Authorities have the chance to finally get MacIntosh case right

It seems fitting that the case of Ernest Fenwick MacIntosh will not go away.

The Reporter has learned that MacIntosh is heading back to Canada soil after the former Strait area businessman was released from a Nepalese prison.

MacIntosh’s release comes after serving half of his seven-year sentence stemming from his arrest in 2014 on charges of luring a 15-year-old boy to his hotel room for sex in exchange for money.

Prison authorities in Nepal note MacIntosh’s age and health condition as the reasons for his release and deportation from the country.

Global Affairs Canada can’t confirm MacIntosh’s release due to privacy reasons, but confirm they are aware of a Canadian national who’s being deported from Nepal.

The now 75-year-old MacIntosh was convicted of 17 sex-related charges, involving boys from the Strait area dating back to the 1970s. He was acquitted on all 17 charges by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal because MacIntosh’s right to be tried within a reasonable time was infringed.

That is something the first local complainant against MacIntosh, Dale Sutherland, blames on the then Liberal government and in particular Cape Breton-Canso MP Rodger Cuzner who he said was contacted in 2000 but “did nothing to help any of us.”

Sutherland said it wasn’t until the Conservative government entered office in 2007 that he was able to convince the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peter MacKay to do something. He said MacKay called India and within 24-hours, MacIntosh was arrested.

A Canadian warrant was first issued for MacIntosh’s arrest in 1996 but he wasn’t extradited from India until 2007 and wasn’t placed before a judge until 2010.

Sutherland reasoned that had the federal government notified officials in India sooner, MacIntosh would have been arrested, and likely wouldn’t have been acquitted.

It is uncertain as to what will happen to MacIntosh once he returns to Canada. He may spend the rest of his sentence in prison here, he may spend the remaining time in hospital, or he may walk as a free man.

A Canadian convicted of sex crimes in a foreign country must register with police within seven-days of returning to the country but victims are the last to be officially told any information regarding the release of their offender. Another MacIntosh victim, Bob Martin, said the public has a right to know his whereabouts.

Asking who will police MacIntosh once he returns, Martin also questioned what the federal government will do once he’s back, considering 17 years of delays, passport errors and a lack of action by federal officials.

And after years of frustrating inaction and poor judgement, it seems oddly fitting MacIntosh is coming back to Canada, where the original crimes were committed, where justice was never served, and where a man convicted of sex crimes against young people was somehow allowed to leave this country and travel to other countries where he continued to steal the innocence of others.

This is the chance for Canadian authorities to finally deal with MacIntosh properly and this is a chance to mend fences with the victims and the communities MacIntosh preyed upon for far too long.

There is plenty of blame to go around, but not just on one side of the political spectrum and not just the federal government.

The Liberal governments of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin failed on this file, and yes, it was the Harper Conservatives who did something, but it wasn’t just Liberals in Ottawa who made a mess of this. There were officials of varying political stripes who dropped the ball. In Nova Scotia, authorities failed to act properly and correctly right back to the start of his misdeeds in the 1970s.

Not only does responsibility transcend party lines and levels of government, the blame for this mess is also not limited to the time MacIntosh evaded justice in the 1990s and 2000s.

For years, MacIntosh’s crimes were hidden in a conspiracy of silence in which the victims were terrified of being exposed, the community refused to acknowledge the accusations, and the businessman was a trusted member of the community, a tireless volunteer and even a prospective candidate for the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia.

Even after victims came forward, the network of cronies MacIntosh built up over the years, of all political stripes, helped him evade justice, then flee the country.

Now MacIntosh is back and there is a golden opportunity to do it right this time.