Tag Archives: Canada

Officials: Released Pedophile “Will Test the Waters as Soon as he Can”

James Cooper raped and tortured children. Now he’s back on the street

The Hamilton man once considered Canada’s worst pedophile — he raped, beat and tortured six children — has been released from prison even though experts agree he has not changed.

Susan Clairmont

The Hamilton man once considered Canada’s worst pedophile — he raped, beat and tortured six children — has been released from prison even though experts agree he has not changed.

James Cooper moved into a Brantford halfway house Thursday, a short drive from two of his victims.

“You are a low-down, mean, despicable, evil manifestation of a human being that preys on little children,” Justice Nick Borkovich said in 1993 when he handed Cooper a 30-year sentence. At the time, it was the harshest punishment meted out to a child molester in this country.

The Parole Board of Canada (PBC) granted Cooper statutory release last month and notified at least one victim where Cooper would be living.

Cooper is 78 now, but PBC records show his age, and the sex drive reducing medication he takes, have done little to lessen the danger he poses.

“Despite his advanced age, Mr. Cooper is still focused on sexually related matters,” according to a clinician’s report.

He is considered a “moderate high risk” to re-offend, according to records, and a psychological assessment concludes he has traits associated with a psychopathic personality.

In evaluating Cooper’s progress, one clinician says: “Very simply, he just does not get it.”

The PBC itself writes: “When in the community you have returned to inappropriate sexual behavior indicating that you were unable to apply concepts and skills presented in programming.” And “your difficulty in complying with special conditions indicate that you are either unwilling or unable to abide by expectations and therefore the board has little confidence in your ability to do so on this release.”

“The board concludes that you have the potential to be a danger to others in the community.”

Yet, Cooper is out.

His record includes: five counts of gross indecency, three of indecent assault on a female, rape, sexual intercourse on a female under age 14, two counts assault cause bodily harm, buggery and sexual assault.

Five of the children Cooper molested were his own. The other was a neighbor. Five girls, one boy. Ages ranged from seven to 14 and the abuse took place over 16 years.

“You used such items as a cattle prod, buggy whip, a cow halter, cat-o-nine tails, belts and sticks as weapons of physical abuse,” the PBC report says.

All are adults now, struggling to deal with the damage Cooper did. I chronicled their lives in a long investigative piece called Pure Evil, published in 2012.

Cooper was released from prison before, in 2008, but breached his conditions in Peterborough by allegedly groping a woman, shopping for a sex toy for his female AA sponsor and sending an obscene email to a member of his support circle. He was sent back to prison in 2012.

“He will test the waters as soon as he can,” says a relative of two victims who live in Hamilton.

Cooper is on a condition to stay away from his victims, but in the past reached out to one anyway.

He is also on a condition to not be alone with “female children under the age of 18.” I called the PBC to ask why just female children, when his convictions include the rape of his son. The PBC said it could not discuss a specific offender’s conditions.

Other conditions include abstaining from alcohol because it makes him less sexually inhibited. He is also to take medication he is prescribed and have psychiatric treatment.

He is to report all relationships with females and tell his parole officer if those women have parental responsibility for children.

Elsewhere in the documents it is mentioned Cooper has a girlfriend. She lives with someone who cares for children.



David Scott Engle First American Identified as Pedophile in Project Spade Bust

EXCLUSIVE: Youth baseball coach is first American out of 76 identified as pedophile trapped in global sting that rescued 400 children

  • David Scott Engle, from Lake Lucerne, Washington, is believed to be the first US child sex offender officially identified as someone caught by investigators from Project Spade
  • Last month MailOnline reported Engle, a divorce lawyer, was sentenced to 25 years in prison after amassing thousands of child pornography images
  • He will now stand trial on child rape charges after investigators found dozens of videos of him allegedly sexually assaulting on two boys
  • So far Project Spade has led to the rescue of 386 young children worldwide and the arrest of 348 people, among them nearly 80 American nationals

Child rape: Baseball coach David Engle, pictured, ‘repeatedly filmed himself raping two boys and had 450 sexual photos of his youth baseball players’


A youth baseball coach was exposed as a prolific pedophile in one of the world’s biggest ever child porn busts, it can be revealed today.

David Scott Engle is believed to be the first American child sex offender officially identified as someone caught by investigators from Project Spade.

Last month MailOnline reported Engle, a divorce lawyer from Lake Lucerne in Washington, was sentenced to 25 years in prison after amassing thousands of child pornography images.

The 50-year-old will now stand trial on child rape charges after investigators found dozens of videos of him allegedly carrying out sickening sexual assaults on two boys.

He was arrested in November last year when he was detected buying child pornography online, leading to the discovery that he had a collection of 450 images showing the clothed genitals of the boys he coached.

And MailOnline can for the first time reveal that he was caught after operatives from sweeping child pornography investigation Project Spade discovered his internet activity.

