By The Canadian Press
Winnipeg has revoked what it calls its highest honour — the Key to the City — from Peter Nygard following the former fashion mogul’s conviction on four counts of sexual assault.
During a council meeting Thursday, St. Norbert-Seine River Coun. Markus Chambers said Nygard, who founded a fashion company in Winnipeg in 1967 that ultimately became Nygard International, received the honour in 2008.
Chambers then asked Mayor Scott Gillingham what measures were being taken to preserve the integrity of the honour following Nygard’s recent convictions, as well as other charges against him which remain before the courts.
Gillingham responded that in light of the convictions, he’d asked the city’s protocol officer to strike Nygard’s name from the list of key recipients.
On Saturday, a spokesman for Gillingham said in an email that Nygard was removed from the list earlier this week.
Other former recipients of Winnipeg’s Key to the City include astronaut Chris Hadfield and Cindy Blackstock, the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society.
“One of the City of Winnipeg’s highest honours is Key to the City. It is meant to confer trust and honour for citizens who have made significant actions or contributions to our fair city,” Chambers said during a portion of Thursday’s council meeting reserved for questions for the mayor.
“Mr. Nygard’s recent court proceedings, including his conviction, coupled with his pending legal troubles call into question the trust and honour the Key to the City represents,” he added.
Chambers also noted that revoking the honour would send a message of support to Nygard’s victims.
“We do take this very seriously,” Gillingham responded. “The Key to the City is the highest honour that we can bestow on someone.”
Nygard was convicted of four charges of sexual assault by an Ontario court earlier this month. He was acquitted of a fifth count, as well as a charge of forcible confinement. The charges stemmed from allegations dating back from the 1980s until the mid-2000s.
Five women testified during trial that they were invited to Nygard’s headquarters at 1 Niagara St. in Toronto under pretexts ranging from tours to job interviews, with all encounters ending in a top-floor bedroom suite where four of them were sexually assaulted.
His sentencing date is to be set later this month. His defence lawyers have said they are considering whether there are grounds to appeal the verdict.
Nygard’s company produced women’s clothing under several brand names and had corporate facilities in both Canada and the U.S.
His stores throughout Winnipeg were once draped in photos of the mogul. The former company’s giant head office and distribution building included a “Nygard museum” with a wall collage of pictures showing Nygard with politicians, actors, musicians and models.
In 2018, former Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman and then-deputy premier Heather Stefanson were at a gala for the 50th anniversary of Nygard International. Former Winnipeg Jets hockey favourite Teemu Selanne sent a video greeting.
When allegations against Nygard surfaced in 2020, Bowman said that if they were proven in court, he’d want the Key to the City back.
Nygard is still facing criminal charges in three other jurisdictions, including the U.S. He is accused of sexual assault and forcible confinement in separate cases in Quebec and Manitoba, related to allegations dating back to the 1990s.
None of the charges against Nygard in those other jurisdictions have been tested in court.
Nygard stepped down as chairman of Nygard International after the FBI and police raided his offices in New York City in February 2020. The company has since filed for bankruptcy and entered into receivership.