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Senator Pierrette Ringuette pressures the government to take action to bring Henk Tepper back home

For Immediate Release:

June 22, 2011


Senator Pierrette Ringuette pressures the government to take action to bring Henk Tepper back home


OTTAWA – Yesterday, Senator Pierrette Ringuette, along with Member of Parliament Dominic LeBlanc and Lawyer Rodney Gillis, Q.C. held a press conference providing justification for the Government of Canada to request New Brunswick potato farmer Henk Tepper’s return to Canada from Lebanon.

The full audio of the press conference is available at the following link: 21_SENATOR PIERRETTE RINGUETTE_13H00.MP3


Senator Ringuette continued to put pressure on the government to take action during Senate question period, please find the full transcript below.


For Additional Information:


Tim Rosenburgh

Office of Senator Pierrette Ringuette

(613) 943-3645



Question period

June 21, 2011

Hon. Pierrette Ringuette: Honourable senators, I would like to begin with a short preamble so that you can fully understand the situation in which one of my fellow citizens from New Brunswick finds himself.

It was a Sunday, the morning of Mother's Day, when the Tepper family from Drummond, New Brunswick, came to my home. Father, wife and sister came to ask for my help because they believed that there was no one trustworthy to turn to.

Upon his arrival in Beirut, Mr. Tepper, a 44-year-old, long-time farmer, entrepreneur, and exporter, was arrested following a red alert issued and sought by Interpol for allegedly shipping potatoes at the end of December 2007.

Of course, I did not venture into this matter without doing my homework, as we say. I did my research, honourable senators, I wrote many letters, I met with ambassadors, essentially because my fellow citizen, Mr. Tepper, a farmer on a business trip organized by Potatoes Canada, financed by the federal government, went to Lebanon to promote the export of Canadian potatoes and, in his case, the export of potatoes from Atlantic Canada.

My research shows that between September 2008 and today, there was a continuous exchange of information by the Department of Justice, the RCMP and Algeria's justice ministry. On May 4, almost two months ago, Mr. Tepper's lawyer, Mr. Gillis, requested a copy of all the correspondence. To date, he has not received any of the documents.

My first question for the leader is the following: At the next cabinet meeting, or at the end of this question period, can you ask Minister Baird, Minister Ablonczy and Minister Nicholson to fast-track all the documents pertaining to the detainment in Beirut of Mr. Tepper, a farmer from New Brunswick?


Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the honourable senator for the question.

As honourable senators will appreciate, the Privacy Act limits the information available to me. However, I can say that the consular officials in Lebanon have been actively providing assistance and support to Mr. Tepper and his family since his arrest. Consular officials regularly visit Mr. Tepper to ensure his health and well-being and are constantly in contact with his lawyers and family to provide assistance, support and updates on his case. Officials will continue to engage with senior Lebanese authorities to request due process and a timely and transparent handling of his file.

With regard to the demand for documents, this is a matter between Mr. Tepper's lawyer and officials within the Lebanese and Algerian judicial systems. Those requests are best addressed by those governments and by Mr. Tepper's lawyer.


Senator Ringuette: I did not ask the honourable leader to recite what the officials at DFAIT have told her to answer if she was asked a question with regard to Mr. Tepper's file. I specifically asked the leader to help this family and this honest Canadian, and to ask these three ministers to fast-track the information to his lawyers. This is not a question of proxy or of consular affairs; this is a question of political will.

Will the leader please ask for this information to be fast-tracked to Mr. Tepper's lawyers?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, this is a matter on which the Canadian government, through its consular services, is working very hard, as is Mr. Tepper's member of Parliament. We are dealing with it through consular facilities. That is the avenue that is open and available to us. Consular officials have assured us that they are working extremely hard on this file.

With regard to documents, the lawyer for Mr. Tepper is dealing with the governments of Algeria and Lebanon. All I can say is that the Canadian consular services are providing the very best service available to assist Mr. Tepper, his lawyers and his family.