Members of the global team alerted local law enforcement who searched his home and a storage unit and discovered a stash of horrific home-made and purchased child pornography.

Last night Emily Langlie from the United States Attorney’s office told MailOnline: ‘Project Spade put him on the radar of law enforcement officers.

‘Then following the serving of warrants it became clear that Mr Engle was involved in not only the production of child pornography, but in child molestation against young victims.’

So far Project Spade has led to the rescue of 386 young children around the world and the arrest of 348 people, among them nearly 80 American nationals.

‘It is alleged that officers seized hundreds of thousands of videos detailing horrific sexual acts against very young children, some of the worst that they have ever viewed,’ Toronto Inspector Joanna Beaven-Desjardins said.

Massive haul: Canadian police described the Project Spade operation as one of the largest child porn busts they've ever seen

Massive haul: Canadian police described the Project Spade operation as one of the largest child porn busts they’ve ever seen

Police have revealed 108 people were arrested in Canada, 76 in the U.S and 164 in countries from Spain to South Africa and Australia. Forty school teachers, nine doctors and nurses, and more than 30 people who volunteered with kids were among those taken into custody.

The list of suspects also includes nine clergymen, six police officers and three foster parents. Police said the children were ‘rescued from child exploitation’ but did not give more details.

Beaven-Desjardins said the investigation began with a Toronto man accused of running a company since 2005 that distributed child pornography videos to the tune of $4million in revenue, CTV News reported.

Police allege Brian Way, 42, instructed people around the world to create the videos of children ranging from 5 to 12 years of age, then distributed the videos via his company, Azov Films, to international customers.

The videos included naked boys from Germany, Romania and Ukraine, which it marketed as naturist movies and claimed were legal in Canada and the United States.

The head of the Toronto police sex crimes unit told the Toronto Star that the X-rated images displayed ‘horrific acts of sexual abuse — some of the worst (officers) have seen.’

Police said they executed a search warrant at Way’s company and home, seizing about 1,000 pieces of evidence: computers, servers, DVD burners, a video editing suite and hundreds of movies.

Teachers, Doctors Among Those Busted

Global collaboration: More than 30 police officers from around the world gathered to announce the end of a 3-year child pornography investigation in Toronto

Global collaboration: More than 30 police officers from around the world gathered to announce the end of a 3-year child pornography investigation in Toronto

Way was charged with 24 offences, including child pornography. Police also designated Azov Films as a criminal organization, charging Way with giving directions on behalf of a gang. TheAzovfilms.com website has been shut down.

And MailOnline can reveal Engle was part of the global network of paedophiles. Last month he was sentenced on federal child pornography charges but allegations that he raped one boy ‘countless’ times over six years remaining outstanding in state court.

The baseball coach for 11 and 12-year-olds had gone to great lengths to have contact with children, and amassed an extensive collection of child pornography featuring boys the same age as the ones he taught, the court was told.

Before his arrest, Engle had coached a youth baseball team, was president of Maple Valley Pony Baseball and Fast Pitch, served on two regional baseball organizations and one baseball business.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marci Ellsworth said the former coach abused the trust parents placed in him.

‘While [Engle] was purportedly serving as a role model and mentor for these young boys, he was sexually interested in them,’ Ms Ellsworth said in court papers.

‘When [he] was taking pictures and shooting video of baseball games, his camera was focused on the players’ crotches, not on their batting stance, pitching arms, or any other aspect of their athletic performance.’

Online filth: Police allege Brian Way, 42, instructed people around the world to create the videos of children ranging from 5 to 12 years of age, then distributed the videos via his company, Azov Films

Online filth: Police allege Brian Way, 42, instructed people around the world to create the videos of children ranging from 5 to 12 years of age, then distributed the videos via his company, Azov Films

Engle pleaded guilty in July to federal child pornography charges and admitted possessing hundreds of videos of children being sexually abused.

Now he has been sentenced on those charges, the child rape case can proceed with any state sentence following on from the 25-year term just handed to Engle.

King County prosecutors have charged him with three counts of child rape over allegations that he was shown raping a boy in several videos.

About 1,400 photos and 40 videos allegedly show Engle raping one boy, and three videos show abuse of a second child.

In one Engle filmed himself watching baseball on TV as the boy he was raping struggled and told him ‘No’. The assaults only stopped after his arrest.

‘This is a heart-wrenching betrayal of trust of the victims and the community,’ U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan said in a statement.

Engle was caught after postal inspectors joined an international investigation into Azovfilms.com.

All walks of life: Police said 108 people were arrested in Canada, 76 in the U.S and 164 in countries from Spain to South Africa and Australia, among them teachers, doctors and priests

All walks of life: Police said 108 people were arrested in Canada, 76 in the U.S and 164 in countries from Spain to South Africa and Australia, among them teachers, doctors and priests

He spent $2,300 on videos and photos sent to him by the company between 2005 and 2011, according to Q13Fox, but when police raided his home they found child pornography well beyond the purchases he made from the website they had been investigating.

