Breaking their silence: 2 Canadian women say they were raped by Peter Nygard

By | June 14, 2020

WARNING: This story contains graphic details.

The doorbell rang one fall day in 1993, dropping a bomb on April Telek’s seemingly storybook life in North Vancouver.

A box of free clothes had arrived from a Canadian designer for the up-and-coming model and actor.

The 20-year-old had recently represented Canada on the international pageant circuit, spent a year as a fashion model in Japan and had just filmed a commercial as the spokesmodel for Dairy Queen.

Her career was on fire.

April Telek had recently represented Canada at the Miss Asia Pacific Quest pageant in the Philippines when Telek says she was offered an opportunity to do some modelling for one of Peter Nygard’s new clothing lines in Winnipeg in 1993. (Miss Asia Pacific Quest)
April Telek had recently represented Canada at the Miss Asia Pacific Quest pageant in the Philippines when Telek says she was offered an opportunity to do some modelling for one of Peter Nygard’s new clothing lines in Winnipeg in 1993. (Miss Asia Pacific Quest)

April Telek had recently represented Canada at the Miss Asia Pacific Quest pageant in the Philippines when Telek says she was offered an opportunity to do some modelling for one of Peter Nygard’s new clothing lines in Winnipeg in 1993. (Miss Asia Pacific Quest)
April Telek had recently represented Canada at the Miss Asia Pacific Quest pageant in the Philippines when Telek says she was offered an opportunity to do some modelling for one of Peter Nygard’s new clothing lines in Winnipeg in 1993. (Miss Asia Pacific Quest)

It wasn’t uncommon for companies to send her clothing to wear. That wasn’t the issue. It was where it came from.

By 1993, Peter Nygard had made millions selling women’s clothing around the world. The Winnipeg-based clothing manufacturer had factories in Asia, a multimillion-dollar marketing headquarters in Toronto and a 150,000-square-foot Mayan-styled estate in the Bahamas, surrounded by the sparkling Caribbean Sea.

Telek had also recently been offered an opportunity by Nygard to do some modelling for one of his new clothing lines in Winnipeg.

That’s when she said he held her against her will and raped her.

That box of clothes, she believed, was a message: he knew where she lived.

“I was so scared,” Telek told The Fifth Estate in an emotional interview.

She felt threatened by Nygard if she told anyone about the assaults. She battled nightmares, and the after-effects of the assaults she said she suffered, for decades.

“I can’t explain how deep he got inside my brain.”

But now, Telek said she feels compelled to stand up to Nygard, who has been accused by dozens of women of raping them.

She is one of two Canadian women who said they were raped in Canada by Nygard and recently came forward to the CBC to raise their voices. They are the first Canadians to reveal their identities and talk publicly.

Millionaire clothing manufacturer Peter Nygard is pictured at his Mayan-styled estate in the Bahamas in 2015. Through his spokespeople, he has 'vehemently' denied raping or assaulting anybody. (Jonathan Becker/Contour by Getty Images)
Millionaire clothing manufacturer Peter Nygard is pictured at his Mayan-styled estate in the Bahamas in 2015. Through his spokespeople, he has ‘vehemently’ denied raping or assaulting anybody. (Jonathan Becker/Contour by Getty Images)

Millionaire clothing manufacturer Peter Nygard is pictured at his Mayan-styled estate in the Bahamas in 2015. Through his spokespeople, he has 'vehemently' denied raping or assaulting anybody. (Jonathan Becker/Contour by Getty Images)
Millionaire clothing manufacturer Peter Nygard is pictured at his Mayan-styled estate in the Bahamas in 2015. Through his spokespeople, he has ‘vehemently’ denied raping or assaulting anybody. (Jonathan Becker/Contour by Getty Images)

The Canadian women say they are coming forward now to support young women from the Bahamas who were the first to speak out about allegations of rape by Nygard.

Nine women from the Bahamas and one American filed a civil class-action lawsuit in New York against Nygard in February, saying they were raped or sexually assaulted. Their alleged assaults date as far back as 2003 and include an allegation as recent as 2015, involving a 14-year-old girl.

An additional 47 women have now joined the lawsuit, including Telek.

“When I found out that there was this case against him now and I heard that the victims were as young as they were, I felt an immense amount of guilt,” she said.

Had she come forward sooner, she wonders if that could have “stopped some of that from happening to other women and girls and children.”

Through his spokespeople, Nygard has repeatedly and “vehemently” denied raping or assauting anybody, including the two Canadian women who spoke to the CBC, calling their accounts “false allegations” paid for as part of a campaign to destroy him.

“My client’s rights are being trampled by a runaway media train,” said Nygard’s lawyer, Jay Prober, in a statement to CBC.

Nygard’s lawyers have also provided sworn statements from two people who say Telek’s story can’t be true.

The allegations, which come at a time when wealthy and powerful men who abuse women are facing consequences like never before, also raise questions about whether Nygard should be investigated in Canada.

Experts say some of the allegations would fall under the jurisdiction of Canadian law enforcement.

That’s because some of the alleged sexual assaults happened in Canada and others involve minors abroad.

Most of all, however, Telek and the other women want the world to know their stories will challenge Nygard’s narrative that the accounts of the assaults are all lies, part of a campaign paid for by a vengeful neighbour in the Bahamas.

It’s a defence Nygard has advanced repeatedly since the allegations first surfaced in February.

An investigation by The Fifth Estate confirms key elements of their stories are backed up by witnesses, confidants, family members, and in one case an RCMP officer. All of it predates Nygard’s dispute with the New York-based billionaire and former hedge fund owner, Louis Bacon.

The women hope what they have to say now will help write the final chapter in Nygard’s story, putting an end to the power and influence they say has allowed him to inflict more than four decades of pain and abuse on women.

“It is a terrifying thing to go public with something like this with a man who is so seemingly powerful,” said Telek. “But it has to be done.

“I want him to pay for what he did to all of us.”

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