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A national child rights advocacy agency is urging the federal and Manitoba justice ministers to investigate embattled Winnipeg fashion mogul Peter Nygard for alleged crimes against children.

"This is… not a matter which should be left only to foreign jurisdictions to consider," David Matas, lawyer for Beyond Borders ECPAT Canada, wrote in a letter dated April 30 to federal Justice Minister David Lametti and Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen.

"Canada and Manitoba need to show initiative and leadership in this file."

A U.S.-based class action lawsuit first filed in February now includes allegations from 46 woman accusing Nygard of sex crimes spanning five decades. Twelve claim they were minors when Nygard raped them; the accusers include 18 Canadians and multiple Winnipeggers.

Nygard, 78, has repeatedly denied the allegations through his lawyers, claiming he’s the target of people with a personal vendetta against him.

The U.S. lawsuit is a civil — not criminal — proceeding. If found guilty, Nygard would be subject to financial damages, not jail, Matas said in an interview Friday.

Beyond Borders is the Canadian representative of ECPAT International, a global network of more than 90 anti-exploitation organizations in 84 countries.

"The allegations, if they are true, allege criminal activity and, as far as we’re concerned, when it comes to the sexual abuse of children, a monetary penalty through a civil suit isn’t really sufficient to deal with the problem," Matas said.

"It’s a sufficiently grave problem that really does require criminal prosecution."

An investigation of wrongdoing would have to support criminal charges before any extradition proceedings (if needed) could commence. Matas acknowledged Friday he didn’t expect justice officials to confirm whether Nygard was under investigation for any alleged crimes in Canada.

"Typically, police will not tell you if they are investigating someone for something," the lawyer said. "I don’t think police should make public statements about who they are investigating and for what… If there is (an investigation) already going on, fine, but if there isn’t one, our view is there should be one."

Nygard's lawyer, Jay Prober, said Friday there "is no evidentiary basis for charges," making any talk of extradition irrelevant.

"Any investigation would reveal nothing," Prober said. "They can investigate all they want, they won’t find any evidence of wrongdoing."

Nygard’s whereabouts have not been confirmed by any source.

"I don’t know where Peter Nygard is," Matas said. "I don’t know if he is in the U.S., the Bahamas, or Winnipeg. For all I know, he could be having lunch with my neighbour."

Nygard has a home in the Bahamas, and his fashion company has headquarters in New York, Winnipeg and Toronto.

In March, the Nygard Group of companies was ordered into receivership after a judge found it had not acted in good faith with its lenders and an insolvency trustee.

On Wednesday, Queen’s Bench Justice James Edmond approved a request by receiver Richter Advisory Group to liquidate Nygard Group’s assets and inventory. A start date for the sell off has not been set.

dean.pritchard@freepress.mb.ca

Dean Pritchard

Dean Pritchard
Reporter

Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.

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