His ‘collection of child pornography consisted predominantly of young boys in the same age range as those [he] coached in youth baseball,’ Ms Ellsworth told the court.

She added: ‘[Engle] had many pictured of the boys he coached – including nearly 450 pictures of their clothed genital regions – which, although … not pornographic in nature, are nonetheless disturbing.’

His conviction is a significant result for Project Spade, which began in 2010 and worked with Interpol in more than 50 countries including Australia, Spain, Mexico, Norway and Greece.

More than 350,000 images and over 9,000 videos – about 45 terabytes – of child sexual abuse were found during the probe, and arrests are continuing.

Norwegian police spokesman Bjoern-Erik Ludvigsen said in a statement: ‘This operation shows that international police cooperation works. Despite large amounts of material and that this is time-consuming work, this shows that the Internet is not a safe haven for crimes against children,’

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service said it began its investigation by accessing the company website and making undercover purchases.

Hundreds Arrested in International Child Porn Case

348 people arrested and 386 children rescued

Toronto police announcing an international child pornography bust said Thursday that 348 people have been arrested and 386 children rescued from situations around the world where they were at risk.

Toronto police announcing an international child pornography bust said Thursday that 348 people have been arrested and 386 children rescued from situations around the world where they were at risk.

Police say a sweeping child pornography investigation that began with a Toronto man has led to at least 386 victims being rescued.

Toronto police say 348 people have been arrested around the world as part of Project Spade, which they described as one of the largest child porn busts they’ve ever achieved.

Hundreds of thousand of the images, filling 45 terabytes or a stack of paper reaching as tall as 1,500 CN Towers,  found featured “horrific acts of sexual abuse — some of the worst (officers) have seen,” said Inspector Joanna Beaven-Desjardins, who heads the Toronto police’s sex crimes unit.

They say 50 of those arrested are from Ontario and 58 are from other parts of Canada.

Police say school teachers, doctors and actors were among those arrested.

The Toronto man at the heart of the investigation was allegedly running a company since 2005 that distributed child pornography videos.

Police allege the man instructed people around the world to create the videos of children ranging from five to 12 years of age, and then distributed the videos to international customers.

“We’ve worked a lot of big cases. This is by far the biggest,” said one source.

‪The company, Toronto-based Azov Films, sold mail-order DVDs and streamed online videos of naked boys from Germany, Romania and Ukraine, which it marketed as naturist movies and claimed were legal in Canada and the United States.

‪According to police in Spain, where 38 suspects were arrested last year, the Canadian firm earned $1.6-million annually from sales in 94 countries.

‪The head of the company, 41-year-old Toronto resident Brian Way, has been in custody since his May, 2011, arrest after an online undercover operation.

‪Records at the Finch Avenue courthouse in Toronto show that, in addition to indicting him with 23 child-pornography-related criminal counts, prosecutors took the unprecedented step of designating Azov Films as a criminal organization and charging Mr. Way with giving directions on behalf of a gang.

Originally enacted to fight criminal bikers, gangsterism offences bring stiffer penalties because they have to be served consecutively to other jail terms.

Inspector Joanna Beavan-Desjardins at news conference (14 Nov 2013)

Inspector Joanna Beavan-Desjardins said 108 arrests were made across Canada

‪Mr. Way’s mother, Sandra Waslov, who is believed to be in the U.S., was named as a co-conspirator, along with a German videographer, Markus Rudolph Roth.

‪About 100 people have been arrested in Canada, including 45 in Ontario and 45 in Quebec, police sources said.

‪According to U.S. court documents, the Azov investigation was prompted by about 20 complaints to Toronto police.

‪Some of the complaints came from other law-enforcement agencies, some from cyber-tipsters and even some from business rivals of Mr. Way, sources said.

‪Azov was not exactly a covert operation: It was incorporated, held trademarks and fought for them in very public legal battles that stretched over years.

‪Starting in 2004, David Eisenlohr, a California mail-order distributor selling what he calls European naturist videos, complained to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that Mr. Way was stealing his films and reselling them online at a cheaper price.

‪Mr. Eisenlohr then came to the attention of U.S. investigators in March, 2006, when photo-lab employees at a Wal-Mart in Virginia saw a man, David Tetterton, trying to print explicit photos from their self-serve kiosk. Evidence seized from Mr. Tetterton’s house led to Mr. Eisenlohr, who was indicted with trading child pornography.

‪Even as he faced criminal charges, Mr. Eisenlohr continued his campaign against his Canadian competitor. In 2007, he wrote a letter to then Canadian justice minister Rob Nicholson to complain about Mr. Way “stealing my intellectual property using the internet” and ask whether there were laws in Canada to stop him.

‪“It’s crazy, guys arguing over what we consider child-exploitation material,” one police detective said about the feud.

