WARNING: This article and its videos contain graphic content that may be triggering for those who have experienced sexual violence or know someone affected by it.
Disgraced clothing manufacturer Peter Nygard will not face charges in his hometown of Winnipeg, after a 10-month police investigation into allegations of sexual assault from eight women, The Fifth Estate has learned.
In addition, an investigation by The Fifth Estate reveals a pattern of Nygard avoiding prosecution following allegations of rape reported to Winnipeg police over several decades.
Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth said in a statement that their recent investigation involved working 15 files, interviewing 29 witnesses, including survivors, and compiling more than 1,600 documents.
In the end, eight cases were submitted to Manitoba’s Justice Ministry for consideration. According to Smyth, prosecutors decided not to lay charges in all of the cases.
- The Fifth Estate‘s documentary, “Why not in Winnipeg?,” airs Thursday at 9 p.m. on CBC-TV and streams on CBC Gem.
“It’s like a slap in the face,” said Nadine Moostoos, one of the women whose case was recently referred to Manitoba’s Justice Ministry for criminal charges.
In 1993, she was 14 years old and living on the street when she said Nygard picked her up and sexually assaulted her.
“That just broke my heart, man,” she said, referring to the decision not to press charges in her case. “It gave me no faith in the justice system.”
WATCH | Nadine Moostoos describes what she told prosecutors when they declined her case:
Nygard, formerly the head of a multimillion-dollar clothing empire based in Winnipeg, is in custody in Toronto where he faces six charges of sexual assault and three counts of unlawful imprisonment.
Nygard also faces multiple charges of sex trafficking in New York City, where prosecutors said in an indictment that, with help from his company, he drugged and sexually assaulted “at least dozens of women and minor-aged female victims” over 25 years. There is an extradition proceeding underway in that case.
Outside one of the hearings, lawyer Brian Greenspan said, “Mr. Nygard denies any allegation of criminal conduct.”
WATCH | Peter Nygard is escorted into a van outside Pearson airport:
In Winnipeg, however, he’s never been prosecuted for a sex crime.
‘We were always tossed aside’
Four of the eight women, whose accounts of sexual assault were referred to Manitoba prosecutors by Winnipeg police, spoke to The Fifth Estate.
Serena Hickes was working for Nygard in one of his stores in 1992, when she said Nygard raped her. She said she was too afraid to go to the police at the time. As a young Indigenous woman, she felt she wouldn’t be believed.
“We were always tossed aside,” she said.
“And I’d love for the police to come and prove me wrong, but sorry, guys. … we’re still not taken seriously, to this day.”
April Telek was 20 when she was invited to Winnipeg by Nygard for a modelling job in 1993. She said Nygard held her captive and raped her.
When Telek was informed no charges would be laid in her case, she said she was “gutted by that news.”
When Toronto police announced they would be charging Nygard in October, the Winnipeg women said they felt crushed.
KC Allan met Nygard in a Winnipeg nightclub at age 17 in 1979. She said Nygard raped her at his warehouse after he offered to give her a ride home.
“To learn that the Toronto police and court system found six women in Toronto to be more credible and charge-worthy than the eight Winnipeg victims is a disgrace,” Allan said.
WATCH | KC Allan calls the lack of charges in Winnipeg ‘a disgrace’:
Winnipeg police declined an interview request. But in the statement to The Fifth Estate, Smyth said it wasn’t his decision not to charge Nygard.
“We acknowledge and respect the decisions made by justice officials … not to proceed with criminal proceedings.”
Manitoba’s Justice Ministry and its prosecution office declined to do an interview or provide a statement about its reasons for declining charges.
A familiar story
The Fifth Estate investigation also uncovered new revelations about how Nygard avoided prosecution in Winnipeg despite multiple complaints to the police.
Nygard’s first known brush with the law was in 1968, when Winnipeg police charged him with a sexual offence, The Fifth Estate has learned.
Nygard would have been in his 20s at the time.
“I received a report from a young lady of a sexual nature, and we investigated the offence,” said Des Depourcq, a detective with Winnipeg police at the time. He has never told this story publicly.
“My recollection is she was a young lady, somewhere I’m guessing around 18 and I believe she worked for Mr. Nygard in his factory.”
Depourcq said he arrested and charged Nygard, but the woman refused to testify and the charges were withdrawn.
It’s a familiar story. In 1980, Nygard was charged again with rape in Winnipeg, and again the charges were withdrawn when the woman refused to testify.
Teen’s family offered $250K, advocate says
Then, in the 1990s, a 14-year-old girl came forward in Winnipeg saying she had been raped by Nygard, The Fifth Estate has learned.
Her family turned to Joy Smith for help. Smith, who later started an anti-human trafficking foundation in the city, was a school teacher at the time helping women and girls who had been trafficked.
“They explained to me Peter Nygard made them feel that they couldn’t win anything anyway. He had the money and he’d fight them and their lives would be ruined,” said Smith, who was later an MP in Winnipeg for more than a decade.
She said Nygard offered the family money for their silence.
“Peter Nygard persuaded them not to go to the police and not to report, and he gave them $250,000 to keep quiet,” Smith said.
Nygard’s lawyer, Jay Prober, said in an email that “there will be no comment” in response to The Fifth Estate‘s findings.
‘Nothing sticks to this man’
The police themselves have felt powerless at times, The Fifth Estate investigation revealed.
In 1984, an 18-year old Nygard employee, who was being sexually harrassed by Nygard at work, said she approached a police officer she knew. She wanted to press charges.
“[The officer] informed me … that he had had a look into Peter Nygard’s file,” she said, adding that the officer said Nygard’s file was “10 and a half inches high.”
The Fifth Estate is protecting the woman’s identity as a survivor of sexual assault.
“Nothing sticks to this man,” the woman said the officer said. “I don’t know what’s happening. You have to get out of there.”
WATCH | A Winnipeg woman says a police officer urged her to quit her Nygard job:
The woman gave her notice at work, but before her last day, she said Nygard took her to his apartment and raped her.
Afterwards, she said, she was given an envelope with two weeks’ salary and told by one of Nygard’s employees to “collect my things and leave with a straight face.”
“I was too scared to say anything [to the police].”
Much of the reporting to date about Nygard has questioned whether his money and connections have helped him to evade prosecution in the Bahamas, where he has lived part-time since the 1980s.
While there is nothing to suggest Nygard’s influence played a role in the decision not to lay charges concerning the eight Winnipeg survivors, the new revelations suggest his pattern of evading prosecution existed long before Nygard arrived in the Bahamas.
“Society thinks, ‘Oh, Peter Nygard perfected everything in the Bahamas,'” Hickes said.
“No. He perfected how to get away with all of this in Winnipeg.”
If you have any information, or a confidential tip, to share about this story, please contact Timothy Sawa at [email protected] or [email protected]. For information about how to send tips confidentially, please visit The Fifth Estate’s website.
If you need support, here are some options to find it 24 hours a day:
Across Canada: Crisis Services Canada at 1-833-456-4566.
In Toronto: Assaulted Women’s Helpline at 1-866-863-0511 or 1-866-863-7868, or text #SAFE (#7233).
In Manitoba: Sexual Assault Crisis Line (24/7) at (204) 786-8631 in Winnipeg and 1-888-292-7565 across the province.
For youth: Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 or text CONNECT to 686868.