Time for a public inquiry into the Fenwick MacIntosh case


One hopes Nova Scotia’s prosecution service will find compelling legal grounds to appeal last week’s Nova Scotia Court of Appeal decision overturning Fenwick MacIntosh’s conviction for sexually abusing children.

The accusations are too serious and the legal issues too important not to appeal.

But whatever the outcome of the legal process—and, indeed, without waiting for its results—Ottawa needs to launch a public inquiry into what went so horribly wrong in this case. To make sure it doesn’t happen again.

The allegations against MacIntosh date back to Port Hawkesbury in the 1970s but the complainants—some as young as 10 at the time of the incidents—understandably didn’t come forward until the mid-1990s.

The RCMP formally began investigating in January 1995, five months after MacIntosh left Nova Scotia for a job in India. It’s not clear whether his departure was related to those accusations then-bubbling in the community.

In December 1995, the RCMP filed the first charges against MacIntosh.

Even though they knew he was in India, it took the Mounties a year and a half to alert Canada Customs to watch for him, and Passport Canada another year to notify MacIntosh it intended to revoke his passport, which would have made it difficult for him to work and live in India.

But a federal court judge then “temporarily” overturned Passport Canada’s decision, in part because no one but MacIntosh presented evidence at his hearing. Where was the RCMP? And why didn’t Ottawa follow up on what was supposed to be  just a temporary court order?

In April 1998, Nova Scotia’s Director of Public Prosecutions asked Ottawa to ask India to send MacIntosh back to Canada for trial.

At that point, the case disappeared into yet another diplomatic and bureaucratic black hole. It took Ottawa more than five years to prepare its extradition request and another three to deliver the request the 11,000 km from Ottawa to New Delhi. Why?

While all of this was not going on, there are reports MacIntosh got his passport renewed three times and traveled on at least two occasions between India and Montreal.

An inquiry? Absolutely. Regardless of what happens with the court case, there are larger questions we need answers to. Before something similar happens again.

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