‪In court, Mr. Eisenlohr successfully argued that his nude videos were not pornographic and he was acquitted in 2009.

‪The following year in Romania, a German man arrived in the Transylvanian city of Zalau and began offering martial-arts classes to local boys.

‪The man was Mr. Roth and he was arrested in August, 2010, and sentenced to three years of prison for taking more than 100 pornographic films of children. Authorities said the films were sold to Canada at $1,000 a piece.

Two months after Mr. Roth’s arrest, Toronto police and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service began their Azov investigation, accessing the company website and making undercover purchases.

Toronto police infographic on Project Spade

Toronto police say over 50 countries were involved in the inquiry

‪They found that orders to the U.S. transited through a warehouse near Buffalo before being shipped by USPS Priority mail.

‪Toronto police executed a search warrant at Azov’s Etobicoke offices on May 1, 2011, and seized hundreds of DVDs, computers, business records, shipping labels and customer order histories, according to U.S. court documents.

‪Police sources estimate about 100 children were rescued as a result of the investigation.

‪Sources say the investigation identified 10 to 15 children in Ukraine and Eastern Europe, who modelled for photographers connected with Azov.

‪In addition, the sources said, as Azov clients were identified around the world, police uncovered more children who were victims of those customers, who were either “hands-on abusers” or who secretly videotaped them.

‪In one case, the Azov probe led to the arrest of Richard Keller, a pediatric endocrinologist in Andover, Mass.

‪A search at Dr. Keller’s house uncovered videos that appeared to have been shot at the Cap d’Agde nudist colony in southern France. The camera operator’s forearm and wristwatch are seen at one point. Investigators then executed a second search warrant to see whether they could find a matching wristwatch.

‪Several of the American defendants contend the videos they bought aren’t pornographic at all, but just legal videos of naked boys, using the same argument that led to Mr. Eisenlohr’s acquittal. U.S. courts so far have sided with the prosecution and a number of defendants have already been found guilty.

‪In Canada, the Criminal Code’s definition of child pornography includes images where a minor’s genitals are depicted for a sexual purpose.

‪Canadian police say they’ve obtained legal opinions from prosecutors that the material sold by Azov qualified as child pornography.

“What did they think they were buying?” one officer said about customers who argued they bought legal naturist films.

Bangladesh’s tanneries make sweatshops look good

Processing animal skins in Dhaka poisons workers, pollutes Dhaka’s river yet avoids the international spotlight

Human Rights Watch interviewed 10 children, some as young as 11, working in tanneries. Many children work 12 or even 14 hours a day, considerably more than the five-hour limit for adolescents in factory work established by Bangladeshi law. Dhaka, June 2012.


DHAKA, BANGLADESH—Zakir Hussain loves cricket, the way that only a child can truly love a sport. He loves it more than the glamorous Bollywood movies that transport him to a magical world so much better than his own, more than his mother’s masala shrimp that he and his siblings fight over. He loves it even more than missing school — which he used to do, often skipping because he wanted to play cricket.

He might always love it. He’ll probably never play it again. He is 15 years old and coughs as he speaks.

“I can’t run as fast between wickets as I used to. I get tired quickly now . . . and my eyes burn sometimes.”

Hussain works at a leather tannery in Dhaka for 12 hours a day, seven days a week. In the five months he has been working, he has lost about 12 pounds and much of his stamina. He also lives in the tannery.

Should he stay in the job, he is expected to live only another 35 years.

Hussain is about five-seven and gaunt but has a big smile and thick, tousled hair. He is squatting barefoot on the floor of Tippera Tannery, one of the hundreds of tanneries in this Dhaka neighbourhood where raw animal skins are processed using a cocktail of toxic chemicals.

There are about 200 leather tanneries in the Hazaribagh district of Dhaka in Bangladesh. The tannery industries of Hazaribagh are situated in the densely populated residential areas of the district.

He is deftly nailing small leftover pieces of leather to the floor to straighten them. A few metres away, hundreds of raw hides stew in a deep, long pit as chemicals such as chromium and sodium are poured over. Remnants of the chemicals spill onto the floor before draining into open gutters and then into the nearby Buriganga River.

These chemicals are slowly killing Hussain, and the thousands of others who work here.

Slow-moving catastrophe

One thousand, one hundred and twenty-nine people died when Rana Plaza in Savar, an industrial suburb of Dhaka, collapsed on April 24, 2013. Twice that number were maimed or injured. Some will never walk, let alone work. Most of the dead and injured were women, many of whom earned the minimum wage of about $39 a month.

 In the days since the Rana Plaza collapse, Bangladesh’s garment industry has come under a microscope: inquiries have been launched, western retailers have inspected factories, promises have been made. But Hazaribagh, the toxic, treacherous heart of the country’s multimillion-dollar leather industry in which about 15,000 people work, has quietly carried on as it has for decades.

