6 Dec 2010

Re-zoning request reveals secretive Exclusive Brethren community in Canada intellectually abusing kids in private school

Hudson/St. Lazare Gazette - Quebec, Canada May 19, 2010

'Sect' seeks school's move to Baie d'Urfé

by Shannon-Lee Figsby

The town of Baie D'Urfe is in the process of re-zoning a residential property to allow for a private day school at the request of a Baie D'Urfe industrial park businessman with ties to a secretive worldwide religious organization.

With a membership of about 50,000 worldwide, the Exclusive Brethren has been labeled as a fundamentalist cult by ex-members and a growing number of critics alarmed at the organization's rigid rules which bar contact with the outside world.

Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd said in 2007 he "believes [the Exclusive Brethren] to be an extremist cult and sect" and said he was "deeply concerned about their impact on communities across Australia." The Exclusive Brethren maintain their strongest bases in New Zealand and Australia, where leader Bruce D. Hales resides. Branches of the church are also located in North America, Europe and the Caribbean.

Many Exclusive Brethren communities also operate day schools so that the children of their members are not exposed to the outside world. According to a former member and the Quebec education ministry website, École Lakeview Montréal, located at 575 Marshall Ave. in Dorval, serves the roughly 140-member Exclusive Brethren Montreal community, concentrated on the West Island.

John Fossey is listed as the school's director on the Ministry of Education website. Fossey's name and Notre-Dame-de-l'Île Perrot address appear on the Exclusive Brethren Montreal directory, as do those of Lakeview CEO Randall Cowie, the owner of the Marshall Ave. building.

Cowie, a Dorval resident, owns Ranger Design, a company located in Baie D'Urfe's industrial park which produces aluminum racks and shelving for commercial vehicles.

According to the Education ministry, École Lakeview Montréal has been licenced since 2008 as a private unfunded English-language secondary institution offering general education. The permit expires June 30 of this year. A request for its renewal is currently under review, said a representative from the Ministry of Education.

If approved, Baie D'Urfé's bylaw 875-80 would permit the relocation of École Lakeview Montréal from a small house in a seedy industrial area between Cote de Liesse and Highway 20 to the home at 679 Victoria, directly across from Dorset Elementary School and a large public park.

Neither Town of Baie D'Urfe officials nor neighbours of the proposed day school appear to be aware of the allegations surrounding the school's religious affiliation, with just one resident attending last Tuesday's public consultation.

"We know that they are a faith-based school," said councillor Janet Ryan, "but we are not familiar with the religious affiliation behind it, and that is not really our concern."

"This is a non-issue," said town manager Richard White to the Hudson/St. Lazare Gazette last week, "so far, there has been absolutely no public opposition to the re-zoning."

However prior to the May 11 public meeting, the Hudson/St. Lazare Gazette received information from a non-member familiar with the school.

"The children are not allowed to socialize with 'outsiders'," said the individual, who asked to remain anonymous. "They are not allowed to seek higher education and they are only allowed to gain employment from other church members upon graduation."

Three ex-members, reached by the Hudson/St. Lazare Gazette, confirmed that church members are not permitted to 'break bread' (eat or drink) with non-church members, who are referred to as 'worldly' people.

Members (including all children) are required to attend church services seven days a week. Consequences for breaking the guidelines will result in excommunication, confirmed the ex-members.

It remains to be seen why Lakeview's trustees would want to relocate directly across the street from a Lester B. Pearson School Board elementary school and public park. School officials did not respond to requests by a Hudson/ St. Lazare Gazette reporter for interviews.

Questions also remain as to why the Town of Baie D'Urfe would go to the trouble of rezoning the land, thereby losing the tax revenue from a residential property by replacing it with a school. Should the re-zoning resolution be adopted, Lakeview would be covered by a government payment in lieu of taxes thanks to its private school licence.

At its current Dorval location, Lakeview is listed as a business and paid a total of $6960 in business taxes to the city last year.

Baie D'Urfe Mayor Maria Tutino did not return repeated calls from the Hudson/St.Lazare Gazette.

"To get the story of the school," said one former member, "you need to understand the story of the group. They are extremely secretive and powerful. There are about 140 of them, concentrated on the West Island. And they do not accept being called a cult...even though they are."

"Everything is fine as long as you're doing what you're supposed to be doing," said another ex-member, "but the minute you cross the line in their eyes, that is it. My eyes have been opened to the group that I was indeed part of."

"If you leave the church," said another, "you have everything to lose. If you leave, you lose your family, employment, friends, connections, support...you lose everything. It is a 100% total cut, total excommunication.So that holds members in."

