SYDNEY — The legal spokesman for Beyond Borders Canada is calling on Premier Darrell Dexter to call an inquiry into the Ernest Fenwick MacIntosh case.
Jonathan Rosenthal was in Ottawa in April, along with one of the complainants in the case, and saw as members of the Supreme Court of Canada picked apart the provincial arguments in its appeal of a lower court ruling that quashed 17 sex offence convictions against MacIntosh.
Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson has ruled out calling an inquiry. Shortly after Nicholson made those comments, Dexter said he couldn’t understand why he did so.
Dexter said at the time his government would try to change that decision, calling the facts of the case deeply disturbing.
“It’s clear that everyone knows that something went terribly wrong in this case at all sorts of levels, and it just appears that the premier of Nova Scotia, though he cries out and says there should be a public inquiry, has done nothing. It’s real simple for him to call an inquiry, which he knows has to take place. He knows that everyone could be called to testify at this inquiry, and that people will have to tell what really happened,” Rosenthal said.
The Supreme Court of Canada said the provincial Crown took too long to bring the former Strait area businessman to trial on charges involving male youths in the 1970s. MacIntosh was working in India when the allegations first surfaced in 1995, but he wasn’t extradited to Canada until 2007 and didn’t go on trial for another three years.
It’s important to move forward without any further delay, Rosenthal said, because important witnesses could die before the matter is investigated.
The Cape Breton Post contacted the premier’s office for comment, but it was referred to the Department of Justice. In an email, Justice Minister Ross Landry said he could only imagine how heartbreaking the situation was for the people who testified about abuse and said Nova Scotians are outraged and want to know how this could happen.
“I agree with what many are saying. We need to identify what went wrong and get to the bottom of it so this doesn’t happen again,” Landry wrote.
An internal review of the Public Prosecution Service’s handling of the case is now in Landry’s hands.
Landry said it’s his job as attorney general to ensure that the justice system holds people accountable. He said he has asked for more information about the role of the Public Prosecution Service and the RCMP in the case. He added he has met with the RCMP and once he has reviewed the Public Prosecution Service report, he will make a decision about “next steps.”
Rosenthal called it shocking that someone with previous sexual offence convictions who the government knew was wanted for trial on numerous sexual abuse charges was allowed to remain a free man and live in India for more than a decade.
“I’ve never seen a case where so many balls have been dropped, a case has been so badly bungled at all levels and everyone just seems to point a finger,” Rosenthal said. “It’s a case that calls out, demands answers to these questions.”
An attempt to revoke MacIntosh’s passport, which would have forced him back to Canada without having to extradite him, also failed when the federal Crown agreed to let him keep it.
Some of the complainants in the case have suggested that MacIntosh’s political connections had come into play along the way. Rosenthal said an inquiry would get to the bottom of that. He questioned why MacIntosh’s Canada-wide arrest warrant wasn’t entered into the Canadian Police Information Centre system, which would have allowed for him to be picked up by police when he re-entered Canada, which he did several times.
At one point, when police received a tip that MacIntosh was visiting Montreal, they called asking for him before eventually showing up at his door and discovering he had already left.
The province is constitutionally mandated to prosecute crime, Rosenthal said, and it was the province that argued the case that was thrown out by the country’s highest court.