SYDNEY — The initial complainant against Ernest Fenwick MacIntosh says he’s not giving up on trying to hold people accountable for blunders in how the case was handled by the various government agencies involved.
© Cape Breton Post file photo
Ernest Fenwick (Fen) MacIntosh walked out of the Sydney Justice Centre, after being released on bail in April 2008, in this Cape Breton Post file photo. His application for a stay in 36 sex charges has been denied.
DRS, whose identity remains protected by a court-ordered publication ban, was reacting to the tabling of an internal review of how federal agencies dealt with the matter over the years, which was released Friday by federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay. MacKay has said he won’t call a federal inquiry into the case, indicating the federal and provincial reviews that have been done have shown where the systems failed.
MacKay also apologized to the complainants on behalf of the federal government.
MacKay, a former Crown attorney, said he has never seen a case where complainants were failed so spectacularly at every turn.
“When you’re sexually abused, you’re in it for life, one way or the other,” DRS said. “I know that’s maybe what my wife wants and maybe what some other people want — when this is over can we throw it away. I can’t throw away my past. Can I live with it easier, yes, through time. But it’s not going to ever disappear, and because there’s still questions, we’ll always wonder.
“I think there’s still a couple of rounds in this yet.”
MacIntosh has denied any guilt, saying he had relations with some of the complainants when they were old enough to consent.
While he remains angry about how the complainants have been failed, DRS said that anger is not directed at MacKay personally.
“The review was somewhat disappointing in that it didn’t name the people who were responsible and I don’t think it answered all of the questions,” DRS said. “But I think Peter tried … I think he is very genuine.”
MacIntosh was convicted at two trials in 2010 of 17 counts of sexual abuse involving several male youths, including DRS, in the Strait area in the 1970s. Those convictions were overturned on appeal, on the grounds that it took too long for MacIntosh, who was first charged in 1995 and had to be extradited from India, to go to trial. The appeals court also found that a trial judge misunderstood some of the evidence and would have ordered a new trial if the charges hadn’t been quashed.
The appeals court decision was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada.
MacKay said the federal report was about identifying the errors that occurred and where communications between agencies broke down.
“More than that, it’s taking these extremely hard lessons and disappointments and turning it into a better system that will not repeat these errors,” he said.
MacKay called it a shameful chapter in Canadian justice. As for who should feel ashamed, he said, “every official that has anything to do with this file has to answer to their own conscience,” adding there was a whole litany of people who didn’t properly do their jobs.
He said he understands why the complainants in the case may not take much comfort from that and would prefer to see people who made the errors suffer some consequences.
“I completely understand the empty feeling that this may leave the victims with, but at the end of the day, we can’t turn back time, we can’t make the horrible abuse that these victims endured go away and many of them I’m sure have lost all faith in our justice system,” MacKay said.
Many of those people who failed to meet their responsibilities in the matter over the years have already left the public service and are no longer in positions where they could be held personally accountable, he noted.
There have been significant improvements to the systems that came into play in the MacIntosh case, MacKay said, such as border control and revocation of passports.
MacIntosh has two unrelated-but-similar convictions dating to the 1980s.