It’s time to bring Henk Tepper home.
He was arrested March 23 on an INTERPOL warrant at the request of the Algerian government while he was in Lebanon representing Potatoes Canada, a federally funded trade mission.
The Red Alert—to have Tepper extradited to Algeria—was based on charges that in 2007 the farmer altered Canadian Food Inspection Agency phytosanitary certificates in order to get 300 metric tonnes of tablestock potatoes “that were dangerous for human consumption” into Algeria.
The potatoes in question—that originated in Quebec or Prince Edward Island—had Bacterial Ring Rot (BRR).
Algeria’s charges are spurious.
• Yes in 2007 Tepper exported potatoes to Algeria
• Yes someone altered the CFIA document accompanying the potatoes
• But Tepper has never been to Algeria so he would not have been able to alter the forms
• But BRR is not harmful to humans. If BRR-infected potatoes were planted as seed it could devastate crop yields
Tepper’s lawyer, Rodney Gillis, has raised these and other questions with the international police force and INTERPOL is reviewing the case, a process that could take six months to complete.
But time is not on Tepper’s side. Algeria wants him extradited and there is no extradition treaty between Canada and the African country.
The US Department of State has a long list of Human Rights violations in Algeria that include “official impunity, overuse of pretrial detention, poor prison conditions, abuse of prisoners, and lack of judicial independence.”
The Canadian government has provided Algerian officials with information about Tepper. But Gillis has been unable to obtain copies of those communications.
Perhaps there is some conflict of interest involved because Tepper is suing the CFIA in relation to the 2007 BRR tests. He is also suing the PEI Potato Quality Institute and a Quebec lab. The PEI potato shipper has filed a lawsuit against Tepper’s Tobique Farms a propos the same issue.
Algeria’s concerns cannot be dismissed out of hand. According to a government document, “Algeria is Canada’s number one trade partner in Africa…” Last year Canada exported $202.8 million worth of agricultural goods alone to Algeria.
Gillis has found a solution. He wants Canada to issue a warrant, extradite Tepper from Lebanon and let him have his day in court.
Canadian history is stained with injustice. It would be unthinkable for the government to allow Tepper to be extradited to Algeria. He has already paid for crimes he did not commit. It’s time to bring him home.