It may be less notorious but it is no less appalling. The working conditions are brutal, illness is rampant and degradation of the environment is brazen.

Mohd Abdul Matin calls it another Rana Plaza — except this is a slow-moving, ongoing catastrophe.

Matin is a doctor and general secretary of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon, an environmental organization in Dhaka that advocates for safe practices at its tanneries.

It is Rana “without a building collapse and the death of hundreds of workers at the same time,” says Matin. “Conditions are worse in tanneries but really, no one cares.”

Almost all of Bangladesh’s 200-plus tanneries are concentrated in Hazaribagh, a densely populated, filthy neighbourhood on the banks of the Buriganga River in southwestern Dhaka.

You can smell them long before you can see them: an unbearable stench of bad eggs, rotting fish and harsh ammonia. It’s almost impossible to walk through without a scarf pressed to your nose.

A child jumps on the waste products that are used to make poultry feed as she plays in a tannery at Hazaribagh in Dhaka.(Reuters / Andrew Biraj)

A child jumps on the waste products that are used to make poultry feed as she plays in a tannery at Hazaribagh in Dhaka.(Reuters / Andrew Biraj)

The Thousand Gardens, which is what Hazaribagh means in Bengali, is crammed with tanneries, big and small; one-room tin shacks where many tannery workers live; the seedy restaurants where chicken and indeterminate meat hang from formidable hooks and are covered in flies; the little corner stores that sell groceries and smokes.

At almost $1 billion a year in sales, the leather industry is one of Bangladesh’s most profitable sectors. Last year, it earned $451 million by exporting leather and leather products between July and December, an increase of about 20 per cent from the same period in 2011.

This year, the industry is expected to reach the $1.04-billion export target set by the government.

It exports leather all over, including Japan, Spain, China, South Korea, Italy, Germany, the U.S. and Canada.

The tanneries operate below the radar, without much accountability — for tannery owners or their customers — or regulation. Treated hides, the bulk of their exports, are sent to be manufactured elsewhere with the finished product bearing a label of where the products were made, not the source of the leather. Shoes, wallets and purses made in Italy, Spain and Germany — the tanneries’ chief importers — may well be made of Bangladesh leather.

It starts in India

Each year, about 14 million raw hides are processed to be transformed into leather, including the coveted “Bengali black” that is much in demand by European leather goods makers.

The route Bengali black takes before arriving in closets around the world begins in neighbouring India.

India, a predominantly Hindu country where cows are worshipped and their slaughter banned, has one of the world’s largest cattle populations. Yet surprisingly, about 1.5 million cattle, cows and buffalo, are taken out of the country every year for slaughter in Bangladesh — trade that is illegal but continues because of some complicit border officials and a long, porous border between the two countries.

Indian cattle are bought from northern states like Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, known as the “cow belt.” Middlemen trade them at auctions in West Bengal, which borders Bangladesh. The animals are then smuggled into Bangladesh.

Animal welfare organizations maintain that the cattle are inhumanely packed into trucks and trains throughout this journey.

Once in Bangladesh, they are slaughtered. Their meat is consumed and exported, their bones are ground and used as fertilizer, their hides are processed and exported.

Export growth has come slowly but is poised to boom, says Belal Hosain, chair of Bangladesh Finished Leather, Leather Goods and Footwear Exporters’ Association.

“Our competitive prices and higher standards are bringing more and more international buyers.”

It is going very well, he says.

Home amid the grime

Hussain thinks it is going well for him, too. He earns about $50 a month and sends half of it to his widowed mother in a village close to the Bay of Bengal in southern Bangladesh.

His father, a rice farmer, died when Cyclone Aila whipped Bangladesh in 2009, killing more than 300 people. He left behind a widow and five children; Hussain is the eldest. His mother now works as a daily wage labourer in rice fields but she never earns enough to feed the family. About a year ago, Hussain left school to work in a brick kiln near Khulna, a port city. It paid only $30 a month so when Hussain heard he could earn more in a tannery in Dhaka, he left quickly.

Hussain likes the money, not so much the long hours, the smell and how food tastes. Everything they eat is permeated with the stench and robbed of flavour.

Tippera Tannery, where Hussain works along with a dozen others, many of them teenaged boys, is the size of a basketball court, dominated by above-ground cement tanks. Part of the floor is taken over by gunny sacks filled with chemicals and salts. There are at least six piles of limed and salted hides, still covered in grimy animal hair. Other skins, in various stages of pickling and bleaching, sit in vats or drip from racks. A four-metre-high drum — like a gigantic wooden barrel — rumbles on rollers in the corner, drying the skins.
Working at the tanneries in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Working at the tanneries in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

There are no safety railings. Most workers, including Hussain, don’t wear protective gear such as masks, gloves or boots.

On the edge of one tank, three men in knee-length rubber boots are pushing hides into the pool of chemicals with long poles. They raise the hides, turn them over and push them down again.

There is raw hide everywhere — dripping, drying or dried.

