“Guillaume Pepin was indoctrinated by Jehovah’s Witnesses during the first 22 years of his life. Today, in his thirties, he hopes that isolated children in religious movements will be better protected.
“Interventions with families caught in sects are on the rise in Quebec, and social services are surprised by the complexity of child abuse cases.
“Prohibition of eating and sleeping, rites of passage for teenagers, physical abuse, school absences and young people isolated from society: the cases of abuse are numerous and the reports retained by the DPJ have increased.
“Lately, dozens of files related to families members of the Evangelical Center Parole de Vie in Quebec City have been opened at the Directorate of Youth Protection (DPJ), Le Journal learned.
“However, as the file is judiciarized and involves minors, no details can be revealed.
“Interventions with indoctrinated families are growing in Quebec, admits the DPJ.
Without commenting on particular issues, Patrick Corriveau, the assistant director of youth protection at the CIUSSS of the Capitale-Nationale, said that it is very difficult to intervene with families who are under the influence of a religion in margin of the company.
“‘It’s very complex because they are very isolated environments. When we have a take-off angle, generally we will have people who will deny, ‘ he says.
“‘They deny if there is a report of physical abuse, if there is a report for non-attendance. They will explain in all possible and impossible ways that the state has no business in their lives. The state is perceived as a persecutor. ‘
“Generally, the information is very controlled by ‘the guru or the pastor,’ says the DPJ. This same person has a total hold on the community, says one.
“‘It will control the financial aspect, the aspect of sleep, educational methods of children,’ says Corriveau.
“He argues that parents lose judgment and become unable to recognize what is acceptable or unacceptable for their child.
“For the DPJ, it is when there is a break with social values and norms that they must intervene.
“The DYP works closely with the police and the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions.
“However, unlike police officers who focus on finding evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, the DYP has broader and less complex means to intervene.
“‘We do not have the same burden of proof as the police. We are focused on the child. When there is concern about physical and sexual abuse, children are automatically removed from families for a period of time, ‘ says the director.
“Indoctrinated throughout his childhood
“Quebec society must better protect young people who are isolated in certain religious groups, says a former Jehovah’s Witness gay who had to cut all ties with his family to get by.
“When Guillaume Pepin was born, his parents joined the religious movement of Jehovah’s Witnesses. As a child, he never attended parties with his classmates. He could neither disguise himself nor accept candies. He was always on the sidelines.
“‘I have the impression that the government is not even aware of what is happening in these groups,’ says the young man.
“It is mainly isolation that afflicts young people. ‘In Quebec, it is a religion and not a cult. So it’s hard to legislate,’ admits the young man.
“According to him, the workers must have more tools and means to help people get by.
‘Socially, you are unfit. All your life you’ve been told that it’s not worth investing in the world we live in because it’s going to be destroyed, ‘ he says, drawing a parallel with his own story.
“‘I was not mistreated. On the other hand, I was psychologically locked up. We must be aware of the magnitude of the thing.’
“Isolated very young
“In the case of witnesses, young people participate at least in society. However, people at school are just classmates.
“‘They are not friends. You do not have the right to have outside relations with them,’ explains Guillaume, now a comedian in the Quebec City area.
“‘Everything is insidious. My parents said that they were not good friends, that they did not know the truth and did not know the word of God. When you’re young, having to repeat this to yourself, psychologically, it can mark, ‘ he says, pointing out that everything was always focused on fear.
“Children’s free time, evenings and weekends are spent studying the Bible. ‘Everything goes through the Bible,’ he explains.
“This pressure was even stronger in Guillaume because he is a young homosexual. ‘It’s not accepted, so you have to shut up. So, you think you’re the only one who lives this. ‘
“As an adult, he tried to leave the movement once, but he had no bearings. Returning to the fold, he had to agree to comply with the standards of the witnesses. It was the rule to stay with his parents.
“‘I was always treated like a child,’ he says. Finally, a few months later, Guillaume found the courage to leave his family and witnesses. “I was no longer capable of that pressure. ”
However, the result is often brutal for those who reintegrate society. They must relearn everything. ‘I was a social being with huge gaps,’ he says.
Professionals from all walks of life lack training
“Young people in the grip of sectarian groups who try to flee lack support, because the stakeholders are not trained to help them, says a leading authority in the field.
‘The social workers lack a lot of training,’ says Lorraine Derocher, who has just published the manual Intervene with sectarian groups or closed communities: tools to protect children.
“This guide she created in partnership with the Department of Health, the DPJ, the Sûreté du Québec and Info-Cult.
“Ms. Derocher has a doctorate in contemporary religious studies and is a recognized specialist in various issues affecting children living in sectarian circles.
“She pointed out that DYP workers are doing more and better than before, but there is still a lack of training with agencies and schools.
“According to her, it is essential to tackle the isolation of young people and to help those who try to escape the clutches of non-compliant religions.
“‘Closed communities are at higher risk for children because of isolation,’ she said.
“The Commission for Human Rights and Youth Rights (CDPDJ) has been following the Quebec government for more than three years to put in place recommendations to protect children prisoners of sectarian groups.
“Lev Tahor (2013)
- 200-member ultraorthodox Jewish sect in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts in the Laurentians.
- Youth court ordered 14 children of the sect to be placed in foster care for complaints of beatings
“Pastor Claude Guillot of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Quebec East (2016)
- He allegedly beat, mistreated and kidnapped for five years five young faithful aged 4 to 15 years. The abuse occurred between 1983 and 2014.
“Death of a young Jehovah’s Witness
- Éloïse Dupuis, 26, died on October 12, 2016, in Lévis, six days after entering the hospital to give birth to her first child. The young woman refused a blood transfusion after losing too much blood. The coroner admitted that his religious beliefs were respected.”