Scientology Probe Took Over 2 Years

Source: Globe and Mail
Date: December 20, 1984

Although the Ontario Provincial Police had been observing the activities of certain unrecognized religions - or cults - since 1974, its investigation of the Church of Scientology intensified with the formation in 1980 of a special unit of its anti-rackets squad.

Project 20 spent more than two years investigating the church before it mounted a massive raid on its Toronto headquarters on March 3, 1983.

More than 100 OPP officers, some armed with sledgehammers and fire extinguishers, entered the Yonge Street building at 2:30 that afternoon and spent the night searching offices on six floors. They removed about 250,000 documents in about 900 boxes before leaving at 11 a.m. the next day.

The church is recognized in Australia, the United States, Britain and France and in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Yukon, but it is not allowed to perform marriages - a chief element for recognition - in Ontario. The church says it has about 6,500 members in Metro Toronto.

The OPP had got the search warrant needed for the raid by filing with Chief Provincial Court Judge Frederick Hayes a 1,000-page document - called "the most detailed document of its kind ever prepared in Canada" - making allegations about the church's activities. This document alone took five months to prepare with the assistance of the Ministry of the Attorney-General.

In a joint statement issued at the time, Attorney-General Roy McMurtry and Solicitor-General George Taylor said: "The search and seizure of documents was an integral part of an intensive police investigation . . . into alleged offences of tax fraud, consumer fraud and conspiracy to commit indictable offences when perceived necessary in the interests of the Church of Scientology." The statement said the OPP investigation was helped by Revenue Canada and, in the United States, by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. District Attorney offices in Florida and Washington.

Six locked doors on the building's third floor were forced open with sledgehammers "to prevent obstruction or the destruction of evidence through movement of files and operation of shredders," the ministers' statement said. "Before leaving, the OPP officers cleaned ashtrays and removed their garbage and vacuumed the premises." In the days following the raid, lawyers for the church sought successfully to see the search warrant and to seal certain boxes of material for which a claim of privilege was to be made.

Various court orders sealing some of the documents have been made since then, and the original church motion to quash the search warrant used in the raid is still before the court.

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