Outside, barefoot young men push carts piled with skins in various stages of processing.

In the open gutters, a current of chemical waste, an unearthly blue-black oily fluid, slowly pushes through a scum of animal hair, bits of skin and rubbish. The gutters meander through Hazaribagh before emptying into the Buriganga.

That neighbourhood, that tannery, that shack is where Hussain calls home.

The World Health Organization says 90 per cent of Hazaribagh’s tannery workers will die before age 50. Most will suffer respiratory illnesses. Most will have skin diseases. Most will have started work as children.

Chromium has carcinogenic potential. Acidic effluents cause respiratory illnesses. Gaseous emissions contain sulfur dioxide that gets converted into sulfuric acid once in contact with moisture and damages lungs.

There are no data on how many workers have died in the six decades since the first tanneries started operations, says Matin. “This is Bangladesh . . . people dying isn’t really the priority. When I first started looking into it, people laughed at me. They said I was wasting my time because who would care about poor workers being sick or dying.”

Child labour at the tanneries in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Child labour at the tanneries in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

‘Accidents happen’

Ismail Leather, a few doors down, is a larger operation with 26 full-time and a dozen part-time employees. But inside it is almost the same as Tippera: raw hides covered in chemicals, big drums straightening and drying skins, the floor awash with blue-grey waste.

Hussain almost took a job there.

A friend from his village, Munir Mian, was working at Ismail and secured a job for Hussain. But a week before Hussain arrived, Mian lost three fingers on his right hand as he pried a raw hide from the machine. Hussain heard from others at the factory that Mian, bleeding profusely and holding his hand to his chest, took himself to the local hospital and eventually returned home.

Mian received no compensation and no one from the tannery checked on him while he was at the hospital.

Ismail Leather is a big factory, says Hussain. “I thought I would be better off at a smaller one where others look out for you.”

Shabir, 14, with no last name, is sitting on a stool wearing only a tiny blue loin cloth, washing hides. He knew Mian, they talked and joked around sometimes.

Shabir has been at the factory for a few months. He works nights and weekends so he can go to school and still earn money for his family.

His parents and two younger sisters live in a slum a few kilometres away. His father pulls a rickshaw, his mother works as a domestic helper.

Shabir says he is careful when around the heavy, archaic machinery. “Everyone knows accidents happen,” he says.

Human Rights Watch report in October 2012 titled Toxic Tanneries: The Health Repercussions of Bangladesh’s Hazaribagh Leather notes that accidents are common, follow-ups are not.

It quoted a senior official in Bangladesh’s Environment Department who admitted that “there is no monitoring and no enforcement in Hazaribagh.”

None at all, says Matin, who has been touring tanneries since the ’90s.

When workers get hurt, they leave because “there is no redress and no way they can do the same job again as they lose a limb.”

It is the way of life for tannery workers.

The tanneries in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The tanneries in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

From gutter to river

Bangladesh is a country criss-crossed by hundreds of rivers. The Buriganga, into which the tanneries’ effluents flow, is the source of drinking water and fish, and is crucial for ferrying merchandise. It flows through southwestern Dhaka and is economically vital as the boats that cross it provide connections to the other parts of Bangladesh.

It has been the lifeline of Dhaka and is now dying.

Buriganga is one of the most polluted rivers in the world. The government itself admits that about 21,000 cubic metres of untreated waste is dumped by tanneries into the river every day.

After the 60 years of tannery operations, no one knows how much has poured into the river, only that it is incalculable and staggering.

Chromium sulfate, lead, organohalogens, lime, hydrogen sulfide, sulfuric acid, formic acid, bleach, dyes and oils all flow through the gutters, into the river and eventually seep into farmlands and the Bay of Bengal ponds where rice is grown for the local population and prawns are farmed for export.

“These tanneries are not only poisoning the people who live there but others, too, hundreds of miles away,” says S.H.M. Fakhruddin, who specializes in water resources management.

The Buriganga’s water is so polluted that it has no fish, just black filth and chemicals, he says. “It is hard for people (in dinghies and small boats) to even row across the river.”

Pollutants have eaten up all oxygen in the river and it biologically dead, he says.

In the dry season between October and April, the river completely stagnates and the billions of litres of toxic waste from the local industries, mainly the tanneries, accumulate. The entire 54-kilometre stretch of the river turns into what Fakhruddin calls a “septic tank.”

Fakhruddin, who is from Dhaka but lives and works in Bangkok, Thailand, says chemicals such as cadmium and chromium and elements like mercury in industrial waste are creeping into the groundwater, posing a serious threat to public health.

One obvious solution is effluent treatment plants. But that means money and Matin says tannery owners have refused to fund them.

The other way out is to move the tanneries far from the river.

