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‘Watching a wrongful conviction unfold:’ Canadian guilty of Nepal child rape

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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

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China asks for suspension of Canadian meat, citing forged certificates

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OTTAWA — The Chinese Embassy said Tuesday it has asked Canada to suspended all meat exports, a surprise move that comes amid the diplomatic dispute over the December arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.

The latest Chinese move comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to depart Wednesday for a G20 leaders’ summit in Japan, where he is expected to rely on U.S. President Donald Trump to raise the plight of two detained Canadians during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The embassy said in a statement to The Canadian Press on Tuesday that this latest move follows Chinese customs inspectors’ detection of residue from a restricted feed additive, called ractopamine, in a batch of Canadian pork products. The additive has permitted uses in Canada but is banned in China.

“The subsequent investigation revealed that the official veterinary health certificates attached to the batch of pork exported to China were counterfeit and the number of those forgery certificates was up to 188. The Canadian side believes that this incident is criminal offence,” said the embassy statement.

“These forged certificates were sent to the Chinese regulatory authorities through Canadian official certificate notification channel, which reflects that the Canadian meat export supervision system exists obvious safety loopholes.”

China is therefore taking “urgent preventive measures” to protect Chinese customers and has asked the Canadian government to suspend all meat-export certificates, the embassy said.

“We hope the Canadian side would attach great importance to this incident, complete the investigation as soon as possible and take effective measures to ensure the safety of food exported to China in a more responsible manner.”

A spokeswoman for Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau did not immediately comment on the report.

A report in the newspaper Journal de Quebec, which first reported the story, quotes a Montreal-based diplomat with the Chinese consulate-general as saying the ban is temporary.

China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor and sentenced another Canadian to death in an apparent attempt to pressure for Meng’s release.

China has also stopped imports of Canadian canola and has suspended import permits for three pork producers.

A senior Canadian government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the dispute, described the matter as a “technical issue.”

The official said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is “seized with the issue and looking into the matter to ensure that all the rules are being followed.”

The CFIA is working with Chinese officials to resolve the matter.

“This is a technical issue related to potentially fraudulent permits,” said the official. “We stand by the quality of Canadian products.”

The Conservatives blamed Trudeau.

“Conservatives know that Canadian farmers produce some of the highest-quality meat in the world. Any assertion by the Chinese government to the contrary is both false and baseless,” said a statement from Tory agriculture critic Luc Berthold. “It is clear that this is not an issue of food safety, but a political issue caused by Justin Trudeau’s incompetence and weakness on the world stage.”

Berthold said Trudeau has to “personally raise this issue” with Xi in at the G20 meeting and demand the trade barriers be lifted.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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Report: China bans all Canadian meat before G20 as Trudeau turns to Trump on detainees

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OTTAWA — A report in a Quebec newspaper says China has suspended all Canadian meat exports in a dramatic escalation of its diplomatic dispute with Canada over the December arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.

The latest Chinese move comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to depart Wednesday for the G20 leaders’ summit, where he is expected to rely on U.S. President Donald Trump to raise the plight of two detained Canadians during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

A report in the newspaper Journal de Quebec quotes a Montreal-based diplomat with the Chinese consulate-general as saying the ban is temporary.

The diplomat says the move is being taken because about 100 faked veterinary health certificates have been identified on exported meat products.

A spokeswoman for Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau has yet to comment on the report.

China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor and sentenced another Canadian to death in an apparent attempt to pressure for Meng’s release.

China has also stopped imports of Canadian canola and has suspended export permits for three pork producers.

The Canadian Press

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