|However, for all the sympathy and understanding parents in this
situation may evoke, the study cannot condone forced deprogramming as a way of returning
anyone to his family. Insofar as a deprogramming involves violence, false imprisonment, or
other offences against the person, it is clearly a violation of the law, no matter who
carries it out or commissions it. It also is an assault on the fundamental rights of the
individual to believe as he chooses, to practise that belief within the constraints of law
and to join in doing so with others of his choosing. Such a conclusion was not a
comfortable one to draw with regard to some movements. Still, it was gratifying to the
study to find that many fervent anti-cultists and saddened parents of active group members
-- some of whom had considered commissioning deprogramming -- had come to the same
There are many, of course, who contend that deprogramming is not a denial of freedom but a justifiably forceful intervention or therapy designed to restore freedom of thought and action to those deprived of it by mind control techniques. They subscribe to the "doctrine of justification" which deprogrammers sometimes have used successfully in U.S. courts to defend themselves against criminal charges arising from their practices. They believe that the Criminal Code should be amended to include a defence of necessity for parents who take otherwise criminal measures to remove children from mind control situations. As noted in a review of the law in an earlier section of this report, the Criminal Code already allows a limited defence when a parent abducts his child, who is a minor. However, at least one provincial Attorney General suggests that this provision should be extended. He believes the age of the child should not matter so long as the parent can show that his actions were based on legitimate parental concern for the welfare of his offspring.
Some advocates of legalized deprogramming go further still. They propose that conservatorship statutes be implemented here, as in the U.S., to enable parents to apply for legal custody of adult offspring who join cultic movements. Some of the conservatorships granted in the U.S. have entailed deprogrammings.
To all of this the study is firmly opposed. It believes that if any effort to disengage a member from a movement seems warranted, it should be attempted under existing civil commitment procedures. In such cases, an individual may be involuntarily committed if it can be shown that his mental state makes him a threat either to himself or others. However, as Professor Weisstub observes in his paper, 1978 amendments to The Ontario Mental Health Act established extremely rigorous criteria by which incompetency is to be judged. Making a case for the committal of a member of a movement would not be an easy matter. Nor should it be. The study agrees when Professor Weisstub says: "In moving to rehabilitate the mind and emotions of the vulnerable, we must, in the face of our principles...distinguish very carefully treatments of a medical nature from interference with belief systems.
While forced deprogramming is repugnant to the study, that does not preclude the use of other, physically non-coercive methods of bringing members out of movements or at least helping them and their families come to terms. Sometimes referred to as "legal deprogramming" or, more suitably, "mediation," these techniques usually involve third parties -- family friends, clergymen, family doctors or trusted teachers. Most often, the mediator's role is to talk the member out of his group. To get him to return home or to a neutral place, deception sometimes has been used but not abduction or forceful detention. The group member must be free to leave or not to participate in discussion.
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