The multimillion-dollar move was first proposed by the government during the 1990s; a detailed proposal was floated in 2003. The plan was to move the industry to Savar, in northern Dhaka, where it had earmarked land for the tanneries and the country’s first large central effluent treatment plant. Costs and the unwillingness of the owners have deadlocked the proposal although a report in The Dhaka Tribune says the government hopes to make the move by 2016.

But Mohd. Ismail Hussain, the owner of Tippera Tannery, no relation to Hussain, says staggering logistics will kill the move. “Look around at all this (machinery),” he says pointing to the drums and trenches. “We can’t move this. Who will pay for this? And how will we even move this?”

He acknowledges that sludge from the tanneries drains into the Buriganga, and knows it cannot be good.

But he is emphatic that there are “absolutely no health risks. I have been in the business for 26 years and I live here and I eat here. Nothing is wrong with me. ”

Nearby, Hussain, is coughing and wiping his running nose on his shirt sleeve as he nails pieces of raw hide to the floor. He hammers four nails into each corner and then smoothes it with his palm. He is gentle, thorough.

He knows he has to do this right if he wants a long-term job. Any piece of hide that curls up at the ends when it is dry is useless and discarded. That makes his boss unhappy.

Hussain coughs some more, and says he is OK.

“I didn’t like not being home this Eid (in early August) but I got to send some extra money,” says Hussain.

His mother came to see him and brought him new clothes: two shirts and a pair of polyester pants. She also brought him a jar of masala prawns.

He wishes, though, he could have gone home for a few days and spent some time looking out at the Bay of Bengal. It is cleaner and the air easier to breathe. And it is where he used to play cricket.

Cricket brings a smile to his face, and he looks up.

“If I could find the time and the energy to play cricket like I did, I could live with how everything smells and tastes here.”





Former Canadian Taxi Driver Arrested for Beheading His 4 Sons

CALGARY — More details are emerging about Omar Shire Hassan, the Somali-Canadian who allegedly beheaded his four sons after recently returning to his native country.

Mr. Hassan, who is in the custody of Somali police, lived in Montreal, Toronto, the Yukon and Northern Alberta before returning to his native country 10 months ago, according to longtime friend Mohamoud Fidow.

“We were surprised when we heard it, that he [allegedly] killed his own children. We didn’t believe it. We were so surprised and shocked. He never got arrested in 25 years in Canada. He never had a problem with the law. He was a clean guy.”

Mr. Fidow, who met the 60-year-old Hassan more than two decades ago, said his friend suffered from long-standing marital problems and apparent mental illness.

Messrs. Fidow and Hassan both hail from Beledweyne, the town where Mr. Hassan allegedly killed his children more than 300 km north of Mogadishu.

Mr. Fidow told the National Post on Thursday that Mr. Hassan spent three months every year with his family. His sons were between the ages of 6 and 11.

Mr.  Mohamed said Mr. Hassan and his wife suffered marital problems, made worse by Mr. Hassan’s evident mental issues. According to a report from Agence France-Presse, Mr. Hassan and Ms. Addawe divorced three years ago.

Despite initial reports, several members of Calgary’s Somali community insisted Mr. Hassan never lived there; he would periodically stay with Mr. Fidow in the city before flying out to visit his family in Kenya and, later, Somalia.

Mr. Hassan is believed to have come to Canada in the late ‘80s. He spent more than a decade in Toronto and Montreal before moving to northern Alberta to work as a taxi driver. He spent most of his time in Fort McMurray, sending money to Somalia to support his family. He spent about a year in Yellowknife, but didn’t like it, Mr. Fidow said.

‘He never had a problem with the law. He was a clean guy’

Beheading murders of kids horrify Calgary's Somali community

Beheading murders of kids horrify Calgary’s Somali community

Mr. Fidow said he spoke to Mr. Hassan every weekend over the phone until 2009. That year, the friends met in Nairobi while visiting their families, but it was clear that Mr. Hassan’s marital problems were mounting. The driver said Mr. Hassan spent several weeks in the city, but didn’t visit his family, staying instead in hotels.

“We  talked to him and asked: ‘Why are you staying here?’ He said he was coming here because he was stressed out and so tired. He said he didn’t sleep for a long time and that’s why,” Mr. Fidow said.

The friend said he suggested Mr. Hassan sponsor his family to immigrate to Canada, and also seek help from a doctor for his sleeping problems. But after he returned to Canada, Mr. Fidow said the troubled Mr. Hassan cut all contact.

“He changed his phone number so I couldn’t contact him by phone. I asked some Somali drivers and they would say he was still living in Fort McMurray.”

His estranged wife, Qadro Addawe, the 29-year-old mother of the four young boys, told The Canadian Press that she did not know why Mr. Hassan allegedly killed their children.

“They were born in Kenya, but they were Canadian because the father was Canadian,” she said.

Ms. Addawe said Hassan was mentally stable — “he had some health problems, but he had no mental problems” — and added her own efforts to migrate to Canada had been unsuccessful.

