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The Issue in Perspective

Study of Mind Development Groups, Sects and Cults in Ontario

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PREFACE
INTRODUCTION
HISTORY
DEFINITIONS
THE PHENOMENON
DEPROGRAMMING
THE DEBATE
ONTARIO
RECOMMENDATIONS
CONCLUSIONS
qnote.gif (173 bytes) Forewords
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The Issue in Perspective
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Rights and Freedoms
     grsqrsm.gif (85 bytes) Protection of Rights
     grsqrsm.gif (85 bytes) Jehovah's Witnesses
     grsqrsm.gif (85 bytes) Ontario Initiative
     grsqrsm.gif (85 bytes) Human Rights Laws
     grsqrsm.gif (85 bytes) Bill 99
     grsqrsm.gif (85 bytes) McRuer Commission
     grsqrsm.gif (85 bytes) Pondering Alternatives
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Brainwashing and Hypnosis
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qnote.gif (173 bytes) Threat to Society
qnote.gif (173 bytes) Threat to the Family
qnote.gif (173 bytes) Deception and Fraud
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Deprogramming
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General Conclusions
The controversy raised by new religions, cults, sects, mind development groups and deprogramming is complex and defies simplistic solutions, posing instead questions that are basic to our democratic institutions. Few other issues are so befogged by emotion. Few others are as bedevilled by how little still is known about the human mind and its vulnerabilities. And few others bring so many fundamental principles of our society into mutual conflict.

None of which is to say that the issue cannot or should not be addressed. It is to say, however, that the area is a virtual public policy minefield into which government must enter with great caution and restrain. A misstep, a hasty or unnecessary action, could inflict severe damage on principles and institutions vital to the maintenance of a democratic community. The challenge for government in such a situation is to determine when its intervention would be in society's interest and when it best serves society by taking no action at all. Walter Tarnopolsky, professor of law at the University of Ottawa and an authority on rights and freedoms in Canada, describes the distinction this way:

It may be that an individual or a group demands non-interference from the state, at least in certain activities; this is a claim for freedom or liberty. It may be, however, that the demand is for state intervention to protect one's way of life against encroachment by others, or to provide it either as a minimum living standard or on a basis of equality with others; this is a claim for the positive assistance of the state in the security of certain rights.

Carrying this kind of analysis further, Frank Scott, a former McGill University law professor and a noted civil libertarian, explains that "defense against the state and protection by the state are two correlative functions, not contradictory but complementary."

Still, the question remains: When is government action warranted and when is non-intervention appropriate? In its consideration of that question, the study was guided by the civil liberties traditions flowing from centuries of English common law and parliamentary democracy. It is upon that libertarian legacy that Canadians consider their society to have been founded. Summing up that legacy, Chief Justice Bora Laskin of the Supreme Court of Canada says:

History and Traditions have hallowed what may be termed...political civil liberty which is associated with the operation of our parliamentary institutions and which make parliamentary democracy possible and tolerable. The substance of this kind of liberty is freedom of association, freedom of assembly, freedom of utterance, freedom of the press and freedom of conscience and of religion...

None of these freedoms, however, is absolute. Liberty has its restrains. Accordingly, the Chief Justice continues:

Freedom of speech does not on a level of public order and law cover incitement to crime or seditious utterances; and, on a private level, it is limited by the law of defamation. This is equally true with freedom of the press which, moreover, cannot be invoked to support publications that are in contempt of court. Freedom of religion and of conscience will not, in the view of the courts of the common-law countries, justify human sacrifice or polygamy or the practice of medicine without proper certification or refusal to obey compulsory school attendance laws.

Nor, insofar as the issue at hand is concerned, will freedom of religion or conscience excuse fraud, misrepresentation, physical coercion, assault, kidnapping, improper solicitation, or other such practices.

 

 

The controversy raised by new religions, cults, sects, mind development groups and deprogramming is complex and defies simplistic solutions, posing instead questions that are basic to our democratic institutions.

 

 

 

 

 

The area is a virtual public policy minefield into which government must enter with great caution and restrain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The challenge for government in such a situation is to determine when its intervention would be in society's interest and when it best serves society by taking no action at all.

 

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