Senator Ringuette: In an extraordinary press conference today on Parliament Hill, Mr. Tepper, a Canadian citizen who has been detained in a jail cell in Beirut because of a flow of information and allegations that not even his lawyer can obtain through the Canadian government, made an extraordinary request to the Minister of Justice of Canada. This request was with regard to those allegations against Mr. Tepper.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, since 2008, has been telling the Department of Justice that Mr. Tepper has fraudulent inspection documents from that agency. That agency is a Crown corporation. By the way, that agency is also being defended by lawyers from the Department of Justice, the same Department of Justice that is sending information to Algeria.

With regard to allegations that the Minister of Justice knows about, if he agrees that Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspection certificates were forged by this Canadian, then he should begin criminal charges against Mr. Tepper. These criminal charges should be sent to INTERPOL, and INTERPOL should request Lebanon to send Mr. Tepper home to get a fair trial, in accordance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada.

The Minister of Justice has been aware of this situation since 2008. If the Minister of Justice believes that these Canadian documents were not forged in Canada and were not forged by this Canadian citizen, then he has the responsibility to ask the Minister of Justice in Lebanon to send this Canadian citizen back home.

There are only two options here for the Minister of Justice: Either the minister believes that this Canadian forged the document in Canada, in a Canadian document, and so he should be sent back home, or he does not believe this and he should request that Mr. Tepper be sent back home to his family.

Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator has put on the record today some information that she is obviously privy to. I can only repeat that I will be happy to provide to the appropriate officials with a copy of what the honourable senator has said in the chamber today.

I can only repeat what I said before, and this applies to this case and to many similar cases. The information that is provided is subject to the Privacy Act. The other information that I can convey to honourable senators is what I have already conveyed. The Canadian government, through its consular officials in Lebanon, is working to assist Mr. Tepper and is in regular contact with him and his lawyer.

Honourable senators, I cannot go beyond that. However, I will bring the honourable senator's comments to the attention of the appropriate people and ascertain whether or not there is any information that we can provide in addition to what I have already said.

Senator Ringuette: In a letter to Mr. Tepper's lawyer from the Department of Justice, dated May 12, 2011, one of the items stated by the counsel and litigation team leader for the Minister of Justice in regard to this issue reads:

Third, while offences occurring in Canada may be the proper subject of prosecution in Canada, it is also possible that they would be the appropriate subject of prosecution elsewhere.

In other words, with regard to the alleged forgery of Canadian Food Inspection Agency documents, a Canadian, Mr. Tepper, has never set foot in Algeria. This document is implying that we in Canada, with alleged forged documents by a Canadian in Canada, will contract out prosecution to the Algerian government for this man.

I understand that the leader cannot provide an answer today, but I am saying that these are very serious offences. This Canadian — a good farmer, a family person, a person who immigrated to Canada believing in this country — has spent over 90 days in jail in Beirut without knowing what the Canadian government has charged him with or what the Canadian government has informed Algeria about, and the leader is talking about consular affairs.

Mr. Tepper's eldest daughter is graduating from high school this weekend. I hope this government will do the right thing with regard to this honest, hard-working Canadian citizen. Do the right thing and bring him home now.


Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator obviously feels very strongly about this. It is a troubling situation. However, as the Leader of the Government in the Senate, I can only reply that there are considerations under the Privacy Act, as information in this case is not widely distributed. I am simply trying to reassure honourable senators that this gentleman is being accorded every possible service that is provided. Consular services, as are being provided to Mr. Tepper, are provided for all Canadians who find themselves in difficulty abroad.

Honourable senators, I cannot pluck out of the air an answer that would be satisfactory to Senator Ringuette other than to say that I will pass along her concerns. There will be a transcript of what the honourable senator has said here today. I will ensure that the proper authorities are aware of what she has had to say. However, that does not change the situation.

Consular officials and others, including the member of Parliament, have been working very closely with Mr. Tepper's family in Canada. Our consular officials in Lebanon have been working with Mr. Tepper, his lawyer and his family.

I am sorry, honourable senators, but that is the extent of what I can say. As difficult as it is for my honourable friend to accept that answer, that is the only answer I can provide today.

Senator Ringuette: Honourable senators, I am not asking for answers from the leader today. I would like her to bring this matter to her cabinet colleagues at the next cabinet meeting and get answers. This man's family needs answers; New Brunswickers need answers.

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I have indicated that I would obtain a transcript of the senator's remarks in the Senate chamber today and ensure that it is provided to the appropriate people.