TORONTO — An Order of Canada recipient has been found guilty of sexually assaulting children in Nepal after a police investigation and trial his lawyers describe as a travesty of justice.
Sentencing for Peter Dalglish, expected in about two weeks, could see the well-known aid worker jailed for as long as 13 years.
“This has been like watching a wrongful conviction unfold in real time,” Dalglish’s Canadian lawyer, Nader Hasan, said in an interview Tuesday. “We have deep concerns about the process here, both from the perspective of procedural fairness of the court proceedings as well as certain tactics taken by the police and the state.”
The judge, who rendered his verdict late Monday, has yet to release his reasons for the guilty finding. Dalglish, 62, has denied any wrongdoing.
Originally from London, Ont., Dalglish has spent years working around the globe. Nepalese police arrested him in the early hours of April 8 last year in a raid on the mountain home he had built in the village of Kartike east of the capital of Kathmandu. Police alleged he had raped two Nepalese boys aged 11 and 14, who were with him.
Pushkar Karki, chief of the Central Investigation Bureau, said at the time Dalglish lured children from poor families with promises of education, jobs and trips, and then sexually abused them. Karki said other foreign men in Nepal had also been arrested on suspicion of pedophilia.
“There have been some instances where they were found working with charities,” Karki told the New York Times. “Our laws aren’t as strict as in foreign countries, and there is no social scrutiny like in developed countries.”
According to his lawyers, the investigation appears to have originated with rumours at a school in Thailand where Dalglish had been a board member. They say an investigation found no evidence of misconduct.
However, a complaint to the RCMP during that time appears to have led to an Interpol “red flag,” prompting Nepalese police to open an investigation.
His lawyers say investigators repeatedly approached the older boy at home and school to ask about the Canadian. They allege police wined and dined him, bought him school books and offered other inducements. While the two complainants ended up giving damning testimony in court, they gave several versions of their stories at different times, the defence asserts.
Hasan, who said there will be an appeal, said the judge ignored “serious flaws” in the prosecution case.
“There ought to have been reasonable doubt,” Hasan said. “The police intimidation tactics and the police bribes and the police threats ought to have been insurmountable evidence of not just not guilty, but of actual innocence.”
Hasan said the Nepalese legal system, which operates largely in secrecy, bears little resemblance to anything in Canada — or many other countries. Among other problems, courts do not record proceedings or produce transcripts, leading to confusion about what witnesses actually said.
His lawyers say in one incident, a witness helpful to the defence was testifying when the judge excused himself from the courtroom to go eat dinner. They say he told parties to carry on without him and that he would catch up with the court clerk afterwards.
Hasan said Dalglish’s family — his ex-wife and daughter live in the Netherlands and his brothers in Ontario — as well as friends have been standing by him. In addition, he has strong support in Nepal, where two young men he had previously mentored have been visiting him twice daily in prison in Dhulikhel near Kathmandu to take him food.
“Obviously, (it) was emotionally devastating for him — as it would be for anyone, particularly someone who is innocent,” Hasan said of the guilty finding. “But he’s a remarkably resilient human being and it’s helpful that he has a very strong support system. That helps him stay positive.”
Dalglish, who had spent years doing humanitarian work in Nepal, co-founded a Canadian charity called Street Kids International in the late 1980s. He has worked for several humanitarian agencies, including UN Habitat in Afghanistan and the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response in Liberia. He was named a member of the Order of Canada in late 2016.
Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
151st Cowichan Exhibition includes new category: best home-grown pot
VICTORIA — One of Canada’s oldest fall fairs is putting a new twist on its annual showcase of local livestock, produce and fruit by adding a new category for best home-grown marijuana.
The Cowichan Exhibition in Duncan, B.C., which dates back to 1868, has created a best cannabis category to embrace legalization and celebrate local pot growers, said exhibition vice-president Bud James.
The fair starts Friday and the cannabis entries will be on display in the main hall at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds along with the region’s top vegetables, fruits and baked goods. First prize is $5, second is $3 and third place gets a ribbon.
