Peter Nygard has aged dramatically in jail, at increased risk of stroke or heart attack, doctor says

Peter Nygard's Winnipeg doctor says the 79-year-old fashion designer has aged dramatically in the three months he's been in jail. At a hearing Thursday, Nygard will appeal a judge's decision to deny him bail.

Nygard, 79, will appeal a judge's decision to deny him bail at a hearing on Thursday

Peter Nygard, 79, appeared in Manitoba court on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, from Headingley Correctional Centre via video conference. (Tadens Mpwene/La Liberté Manitoba)

Peter Nygard's doctor says the stress of incarceration is putting the 79-year-old fashion designer at increased risk for a heart attack, stroke or cardiac event. 

The details are in an affidavit written by Winnipeg's Dr. Harvey B. Lee that was submitted as part of Nygard's bail appeal.

Last month, Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench Justice Shawn Greenberg denied Nygard bail, in part because she was concerned about the possibility of witness tampering if he was released.

His bail appeal will be heard in the Manitoba Court of Appeal on Thursday.

Nygard was arrested Dec. 14 on a number of charges filed in a Southern District of New York court, including sex trafficking and racketeering. He's currently at Headingley Correctional Centre, just outside Winnipeg, and faces possible extradition to the U.S.

None of the allegations have been tested in court. Nygard hasn't said if he plans to fight the extradition.

The U.S. filed a formal extradition request on Feb. 9 and Canada's Minister of Justice issued an authority to proceed — which authorizes an extradition hearing, and is the first step in the extradition process — on March 4, according to court filings.

In an affidavit, Dr. Lee says he last saw Nygard in person at his Winnipeg medical office on June 29, but has done virtual visits with him since he's been behind bars. 

The first was in December at the Winnipeg Remand Centre, then at Headingley jail. Dr. Lee says he arranged for a live video interview with the fashion designer on March 4 because he was concerned about Nygard's physical health.

"I observed a marked decline and deterioration of his physical appearance. He had aged dramatically," said Dr. Lee.

He said given Nygard's age and the dramatic change in his appearance, he believes his patient is at increased risk for heart attack, stroke or cardiac event.

Court filings say Nygard isn't getting proper nutrition while in jail because of a sugar allergy, and that his poor diet increases his susceptibility to COVID-19. 

"He has provided evidence that he is allergic to approximately 70 per cent of the food served in the Headingley Correctional Centre, as that food contains sugar and/or white carbohydrates," said the motions brief.

Nygard used this argument the first time he applied for bail. Court heard he had been provided a vegan diet to address his concerns.

Seeking publication ban

Court documents filed by the attorney general of Canada say Manitoba's COVID-19 vaccination plan prioritizes people living in congregate settings such as provincial jails. The attorney general also says that a March 10 vaccine technical briefing projected everyone living in congregate facilities would receive their first vaccination by April 15.

A provincial spokesperson told CBC News vaccinations haven't begun at Headingley, but should be underway by mid-April.

The attorney general's court filings say American authorities are seeking a publication ban to protect the identities of victims and witnesses that may be revealed during Thursday's bail appeal.

A notice of motion says Nygard's lawyers disclosed the identity of a witness that had been "anonymized in materials filed by the United States," and are asking a judge to issue a publication ban.

Toronto lawyer Brian Greenspan, seen here in 2018, has joined Nygard's defense team alongside Winnipeg lawyers Jay Prober and Richard Wolson. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

Brian H. Greenspan, a prominent Toronto defence lawyer, filed the appeal and joins Jay Prober and Richard Wolson on Nygard's defence team.

A motions brief filed in the appeal says the allegations contained in the U.S. indictment are vague and refer to events that occurred in unnamed places, in unidentified cites on unknown dates.

"It is alleged that, on unspecified dates in the course of a 25-year period, [Nygard] used 'force, fraud, and coercion to recruit and entice female victims, both adults and girls, to engage in paid sex,'" Nygard's motion brief says.

The documents say the allegations against Nygard centre on communications found on a phone belonging to Nygard's personal assistant, which was seized by the FBI.

American authorities say the woman, who is referred to as "Female 1," was required to stay at Nygard's Falcon Lake cottage from February to October 2020, and wasn't allowed to leave without Nygard's permission. 

The court filings say the woman provided a number of statements that prosecutors knew contradicted allegations in their indictment, including the fact she told Winnipeg police she had not been held against her will.

"Rather than providing full, frank and fair disclosure of the evidence, the United States prosecutors knowingly provided a selective statement of the allegations without any regard to the body of evidence that totally undermined the allegations," the motions brief says.

Nygard's lawyers say Justice Greenberg should not have placed any reliance on the uncorroborated allegations.

Peter Nygard says he lived at in the Bahamas at Nygard Cay for 40 years. He returned to Canada in 2019 before he was scheduled to appear in court over an environmental dispute over allegations of illegal dredging and development activities at Nygard's waterfront home. (CBC)

At Nygard's January bail hearing, court heard the fashion designer was found in contempt of court in the Bahamas on two occasions for failing to appear at hearings for a civil lawsuit over dredging a seabed. 

In a March 2021 affidavit, Nygard's Bahamian lawyer, Rouschard C. Martin, says Nygard provided a doctor's note before he was to appear in court in 2019 and that his absence on those dates was not at issue.

The affidavit says that Nygard was found in contempt of court for not appearing at an October 2017 hearing, but that Nygard didn't have a lawyer at the time and was not even aware he was supposed to be in court. 

"Mr. Nygard will continue to suffer serious injustice and prejudice if the statements regarding his attendance are not corrected," Martin wrote in the affidavit. 

Beefed-up bail plan

In the appeal documents, Nygard's lawyers say their release plan has been beefed up to include around-the-clock monitoring of Nygard's electronic devices and mobile phones to address concerns about contacting witnesses.

They say Nygard has no criminal record, strong ties to Canada and no passport that would give him the ability to travel. 

The documents say the revised bail plan addresses concerns about Nygard being a flight risk or committing any offences if released. He would be monitored 24/7 by a security company through live cameras, and his lawyers say they've hired a third party to monitor Nygard's phone and computers should he be released.

He would only be allowed to call or text with pre-approved people and the calls would be recorded and provided to an independent third-party monitor for review.

"Public confidence in the administration of justice would be maintained with a plan of release that will effectively place the applicant in home confinement without the real and heightened risk of attracting COVID while in custody," the motions brief says.


Caroline Barghout

Investigative Reporter, CBC Manitoba I-Team

Caroline began her career co-hosting an internet radio talk show in Toronto and then worked at various stations in Oshawa, Sudbury and Toronto before landing in Winnipeg in 2007. Since joining CBC Manitoba as a reporter in 2013, she has won an award for her work on crowded jails and her investigation into Tina Fontaine's death led to changes in the child welfare system. Email: