people had been there for him and he didn't feel alone like he did.'
- Dr. Paul Smith

When asked about the process that happens if police believe that a person with firearms could be a danger, Staff Sgt. James Bates, spokesman for New Brunswick RCMP, said he could not discuss anything related to a specific case.

"There are obviously provisions in the Criminal Code that as police officers, we would use to deal with a particular case, given the circumstances," he said.

When it comes to someone's access to firearms or ability to possess them, public safety has provincial jurisdiction and the national firearms program has federal jurisdiction, Bates said.

"Depending on the imminent nature of the situation, we would deal with it," he said.

The final decision, however, on whether somebody is fit to continue having a licence is a collaborative one between RCMP, public safety and the Canadian Firearms Program.


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Re: Vet with PTSD from Afgan, kills 3 family members and himself

Post by pinger on Fri 09 Jun 2017, 13:14

Not to assume anything, but if the federal government is entertaining pawning us to the provinces (think money) it would be even worse imo. That's a no brainer, Provincial health care is already overwhelmed and has failings.

But irregardless of all the money in the world for VaC, it has to be used very smartly for our QoL and well being. Not some dummied down job creation version where the money and support goes sideways.

Hope I made sense.
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Re: Vet with PTSD from Afgan, kills 3 family members and himself

Post by Teentitan on Thu 08 Jun 2017, 23:55

Well the provinces are not upset about the federal gov't "downloading" vets on their healthcare systems because vets are cash to them.

Every year each province submits their bills, doctor/specialists drugs inhome nursing, and the gov't pays I believe up to 75% to the province.   These payments are above the yearly health transfers Ottawa sends to each province every year. So like I said vets are cash to provinces.

It's time for the provinces to either demand more compensation to prepare their systems to help vets or they fight back and tell the federal gov't to take care of their vets.
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Re: Vet with PTSD from Afgan, kills 3 family members and himself

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