Narconon Again the Focus of Controversy
March 22, 2010
(Trois-Rivières) The Narconon Trois-Rivières detoxification centre, suspected of links with the Church of Scientology, once again finds itself in the middle of a controversy.
This time, it's the public statements made over the weeked by a former patient who became an employee of the organization that have brought the subject back into the news.
David Edgar Love, a 57-year-old man from the Montreal area, has just filed a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission [Commission des droits de la personne] as well as with the Quebec Labour Standards Commission [Commission des normes du travail]. Both commissions are currently investigating the matter.
The former Narconon employee says he is suffering from post-traumatic stress since leaving the centre in May 2009. Harassment and threats are alleged to have been daily occurrences at the Parent Boulevard establishment. This, at least, is what he explained in an interview he gave to Le Soleil.
During the interview, Love also revealed several techniques allegedly used within the centre, whose treatment methods follow the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology.
According to his account, Narconon requires that its patients undergo an extreme purification program which consists of ingesting large amounts of vitamins and spending more than four hours a day inside a sauna.
Love also describes an exercise which involves an ashtray, a recollection which brings back unpleasant memories.
"I had to yell at an ashtray, 'Stand up!' then 'Sit down!' until it obeyed by itself," he told Le Soleil. "But since I was unable to find the right tone, I had to raise the ashtray by myself over and over... I'm lucky not to be insane."
David Love was far less talkative about his experience when he was reached yesterday by Le Nouvelliste. During a telephone interview, he systematically refused to answer our questions, repeating that he is in a mediation process with Narconon and that an agreement might soon be concluded.
Silence was the same reply yesterday from Marc Bernard, director of Narconon Trois-Rivières, however he promised he would have a response today about the whole affair.
For the Anonymous collective, which combats the Church of Scientology, this turn of events in no way constitutes a surprise.
"It's always hard to know what happens behind closed doors. But the Church of Scientology uses organizations such as Narconon to project a nice public image. This image is what it's trying to save," says activist Marc Lacasse (fictitious name).
Anonymous has also been in constant contact with David Love, providing him support in his efforts.
"He came to our internet message board, and he was a man in urgent need of help. He was a well-placed individual in the establishment at Narconon. He thought no one would believe him," said the representative of the movement.
Clarifying the Situation
Since its arrival in Trois-Rivières, Narconon has regularly been the target of criticism. For this reason, "We must now clarify the situation," according to Sylvie Tardif, director of the COMSEP organization [a local non-profit organization that helps alleviate poverty and illiteracy].
Sylvie Tardif is also a municipal councilor and she had the opportunity to visit the detoxification centre a few years ago.
"I saw saunas and all that. They explained the vitamin stuff to me and I was told that people could sometimes be sick," said the representative of the Marie-de-l'Incarnation District.
Then, in 2008, Narconon sought to offer a $1,000 donation to COMSEP, the organization she heads. She refused. "When in doubt, it's better to refrain. We had heard about its ties with the Church of Scientology, but we weren't knowledgeable about it," says Sylvie Tardif.
At that time, several other organizations had criticized Narconon and this provoked heated discussions in the media.
A few months later, the Mauricie Health Agency [Agence de santé de la Mauricie] brought Narconon back into the spotlight when it recommended that Quebec make obligatory the certification of such private or community organizations. The Anonymous Quebec movement then came to Trois-Rivières to support this demand.
Narconon was not, however, at the end of its troubles. In February 2009, a new controversy arose over the purchase of the Vieilles Forges golf club by new owners connected with the Church of Scientology.
The administrative policies advocated by the managers were also based on the principles established by Ron Hubbard, and the training sessions were provided by a company located at the same premises as Narconon.
"I think it is up to the Health Agency to pursue things further and up to the government to make the necessary verifications. It would be beneficial for the citizens, but also for the organization," says Sylvie Tardif today.