Today I’m confused. Well, actually most days I am. Let’s just say today I’m more confused than usual. The reason? I can’t figure out why New Brunswick potato farmer Henk Tepper is still in prison. His crime? Importing potatoes to Algeria that are unfit for human consumption. That’s the charge. I’ve bought some in town before that weren’t fit to eat and no one got arrested. Mr. Tepper hasn’t had a court date yet, no bail hearing and has been languishing in a Beirut jail for almost three months.
I’m mixed up for a lot of reasons. For one, how come armed robbers, drug dealers and other criminals can post bail and remain free until their trial date, and a potato importer cannot? Algeria claims that the potatoes contained ring rot. The disease only affects potato yields and has no impact on human health. That’s his big crime. Selling moldy spuds. Excuse me, his alleged crime. It hasn’t even been proven yet in a court of law.
I’m even more confused as to why King Stephen and the conservatives are dragging their feet on this. Business disputes are not settled this way in Canada or most countries for that matter. It’s outrageous that one of our citizens and business leaders is being treated like a common criminal. No, even worse than a common criminal because at least they’d have the opportunity to make bail.
This has gone on long enough. It’s time for Prime Minister Harper to make a phone call to the Lebanese government. Have them release Mr. Tepper to the custody of his lawyer, or to the nearest embassy or what have you. Set a trial date, let him have his day in court and either clear his name or pay whatever fine is appropriate for selling potatoes that aren’t fit to eat. Then let him come home to his family and his farm. Come on Mr. Harper, it’s the right thing to do. Stop being like the guy in the picture.