“We just decided this year, because it’s an agricultural product, and it’s been grown in the valley for years, and now that it’s finally legally grown, we would allow people to win a ribbon for the best,” said James.
He said fair officials believe the Cowichan cannabis category is the first of its kind in Canada.
An official at the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, a non-profit organization representing rural and urban fairs, said she had not heard of any other cannabis judging contests prior to the Cowichan Exhibition, but couldn’t confirm it was the first.
A fall fair in Grand Forks, B.C., is also judging local cannabis, but the event starts Saturday, one day after Cowichan’s fair. Those who enter the competition in Grand Forks can compete for best indoor- and outdoor-grown cannabis.
James said fair organizers contacted the local council and RCMP prior to adding the cannabis category. The mayor and council did not oppose the contest and the RCMP referred organizers to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, the agency monitoring retail sales of non-medical cannabis, he said.
Organizers decided to go ahead with the event after its plans were not rejected, James said.
“Our interpretation of the rules are you can’t make it attractive to people under 19 years and we are not making it attractive,” he said.
James said the cannabis entries will be placed in a glass display case and the individual entries will be sealed in clear zip lock plastic bags.
“It’s being judged to the same standard of judging garden and field produce,” he said. “It’s done by uniformity. You want all three buds to be the same size, same shape, same colour. It’s also the dryness, texture and smell. It’s exactly the same way you would judge apples or carrots or hay bales. It’s all done the same way.”
James said the contest doesn’t involve sampling the product.
Bree Tweet, the manager of a medical cannabis dispensary in nearby Ladysmith, will judge the marijuana entries, said James.
The exhibition received 18 cannabis entries and James said the contest created a buzz at the fair.
“The enthusiasm of the entrants, the people bringing their entry forms, they are so enthusiastic it’s unbelievable,” he said. “They are so thrilled that it’s happening, that we’re doing it because they’ve been waiting for years for legalization and now, they finally got it and now they have a chance to show what they can do.”
James, who has entered his prized Dahlia flowers at past fairs, said the addition of the cannabis category has exceeded expectations with the 18 entries.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
School board defends book pictured on principal’s desk after online uproar
A Toronto-area Catholic school board says an online firestorm that erupted after a book on how to teach black students was photographed on a principal’s desk stems from a misunderstanding over the book’s contents.
The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board says the book, titled “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys,” has a provocative title but is actually a helpful resource on tackling racial and cultural oppression in education.
Michelle Coutinho, the board’s principal of equity and inclusive education, says such materials are a particularly useful reference given how diverse the student population is in the district and at that specific school.
The controversy emerged this week after a Brampton, Ont., high school, Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School, posted a photo of its new principal on Twitter.
The photo, which shows the book on her desk, set off heated debate, with some suggesting it was a sign of racism or incompetence, or a prop meant to bolster the school’s image.
The image was also shared on instagram by 6ixBuzzTV, a popular account with roughly 1.2 million followers.
“LOOOOL. No principal should make it this far while subsequently needing a book like this,” one person wrote on Twitter. “She a bad principal,” wrote another.
Some defended the book, however, and the principal’s efforts to educate herself. “She’s making an effort to connect with her students, it’s more than most principals do,” another tweet read.
The board said it was surprised by the uproar and hoped people would look up the book before jumping to conclusions based on its title.
The principal intends to address the photo in a public announcement and invite any students with lingering questions to see her, said Bruce Campbell, the board’s spokesman.
The book, written by three researchers and published in 2017, aims to improve outcomes for black students by helping teachers create learning environments in which they feel nurtured and engaged. The title references the fact that white women make up the bulk of the teaching force in the U.S.
Coutinho said the book asks educators to challenge the biases they may bring into the classroom.
“We know that we’re steeped in a colonized kind of world view and how do we break out of that in our everyday practices?” she said, noting it has been used in the board’s anti-oppression training in the past.
Cardinal Ambrozic’s new principal was involved in a book study at several schools that delved deeply into the text last year, Coutinho said.
“If we’re going to make any changes to the education system, we have to start talking about these things and talking about them openly and honestly without shame or blame.”
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
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