October 25, 2013
Halifax, Nova Scotia
(Check against delivery)
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, Minister Alexander.
Today I am here with my colleagues, on behalf of the Government of Canada, to discuss the case of Ernest Fenwick MacIntosh – a case that has devastated many people in Nova Scotia, and severely impacted countless others in the province.
As you know, this case was one of the longest and most complex historical sexual assault cases that had ever taken place in Nova Scotia.
When the first complainant came forward in 1995 to report the abuse committed by Mr. MacIntosh over a number of years in the 1970s, he had already left Canada, but he was not extradited from India until 2007.
Many decades have gone by since the time of the first accounts of abuse. And yet after all this time, Mr. MacIntosh has never had to account for the dozens of sexual assault charges against him.
The delays in his extradition process led to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal setting aside Mr. MacIntosh’s numerous sexual abuse convictions – a decision that was upheld earlier this year by the Supreme Court of Canada.
So first and foremost, I wish to apologize and express my sincerest regret for the mistakes made by federal employees who played a role in this tragic case, and the institutional failures that allowed this travesty to happen.
Late last month, I announced that the Government would undertake a full internal, interdepartmental review of federal involvement in the MacIntosh case. I thank my colleagues, Ministers Alexander and Blaney, for their sincere help in coordinating this review.
Federal and provincial departments both played a role in the extradition process delays that led to these charges being stayed.
Under Canada’s Extradition Act, provincial authorities are responsible for gathering evidence against those they want to extradite. They must then give this evidence to the federal government so the Government of Canada can then proceed to request extradition from a foreign country.
In this case, Nova Scotia has already admitted a lack of diligence on its part.
As the report makes clear, the Department of Justice and Passport Canada bear some responsibility for a number of mistakes which contributed to the delays in extraditing Mr. MacIntosh to Canada to face charges of sexual abuse of young people.
In the context of a 10-year extradition process, Justice officials were responsible for an 11-month delay… which took place in a previous Government in 2003/2004. The extradition finally occurred shortly after we formed Government… it was a justice priority.
This case has shaken me to the core, and has left an indelible impression upon me.
In fact, I was a Crown prosecutor in Nova Scotia when the first complainant went to police, and I have been following the case ever since. As an Opposition member, I had written letters to the federal Attorney General’s office urging them to bring Mr. MacIntosh to justice.
As a local MP, many people have spoken to me about this case. I knew that it had an incredible impact across Nova Scotia and left people feeling they were no longer safe in their communities.
Nevertheless, the outcome of this case should trouble the entire country.
It also exemplifies why I entered public life – so I could work for change in our government, including in our justice system.
And as a new father, I am particularly horrified at the possibility of someone getting away with abusing children.
I’ve met with many of the victims in this case over the years. Their stories are horrific, and their frustration and devastation are palpable.
That devastation – the suffering of these victims and their families – cannot be quantified in a report.
Our Government takes offences involving child abuse very seriously. Because nothing is more reprehensible than harming a child.
Our Government is committed to ensuring that sexual offenders who prey on children are punished to the fullest extent of the law.
Already, we have put forward a number of measures through the Safe Streets and Communities Act to better protect our children. These include:
- New mandatory jail time;
- Making it illegal to provide sexually explicit material to a child;
- Increasing the age at which a young person can legally consent to sexual activity;
- Making the reporting of child pornography by Internet Service Providers mandatory;
- Strengthening the sentencing and monitoring of dangerous offenders; and
- Investing more than $10 million in Child Advocacy Centres which coordinate the investigation, prosecution, and treatment of child abuse while helping abused children.
In fact, we stated our intention in the recent Speech from the Throne to do more to protect children against sexual exploitation.
We will introduce legislation to increase mandatory jail time… end sentencing discounts for multiple child sexual offences… and increase penalties for child sex offenders who violate conditions in probation orders or peace bonds.
My colleague at Public Safety, Minister Blaney, is also now working on:
- Notification requirements for offenders on the National Sex Offender Registry who travel outside of Canada; and
- Establishing a publicly accessible national database on high-risk child sex offenders.
Our Government has also committed to introducing legislation to create a Victims Bill of Rights – so victims of crime will have a more effective voice in the criminal justice and corrections systems.
We also intend to protect children from cyberbullying by giving law enforcement new tools to help them investigate and prosecute offenders.
Our Government will do more for Canadians to encourage confidence in their justice system.
As we have seen in the MacIntosh case, the justice system failed many people – those who complained of abuse, the communities where they lived, and ultimately all Canadians. As a result of these failures, these complaints will remain unresolved forever.
I want to reassure Canadians that this Government is addressing the shortcomings in federal processes that this review has highlighted. We don’t want mistakes with such tragic consequences to ever happen again
I also want to encourage others who have been victimized to come forward and report it. I applaud the bravery of the original complainants in this case who did go to the police. Without them, this situation would never have come to light.
Ladies and gentlemen, nothing can reverse the delay that led to the tragic outcome in this case.
But Canadians expect those who were responsible for the mistakes that led to this situation to take responsibility for what happened. And that is what we are doing here today.
Once again, on behalf of the Government, I want to express my sincerest apologies and regret for what has happened in this case. It was an affront to the victims of these crimes, and a disgrace to all Canadians who expect better from their justice system.
The Government of Canada remains committed to standing up for victims of crime, keeping our streets and communities safe, and enhancing the integrity of our justice system for Canadians.