At the time of the homicide, according to AFP, Mr. Hassan had been living with his children in Beledweyne, while Ms. Addawe was in Mogadishu.

“The dead bodies of the four children were found near a village and have been buried. The man handed himself in and is in custody now. I think he is not mentally fit but we are questioning him,” regional police commissioner Colonel Isak Ali Abdulle told AFP.

Forced marriages rampant in Ontario


Hundreds of women forced into arranged marriages in Ontario: Study

Sandeep Chand experienced the turmoil of being forced into an unwanted marriage in 2006. She says forced marriage is a global problem, and one more common than most people think.

By Debra Black

A groundbreaking three-year study of forced marriage in Ontario has found more than 200 women who were wed against their will, a practice the report’s authors say highlights serious gaps in services.

The first-of-its-kind report, being released at a Toronto news conference Friday, was conducted by the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, which questioned 30 social service agencies about the practice.

It found 219 reported cases between 2010 and 2012, with 97 per cent of the victims being women. The survey found the majority of victims, 81 per cent, were between 16 and 34 years old.

The report found that parents, siblings, extended family, grandparents and religious leaders were all involved in pushing individuals into forced marriage. The reasons were mostly cultural (66 per cent), but honour, money and immigration purposes were also behind some forced marriages.

Haya, a woman now living in Mississauga who asked that her last name not be used, was forced to flee when her father decided to marry her off to a cousin. Sixteen at the time, she and her family were deported from Canada to Pakistan four years ago. It was there, she said, that her father announced the arranged marriage.

She was held “prisoner” in her grandmother’s house. Her father confiscated her Pakistani passport. Eventually she escaped from Karachi to Islamabad, where she was able to contact Canadian officials, who gave her a temporary visa to return to Canada.

Now 20, she has applied for permanent resident status. She says she’s “grateful” to the Canadian officials who helped her. “I didn’t have any status in Canada. Technically, they didn’t have to help me. I was a Pakistani citizen.”

According to the report, however, most victims were Canadian citizens (44 percent) or permanent residents (41 per cent). Four per cent of cases involved people who did not have legal status in Canada; 7 per cent were refugee claimants, foreign residents or individuals with a visitor or temporary work visa.

The survey found that many victims forced into marriage experienced some form of violence, including threats (68 per cent), physical violence (59 per cent), sexual violence (26 per cent) and stalking (20 per cent).

“The results we got back show that this is an issue across a number of communities in Ontario,” says Shalini Konanur, executive director and lawyer at the South Asian Legal Clinic.

“People need to realize that victims of forced marriages are probably some of the most marginalized clients we deal with,” she said. “They have very little income, very little power and ability to remedy or intervene on their own.”

The largest number of forced marriages was within the Muslim community with 103 victims from more than 30 countries of origin, including Afghanistan, Palestine, Senegal, Swaziland, Turkey and the United Kingdom, as well as Canada. Forty-four were Hindu, 30 were Sikh and 12 Christian.

“It’s the tip of the iceberg, because so many cases go unreported,” said Sandeep Chand, an outspoken advocate for spreading awareness about forced marriage. A resident of Victoria, B.C., she was forcibly married in 2006.

“It’s prevalent everywhere,” she said. “It’s not just a South Asian issue. “It’s a global issue; it’s a human rights issue.”

Forced marriage has become a large problem in the United Kingdom. The government has a unit devoted to dealing with forced marriages, which fielded 400 cases between June and August last year, according to a report in The Guardian newspaper last month. The article cited a charity group that is advising young women at risk of being spirited abroad for forced marriage to conceal a spoon in their underwear, to set off scanners at airport security and give them a chance to safely tell authorities.

Konanur, of the South Asian clinic, defines forced marriage as “essentially where one or both of the participants are entering into the marriage without consent.”

Canada has taken a leadership role at the United Nations opposing child and forced marriage, says Konanur. But she wants the government to be as forceful domestically.

Canada has no legislation specific to forced marriage, the report states.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs is doing quite an amazing job with helping Canadians to come back to Canada, but the problem is (there is) no consistency on how they approach these cases from country to country.”

She would like to see a uniform policy to help government officials understand forced marriage and intervene abroad in the same way, regardless of the country the victim is in.

The report also calls for better training for teachers, guidance counsellors, health professionals and police, and for including forced marriage in the definition of “family violence” when an applicant seeks priority in getting subsidized housing.

It also calls for better protection for persons without legal resident status.

The authors say regulations about spousal sponsorship, which makes attaining permanent residency conditional on living with the spouse, should be changed to allow an exemption for forced marriage, alongside the existing exemption for domestic violence.

Among other findings, the survey found 64 percent of the Canadian citizens forced into marriage had been living here longer than 10 years; 22 per cent had been here between seven and 10 years.

“One day I hope that people will understand more about forced marriage and how common it is,” Chand said, “because it happens in everyone’s backyard. We just don’t recognize the signs.”