In 2008, a young man from the Exclusive Brethren Church, along with his father, was found guilty of committing hate crimes against two Pointe Claire gay men and ordered to pay a total of $15,000 in moral and punitive damages. According to a former member, the son was a Lakeview School student.

In the Exclusive Brethren religion, homosexuality is considered a sin, as are bi-racial marriages.

Basic subjects are taught at Lakeview, confirmed an ex-member, but curriculum is slightly altered to conform to the religious ideologies of the group.

"Lakeview school, like all Exclusive Brethran schools," said the ex-member, "is just further indoctrination, further brainwashing, further mind control. It is so un-Christian it's not even funny."

The school has to hire outside teachers, but they aren't allowed to encourage university or continuing education after high school, said another. "There's no sex-ed of course....all reading material has to be vetted by the trustees who own the school.

"On a whole, they are not bad people. They don't physically harm their kids or anything. They just limit them, and there is harm when people want to leave," explained a former member.

"They make it a living hassle to leave. It has been better in the last couple of years because of the media attention in Australia, but about 10 years ago, don't try to contact your family, if you are ex-communicated. Your job is done, you'll be fired, any association with anyone inside is completely done. You're left high and dry in a world you know absolutely nothing about."


Ex-student: Exclusive Brethren school 'a joke'

A former Lakeview School student said the Exclusive Brethren-run institution is "barely a school."
"It was a joke when I went there," the ex-member told the Hudson/St. Lazare Gazette. "When I was done, they handed me a paper that said I graduated or something, someone probably did it on (Microsoft) Word. There was no ceremony."

The man also claimed that teachers at Lakeview are strongly discouraged from advocating higher education to senior students.

In New Zealand, where many of the world's 50,000 Exclusive Brethren live, church-run schools have come under fire for censoring the curriculum to reflect their concern at being corrupted by the outside world.

"Imagine a school whose books had words blacked out or pages removed and large parts of the curriculum - particularly anything to do with puberty and sex - was simply not taught," the New Zealand Herald reported last week. [see link below] "A school where teachers received unexpected late-night visits at home to check on their moral probity. And where all aspects of school life are governed in every detail by a sacred text, but a committee has absolute discretion in deciding how to interpret it."

Two weeks ago, New Zealand teacher Suzanne Martin, 40, was fired from her teaching job at an Exclusive Brethren school in the town of Kerikeri for teaching a "morally defiling" version of a Shakespeare text, the Herald also reported. The text was King Lear.

New Zealand citizen Craig Hoyle, a 20-year-old former Exclusive Brethren member, was exiled from the group last year for revealing to family members that he is a homosexual.

"Biology books had pages involving sexual reproducation or a mention of genitals ripped out," he told the Herald. Former teachers at New Zealand Exclusive Brethren schools have said that in order to work, they were required to sign documents stating that they believed evolution to be a "falsehood."

High-ranking officials with the New Zealand government have been heavily criticized for links with the organization. Exclusive Brethren schools receive about $2.59 million in government funding in New Zealand, with a total student body of about 1619 across the country.

A 2007 television report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation alleged that the Exclusive Brethren had provided large sums of money to the campaign of then Australian Prime Minister John Howard. The same report also claimed the group had provided $500,000 to the campaign of New Zealand National leader Don Brash and even more to the campaign of George W. Bush. - SLF

This article was found at:



Intellectual abuse in Exclusive Brethren's government funded schools prevents kids from thinking too much

No University for Exclusive Brethren kids

Australian government gives millions to Exclusive Brethren cult for education that infringes children's rights

Australian government gives $70m to Exclusive Brethren cult schools to indoctrinate children

Australian government gives more millions to Exclusive Brethren cult for small schools that indoctrinate children

Breakout - How I Escaped From The Exclusive Bretheren

Just a sect, Exclusive Brethren is not above the law

Australian cults "thriving under protection of politicians, police & courts" despite recent evidence of extreme abuse

Court finds Exclusive Brethren's use of children as weapons in custody disputes is "psychologically cruel, unacceptable and abusive", but father still loses access

Ex-Brethren members speak out over rules

Survivors in New Zealand documentary, How To Spot A Cult, reveal similar tactics used by cults with different belief systems


  1. Evangelical woman wants CBC to stop reporting about messy divorce and husband's excommunication

    By SUE MONTGOMERY, The Gazette September 30, 2011

    A West Island woman belonging to an evangelical church that forbids radio, television and the Internet is seeking an injunction to stop CBC from reporting on the woman's messy divorce from her husband and his excommunication from the closed religious community.

