Police, Provincial Employees Included 19 People Charged In Scientology Case
Date: December 20, 1984
The 19 people charged in connection with an investigation of the Church of Scientology of Toronto include employees of the Ontario Provincial Police, Metro Toronto Police, the RCMP and the Ministry of the Attorney-General, according to information the OPP has sworn before a justice of the peace.
And the alleged stolen documents the church is charged with possessing include photocopies of files belonging to legal firms, the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Ontario Medical Association, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, Metro Toronto Police, the RCMP and the OPP.
Ontario Attorney-General Roy McMurtry, asked yesterday whether the charges involving Metro Police and OPP documents indicated a lack of proper security at those organizations, said: "It's impossible to police every employee. We try to maintain a high level of security, and I think we succeed." Mr. McMurtry added there is no cause for public alarm; documents such as personal health records and sensitive police information remain well protected.
The OPP began serving summonses yesterday on the church and the 19 individuals for a series of charges - theft over $200, possession of stolen documents and breach of trust.
But the OPP is refusing to release until today the names of those charged, an unusual action that appears to break with common law tradition. The OPP says not all of the 19 have been served with their summonses, and a spokesman for the Attorney-General's ministry said it believes a Supreme Court of Ontario order prohibiting publication of the names until the summonses have been served is still in effect.
The charges are the culmination of four years of work by a special unit within the OPP's anti-rackets branch, although the church has been watched by the force since 1974 as part of its monitoring of cults.
The 19 people were ordered to appear in Provincial Court on Jan. 14 to answer the allegations, which in most cases date from the mid-1970s. Earl Smith, president of the church in Toronto, received the summons on behalf of the church.
Mr. Smith said the 19 individuals charged were members of the church's Guardian office, an autonomous unit responsible for church security that arose worldwide after 1966 and which was disbanded in 1980.
He said the Guardian office was often in conflict with official church policy. "I'm confident that the Church of Scientology as a religious entity is going to come out of this all right," he said yesterday.
Clayton Ruby, a lawyer for the church, said that although the charges do not contain any allegations of commercial gain by the church, which police earlier said was the focus of their investigation, they are nevertheless serious. "It's less serious than it might be if it was a commercial operation, if someone was doing something here for gain, but it's not true to say they are minor," Mr. Ruby said.
Cathia Riley, director of the church's legal affairs, said none of the 19 individuals is currently a church employee, but about half are still members.
The charges come 21 months after a massive OPP raid in which about 250,000 church documents were seized. The OPP said at the time that they were seeking evidence as part of an investigation into tax exemptions claimed by the church and into the marketing of courses by the church.
OPP Detective-Inspector Douglas Ormsby, who has co-ordinated the investigation since last May, said yesterday the charges were worth the time and money spent on the investigation. He said the penalties provided in the Criminal Code - 10 years for theft over $200 and for possession of stolen documents, five years for breach of trust - indicate the seriousness of the charges.
But he agreed that the charges did not reflect statements made by the OPP in 1983. "We were always looking at this particular area (in which the charges were laid)," he said. "The other set didn't prove fruitful." Det-Insp. Ormsby said that as far as he knew no other sets of charges were forthcoming.
Mrs. Riley said the people charged were "renegades" whose "overzealous" activities conflicted with the church's policy. She said they ceased to be church employees two years before the March, 1983, raid.
Mrs. Riley said she believes the charges are a retaliation for the church's role in exposing the activities of various U.S. and Canadian agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency.
She charged that Canadian authorities have been manipulated by the U.S. Government to press an investigation because of the embarrassment the church's exposes have caused.
Word of the charges came on Tuesday when Casey Hill, a lawyer with the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney-General, told the Supreme Court of Ontario that a justice of the peace had signed various summonses and warrants earlier in the day.
Mr. Hill disclosed the charges during a hearing intended to hear a motion allowing the OPP to retain possession of the 250,000 documents seized in its raid. The original court orders allowing the OPP to keep the documents had expired earlier this month and church lawyers had planned to argue that police could not retain them unless charges were laid.
Mr. Ruby said he will seek the return of church documents not needed as evidence when the case resumes this morning. He said another motion to quash the OPP search warrant because of what the church alleges are violations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will still be fought.