Beyond the Headlines

Justice delayed

Posted: Jun 29, 2012 11:27 AM ET Last Updated: Jun 29, 2012 11:27 AM ET

When Weldon MacIntosh Reynolds, and several other men from the Strait region, found the courage to tell police the horrible secrets they had kept bottled up inside for some 20 years, they placed their fragile trust in our justice system.
In December, 1995 Ernest Fenwick MacIntosh was charged with 40 counts of sexual assault and gross indecency. These men knew they would have to tell their stories again in open court. But they had every right to believe their ordeal would be over in a matter of months, and they would soon be able to begin the process of getting on with their lives.
They could not have been more wrong.
17 years later they are still waiting, and now that the Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear the Crown's appeal of MacIntosh's acquittal, the wait is far from over.
While he's relieved to learn this is now going to Canada's top court, MacIntosh Reynolds says the delays have taken their toll.
"It's been horrible", says MacIntosh Reynolds, "it was bad enough being victimized by him, but then to go through all this and being victimized by the justice system wasn't fair."
When you look at the facts, it's hard to disagree. The file is littered with unanswered questions and head-scratching decisions.
We've created a full timeline. Here's what we know:
According to court documents, three months after MacIntosh was charged authorities issued an arrest warrant. At the time MacIntosh was living and working in India. Police knew exactly where he was. In fact, investigators had spoken with him over the phone and MacIntosh told them he had no intention of returning to Canada.
A year later the RCMP had a letter hand-delivered to MacIntosh from officials at the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi, telling him they intended to seize his passport. MacIntosh hired a lawyer in Halifax, who somehow managed to convince authorities not to revoke MacIntosh's passport and to remove his name from the Passport Control List.
While MacIntosh was left free to travel between Indian and Canada at will - a trip he apparently made several times - the move to extradite MacIntosh was moving through the bureaucracy at a pace that would make even a snail blush.
The first formal request from Nova Scotia prosecutors asking Ottawa to extradite MacIntosh was made in August, 1998. The paperwork needed to issue the order was not completed until 2003. Think about that. It took five years to gather the documents needed on what should have been a simple extradition request.
Then it gets even more mind-boggling. The file sits on a desk somewhere in Ottawa for another three years before the extradition request is forwarded to India. MacIntosh is finally arrested in India on April 5, 2007 and returned to Canada two months later.
Still, it wasn't until 2010, another three years later, before the first case went to trial. 
To this day no one has explained why it took so long to return MacIntosh to Canada. Even the courts don't have an answer.
The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal quashed MacIntosh's 17 convictions for sexual assault and gross indecency because it ruled those delays "prejudiced his right to a fair trial." In that decision the judges wrote, "no explanation was ever offered, then or now, for why it took so long to proceed with the extradition request, nor for the three years between when it was admittedly ready for submission and action."
Weldon MacIntosh Reynolds has a theory. He thinks justice officials and bureaucrats simply didn't care about a few men in Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia.
"At one point I called the justice department," says MacIntosh Reynolds, "I was told, quote unquote, they probably weren't going to do anything because it costs to much money to send people over to India to bring him back, and he would probably only get four years in prison, so it wasn't worth their time."
Whether it was indifference, incompetence, negligence or malfeasance, all the complainants deserve to know why their case was shuffled to the sidelines.
They hold the provincial and federal governments responsible for the delays. They're demanding a formal inquiry that would compel Crown lawyers, justice officials and bureaucrats to account for their actions.
That's not likely to happen, at least not while the case is before the Supreme Court of Canada.
So there is a very real possibility that these men will go to their graves never knowing why our justice system allowed Ernest Fenwick MacIntosh, the man accused of molesting them when they were mere boys, to hide, in plain sight, for all those years.
Previous Post
Next Post

About the Author

Brian DuBreuil is a veteran journalist with CBC News. He has won two Gemini awards for his work, and neither involved dancing or singing on a reality show.

Recent Entries

Falling through the cracks
Falling through the cracks
Apr 23, 1:32 PM

Nova Scotia's justice system is battered and bruised.  Two high-profile cases, both involving the alleged sexual assault of young people, have sorely tested the public's confidence in both the people... more »

Social media demands justice for Rehtaeh
Social media demands justice for Rehtaeh
Apr 10, 12:44 PM

On Tuesday, Justice Minister Ross Landry learned first hand the power of social media. It's a lesson he's learning the hard way.Earlier in the week, Leah Parsons turned to social... more »

Investigating the police
Investigating the police
Mar 22, 6:12 PM

Last April the province unveiled its brand new Serious Incident Response Team. The agency was established to conduct independent and transparent investigations of all serious incidents involving police officers.The idea... more »

View the Beyond the Headlines Archives »