    The motion, which is to be heard in Quebec Superior Court on Friday, says the couple was married in New York in 1996 and vowed to raise their children according to the followings of the exclusive Plymouth Brethren, of which there are about 106 members in Montreal.

    The airing of the program would be prejudicial to the children, who "dress somewhat differently than other children," the motion says. Members of the group, including children, don't socialize or eat with people outside the community.

    The woman, who can't be identified to protect the identity of the couple's five children, says the marriage fell apart when her husband "became obsessed with porn, strip bars and prostitutes."

    "The last straw was when he throttled me to the point I thought I was a goner," she wrote in a letter to Hubert Lacroix, president and CEO of CBC.

    The mother asked the court this year to order that the children follow the Brethren's code of conduct when they were with their father, but a Superior Court judge refused.

    In her June judgment, Justice Hélène Le Bel called the husband a good parent who "will not behave in such a way as to offend the religious beliefs or sensitivities of the children."

    The father is seeking sole custody of the children. A trial is scheduled for two weeks in November.

    During his visits with the children after the 2007 marital breakup, the father exposed the children to television and radio as well as "violent age-16-and-up videos," says the mother's letter attached to the motion. "His aim is to alienate and turn them against their friends within the Christian Fellowship."

    According to their website, the Plymouth Brethren have 40,000 members worldwide. They don't vote, but "hold government in the highest respect as God's ministers, used by Him to restrain evil and provide conditions for the promotion of the glad tidings."

    They have their own government-recognized schools for children ages 11-17.


  2. Evangelical group focus of child custody fight

    Ex-communicated father seeks sole custody of five children

    CBC News Oct 3, 2011

    A father who used to belong to a little-known Evangelical Christian group is fighting for sole custody of his five children, who remain in the closed community with their mother.

    The father, who cannot be identified, was ex-communicated from The Exclusive Brethren, also known as the Plymouth Brethren, a religious group that bans contact with the outside world.

    He currently sees his children every other weekend and every Wednesday, but he told CBC News that he's seeking sole custody because he wants them to be free.

    "I want them to have the opportunity to choose their lifestyle rather than having it forced on them," the father said.

    The Exclusive Brethren has 40,000 followers worldwide and about 100 in the Montreal region. They have two churches and a government-recognized school in Baie d'Urfé, on Montreal's West Island.

    The group believes women belong at home and does not allow its members to be educated beyond a high school diploma. It also forbids socializing outside the community, using the Internet, and going to the cinema.

    The 35-year-old father grew up in Winnipeg within the Exclusive Brethren community, but moved to Montreal in 1994 to help build the group's presence in the city. Two years later, he met and married his ex-wife and they had five children. The father said he became increasingly dissatisfied with the religious group, and the control it exerted over its members. He said he worries for his children, saying their lives are decided for them if they stay in the community.

    "The court will judge which parent can offer these children the best possible development in their lives," said Marie Annik Walsh, the lawyer representing the father in the custody battle. She added that the question of education will also be a factor.

    Earlier this year, the mother requested a court order that the children follow the Brethren's code of conduct when they were with their father, but a Superior Court judge refused.

    That same judge, Justice Hélène Le Bel, said the custody trial will look at the role religion should play in the lives of the children.

    The case will go before a Quebec Superior Court on Nov. 10.

    The Exclusive Brethren have hired three lawyers to argue the mother's case. The community and the mother refused to speak to CBC News, and filed a failed injunction to stop the story from going to air.


  3. Interesting connection with the article below and the Montreal Exclusive brethren (or now newly minted Plymouth Brethren Christian Church -PBCC) members mentioned above; Randy (or Randal Cowie and Derek Cowie)


    "Hi Alan,
    I am from Montreal and am in the midst of a divorce which entails determining custody for my 5 children and where they go to school. From day 1 I have had to fight tooth and nail to even have the slightest access to my kids. My ex wife (brethren) declared under oath that she wished that our kids would have no contact whatsoever with me. Recently I have come into possession of secret documents that make it crystal clear what I have suspected all along - that it is not the children's interests that matter whatsoever in this case, it is the universal priesthood of the brethren that are orchestrating and handling my family case, directing and making decisions to ultimately deny me all access to my children. My ex has very little say and the children have even less. I have it all in black and white. I have faced 2 of the persons (local elders here in Montreal, Randall Cowie and Derek Cowie - owners of Ranger Design) named in my evidence with questions as to why they are doing this. They did not deny anything, but rather evaded the questions and closed the discussion. These people have blood on their hands. It is high time that the child abuse, child manipulation and parental alienation stop."