Narconon Will Have to Show its Credentials
March 24, 2010
(Trois-Rivières) Like all drug rehabilitation facilities in the province of Quebec which provide room and board, Narconon Trois-Rivières will have to show its credentials in order to obtain certification from the Quebec Department of Health and Social Services [ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux], a requirement which will be compulsory beginning on July 1, 2011.
Just days after the publication of statements made by David Edgar Love, a former patient who became an employee and is now speaking out against certain methods used by the centre, the Mauricie Health and Social Services Agency [Agence de santé et de services sociaux de la Mauricie] said it will be keeping an eye on Narconon.
"In the framework of Law 56, which provides for extending the compulsory certification of residences for the elderly to all organizations involved in drug rehabilitation, there are to be rigorous inspections to regulate and guarantee the safety and the quality of services," said Marc Lacour, director of social services.
As a result, the 14 organizations in our region will have to file an application and comply with all the requirements of the Department of Health and Social Services before July 2011. These requirements concern, in particular, the methods of intervention, the physical facilities, safety, employee training, and they might even include prohibiting affiliations to a religion or to a spiritual orientation.
It is known that Narconon has ties with with the Church of Scientology. Its methods of intervention are based on the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology.
Regarding this, Marc Bernard, director of Narconon, emphasizes that, despite this connection, Narconon is not a propaganda centre where the practice of Scientology is required or recommended.
"Here we accept all colours, all races, all religions. Among the 30 employees we have, only 4 or 5 are part of the church, including myself, I admit it. I have nothing to hide. As far as the patients are concerned, we do not talk to them about this. We respect each person's rights, above all. The proof is that we have welcomed Buddhists, Protestants, Muslims, Catholics, etc.." he said.
He also regrets that Narconon is regularly under fire for its links with Scientology. "These are unnecessary and unprovoked attacks which often come from individuals who do not even know the centre. They did not come over to visit us and meet us. Others want to hamper us because they think we are sitting on a silver mine and that Tom Cruise goes traipsing around the centre," he added, not without irony.
Since 2001, the centre has indeed been mired in controversy more than once. The latest example is the publication of statements made by David Edgar Love, who filed complaints with the Quebec Human Rights Commission [ Commission des droits de la personne ] and the Quebec Labour Standards Commission [ Commission des normes du travail ] for harassment and threats and who took the opportunity to lift the veil on certain treatment methods.
Mr. Bernard refused to comment on Mr. Love's accusations because he says that a settlement process is underway with Narconon. He did, however, wish to issue some clarifications about the treatment methods, in particular the purification, which consists of ingesting vitamins and spending several hours in a sauna.
"Withdrawal involves replacing drugs by balanced doses of vitamins and cleansing the body to restore the system, but everything is done with the approval of a doctor," he said.
Mr. Bernard also provided details about the "ashtray" example. Mr. Love claimed that he had to shout "Stand up!" and "Sit down!" until the ashtray obeyed by itself.
"Come on! We are not asking them to perform magic. The ashtray is part of a series of nine exercises in a communication course. It's an ashtray, but it could be any object. The goal is to bring a client to give real intention to his words and not just to mouth them."
Former employees filed complaints
About ten former employees of the Narconon Trois-Rivières centre have filed complaints with the Quebec Labour Standards Commission alleging that they were not paid for hours worked.
But according to one of these former employees, Richard Lussier, there are at least 25 people in the same situation.
"It's such a hassle, but Narconon takes advantage of defenseless people to line their pockets. I had to complain to the Labour Standards Commission to get progress on my case. I'm not looking for trouble, I just want my money. But I know that many other employees haven't complained. In all, there are more than 25 of us who haven't been paid in recent months," said Lussier.
Lussier, who had been hired as a cook, was fired last month. "Narconon owes me between $1,200 and $1,300.
"That's a lot when you have to pay your rent. I spoke out loud to get what I'm owed, because this wasn't the first time it happened, but they preferred to fire me," he said.
Mr. Lussier admits having received some pay, for example $100 every two or three weeks. "The centre gives us a little something to make us keep our traps shut, they make wonderful promises, but they never give us our full pay," he said.
Marc Bernard, director of Narconon, acknowledges that former employees have not been paid.
"I think about ten complaints have been brought against us. The recession hurt us. So we accumulated a bit of a backlog in payroll. I can assure you that these people will be paid and that it will be done as quickly as possible. We don't take this lightly," he said.
He believes, however, that these former employees panicked. "It's the system that wants this, that led them to the Labour Standards Commission.
"Yet we are constantly working to have enough money to settle our debts," said Mr. Bernard.
Narconon provides therapies which last an average of three to four months. According to Mr. Bernard, the centre receives about 35 to 40 customers every three months.
But a former employee contends that the centre receives no more than twenty people a year. Most of the clientele is from Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta.
Moreover, the costs of this therapy are particularly high, more than $5,000 a month, for a total of $20,000.
"How much does the funeral of an addict cost in your opinion? More than $12,000. In addition, we have an excellent success rate here: it's between 70 and 76 per cent, while the average for other centres is 10 per cent," said Mr. Bernard.
At present, an investigation is still being conducted by the Labour Standards Commission, which refuses to reveal more about the number and the content of the current complaints.
However, spokesperson Jean-François Pelchat did not hide the fact that Narconon has a "long trail" of complaints since 2005.
"Quit a few complaints were brought by employees, but, in most cases, the files are closed, either because the centre paid the claims or because an agreement was reached, or the complaint was not accepted, or the employee withdrew," said Mr. Pelchat.