A former employee of Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard says he raped her. A Fifth Estate investigation reveals how Winnipeg’s business elite suppressed the details of Jonna Laursen’s story.

Jonna Laursen risked everything to make her Canadian dream come true.
The young single mother had given up a life in rural Denmark, fulfilling the goal of her parents to move to this country one day.
By 1980, she was a self-taught seamstress and designer who had just wrapped up stints with two major clothing companies in Canada, including as product manager with Levi Strauss.
On a crisp January morning, she was getting ready to start a new job in Winnipeg, at an up-and-coming company then known as TanJay. It was run by a charismatic businessman with long blond hair, who, like her, had immigrated to Canada from a Nordic country to find a better future.
Then Laursen turned on her radio.
They said that Mr. [Peter] Nygard of TanJay was charged with raping a girl.… And I was like, what? she said. And I was just shocked and I thought, Well, what do I do now?
A short clipping reports that Peter Nygard was charged with rape in 1980. (Winnipeg Free Press)
On her first day of work that morning, Laursen was assured by her manager there was nothing to the allegations. Nygard was rich, successful and often the target of young women trying to make quick money, the manager said.
And sure enough, within six months, according to a report by the Winnipeg Free Press at the time, the rape charges against Nygard were dropped because the complainant refused to testify.
By then, Laursen said, her new boss had already turned his attention toward her. Over the next 19 months, she said, she was sexually harassed, tormented, screamed at, raped and finally fired.
Through his lawyer, Nygard categorically denies the allegations, saying they are completely false.
To publish such a serious allegation which is not true, would be not only negligent, but also grossly unfair and illegal, wrote Jay Prober in a statement.
Laursen, however, says she struggles with the memories of what she says Nygard did to her, to this day.
It still affects me, Laursen, now 72, told CBCs The Fifth Estate in an interview at her home in northern Denmark, where she is married and retired.
Making me dirty, somehow.
Her daughter Zitta, 53, was sitting nearby, hearing the details of her mothers torment for the first time, 40 years later.
Laursen broke down crying. Her daughter quickly rose to embrace her, quietly whispering in her ear how much she loves her. They held each other and wiped away tears.
She’s so strong, her daughter said. She will get through this.
Laursen and her daughter, Zitta, in 1980, on their way back to Canada after a visit to Denmark. (Submitted by Jonna Laursen)
Laursen eventually moved back to Denmark from Canada in 1982, after several months of failing to find work in Winnipeg. After she was fired by Nygard, she said nobody dared to speak to me.
Her Canadian dream was dead.
Nygard killed it, she said. I hope that he’s going to pay for some of his bad deeds in his living life.
At the time, Nygard was a successful clothing manufacturer who would later become one of the 100 richest Canadians.
Today, his offices have been raided by the FBI as part of a sex trafficking investigation and he is accused of raping or sexually assaulting 57 women and girls as part of a civil class-action lawsuit.
CBC News has also spoken directly to 10 women who say they were raped or sexually assaulted by Nygard.
He has since stepped down as the face of his company, which has been forced into receivership.
Apart from the rape charge in 1980, Nygard has never been charged with other sexual offences. None of the civil allegations has been proven in court, and Nygard denies them all.
But as more and more women come forward with stories of harassment and rape dating back years, it begs the question: How did so many of these allegations stay secret for so long?
An investigation by CBC’s The Fifth Estate reveals how Manitoba’s largest daily newspaper, the Winnipeg Free Press, killed a plan to publish Laursen’s story in 1996 and how Nygard’s influence assisted in keeping her allegations against him under wraps for more than 40 years.