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Nygard's private office bedroom suite not a 'hidden secret,' defence says

Peter Nygard is driven from a Toronto courthouse on Wednesday, following testimony in the former fashion mogul's sexual assault trial. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
Peter Nygard is driven from a Toronto courthouse on Wednesday, following testimony in the former fashion mogul's sexual assault trial. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

WARNING: This article contains descriptions of sexual abuse.

The private bedroom suite of Peter Nygard's downtown Toronto office headquarters was not a "hidden secret," his defence lawyer suggested Wednesday morning.

The suite was actually one of two bedrooms in the building, court heard, which were also used by others who came to Toronto.

The Crown alleges Nygard, the founder of a now-defunct international clothing company, used his power and status to lure and sexually assault five women in the private quarters in incidents ranging from the late 1980s to 2005.

The 82-year-old Canadian fashion mogul pleaded not guilty last week in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to five counts of sexual assault and one count of forcible confinement.

On Wednesday morning, Nygard's defence lawyer Brian Greenspan cross-examined David Gauthier, an independent contractor who did renovations at the Toronto office building at 1 Niagara Street for three months in 2006.

Under questioning, Gauthier agreed there were two bedrooms in the office: one on the fifth floor and one on the first floor.

L-R: Peter Nygard, defence lawyer Brian Greenspan,  Justice Robert Goldstein and Crown lawyer Ana Serban addressing the jury on the first day of Nygard's trial in Toronto on Sept. 26, 2023.
L-R: Peter Nygard, defence lawyer Brian Greenspan, Justice Robert Goldstein and Crown lawyer Ana Serban addressing the jury on the first day of Nygard's trial in Toronto on Sept. 26, 2023.

From left to right: Peter Nygard, defence lawyer Brian Greenspan, Justice Robert Goldstein and Crown lawyer Ana Serban address the jury on the first day of testimony in Nygard's trial in Toronto on Tuesday. (Pam Davies/CBC)

Gauthier also acknowledged that Nygard had bedrooms in other buildings he owned, and that the bedrooms at 1 Niagara Street were used by employees who came to Toronto on business trips. The fifth-floor private suite, where the attacks are alleged to have occurred, would be used by Nygard's son and other VIP guests who came to town, he said.

As part of opening arguments, the Crown on Tuesday gave a brief but detailed synopsis of each of the attacks Nygard is alleged to have committed against the women, who ranged in age from 16 to 28 at the time.

Nygard established a similar pattern of sexual assault, court was told: He had met these women previously and that initial meeting would later lead to "the tour" of his Toronto headquarters, which would end in the private bedroom suite.

It was here that Nygard would attack the women, the Crown alleges, pinning them to the bed, where they would struggle against him but ultimately be overpowered.

On Wednesday, Greenspan said Nygard was proud of his buildings, which were designed to incorporate his Finnish heritage, and that he often gave people tours.

Receiver Richter Advisory Group Inc. says it has received conditional offers of purchase for three Nygard properties including the Nygard International Partnership building on Niagara Street in Toronto (pictured), the Winnipeg headquarters on Inkster Blvd, and the properties on Notre dame Ave.
Receiver Richter Advisory Group Inc. says it has received conditional offers of purchase for three Nygard properties including the Nygard International Partnership building on Niagara Street in Toronto (pictured), the Winnipeg headquarters on Inkster Blvd, and the properties on Notre dame Ave.

The former Nygard International building is seen at 1 Niagara Street in Toronto in this 2020 file photo. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

Greenspan also suggested in the cross-examination that it wasn't as if Nygard's personal quarters at 1 Niagara Street were a "hidden secret" — it was just part of the tour.

"That I can't attest to," Gauthier replied.

Greenspan also asked Gauthier whether Nygard would be accompanied by girlfriends when he came to Toronto.

Gauthier agreed that was a regular occurrence; he would come to Toronto with a girlfriend and leave with that girlfriend.

Nygard founded Nygard International in Winnipeg in 1967 and stepped down as chairman of the clothing company in February 2020 before it filed for bankruptcy.

The trial is expected to last approximately seven weeks.