Government of Canada Releases Findings of Internal Review of Federal Involvement in the Ernest Fenwick Macintosh Case
HALIFAX, October 25, 2013 – Today, the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and the Honourable Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, announced that the Government of Canada has released the findings of the internal review of federal involvement in the Ernest Fenwick MacIntosh case.
“First and foremost, our Government wishes to apologize and express our sincerest regret to the victims, 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,” said Minister MacKay.
“Canadians expect and deserve better. It is my hope that the findings of this review will reassure Canadians that the shortcomings in federal processes have been addressed, and help restore confidence in our justice system.”
Ernest Fenwick MacIntosh was the subject of one of the longest and most complex sexual assault cases in Nova Scotia’s history. His return from India to Canada in 2007 was the culmination of a lengthy investigation and extradition process involving both provincial and federal authorities, which began in February 1995 when the first victim went to the police. Mr. MacIntosh was found guilty on a total of 17 counts of sexual assault by the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, however, set aside the convictions, finding that the delay in bringing Mr. MacIntosh to trial breached his Charter right to be tried within a reasonable time. On April 22, 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the Crown’s appeal of this decision, marking the final chapter in an 18-year process.
In apologizing to the victims, the province of Nova Scotia has also admitted a lack of diligence and oversight in the managing of this case by the provincial Public Prosecution Service.
On September 27, 2013, the Government of Canada announced that it would undertake a full internal review of federal involvement in this tragic case. The internal review, which was conducted by the Department of Justice based on input provided by federal departments and agencies concerned, sheds light on the role that the federal government played in the delay, which led to Mr. MacIntosh’s convictions being set aside.
In the context of a 10-year extradition process, the review found that Justice officials were responsible for an 11-month delay as a result of serious human error and the absence of institutional systems to catch this mistake.
The review also addresses criticisms related to the passport issuance and revocation process and border control issues, which weakened the public’s confidence in the justice system and other institutions.
"Our government stands up for the rights of victims and we have made a number of changes to the Passport Program to protect the integrity of that important document," said Minister Alexander.
"If such an individual were to be charged with these crimes today, I would direct my officials to take immediate action regarding his or her passport.”
Border control systems were also examined in the review.
“Our border systems at the time were not adequate for catching this individual, who had been charged with heinous crimes, and may have been actively trying to evade detection. This is unacceptable,” said Minister Blaney.
“Since then, there have been steady improvements in how Canadian borders are managed, and Canadians can be assured that we are developing even more effective ways to ensure their safety and security.”
In the report, the Government of Canada acknowledges a number of shortcomings in the actions of federal authorities in relation to the MacIntosh case. It also expresses its sincere apology and regret to the complainants and to the broader public for any system failures and mistakes made.
The report concludes by highlighting a number of measures which have subsequently been implemented, or identified for action, in order to help prevent what occurred in the MacIntosh case from happening again. These include:
- Improvements in extradition systems and processes, including strengthened file monitoring and closer cooperation with and outreach to prosecution authorities;
- System-integrity improvements to the passport issuance and revocation processes, including strengthened alert systems; and
- Improvements to strengthen the ability of border control systems to identify and either detain those who are the subject of active warrants or prevent their entry into Canada.
An online version of the report can be found here.
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