Silver Meritorious Patron
Intoxicated by the Church of Scientology
(Québec) Since he came out of Narconon, David Edgar Love almost doesn't sleep. He has flash backs about traumatic experiences that he says he lived through in that scientologist detox center in trois-rivières, and sometimes, he becomes so anguished that he looses breath.
In november, a doctor from ''La cité de la santé'' in laval diagnosed him with a post-traumatic stress disorder. Mr Love is now consulting a psychatrist in a montreal's hospital that was recommended to him by Mike Kropveld, director of ''Info-secte'', and he is trying to not look too sleepy at his new job.
Sitting in a small restaurant in a morose part of the Lachine neighborhood, in montreal, where he found a small studio apt, Mr Love, 57 years old, tells us about his experience at Narconon, where he was a client from december 2008 to may 2009, then an employee until the end of october.
Revealed for the first time in ''Le Soleil'', his testimony about the french canadian detox center linked to the church of scientology is added to a series of denunciations that shook the religious organisation everywhere in the world, in the last months.
At his side, David Love has a briefcase full of documents on which he is basing his complaint at the Human rights commission, and another one at the work norms commission, that are investigating his allegations.
During the 11 months that he passed at Narconon, Mr Love says he was victim of harrassment, threats and of multiple other violations of his rights, he also claims he did not receive an important part of his salary.
In a letter dated december 21st 2009, the lawyer's office that represents Narconon, Heenan Blakie, offered David Love $2550.29, on condition that he engages to not tell his story in the media. Mr Love declined this offer.
«They will not shut me up, he says. I have rights and I intend on making them respected»
''Le Soleil'' joined, on the phone, Narconon Trois-Rivières's director, Marc Bernard, who refused to give us his version of it.
"I have nothing to say, I don't have any comments," he said, "No comment."
From British-Columbia, David Love arrived at Narconon shortly before xmas, in 2008. He was addicted to methadone and cocaine and had decided to follow the rehab program at the detox center in Trois-Rivières, where he knew an employee.
During the first weeks of his treatment, Mr Love says he was surprised by the omerta that reigned at Narconon about scientology. He remembers hearing an employee interrupt a group of clients whom he was a part of ordering: «You are not allowed to speak about scientology when you are at Narconon»
The employee then explained to him that Narconon wanted to avoid the subject to not scare the clients, their parents or the ''sponsors'', that pay more than 20 000 $ for the treatment, followed in majority by english speaking people from the United states and English Canada.
On it's french canadian internet website, Narconon presents itself as a ''non profit program of rehabilitation and detoxification'' and brags about having 50 centers in 21 countries. Nowhere it is mentioned that Narconon is a part of the Church of Scientology.
For Paul Schofield, who was a member of the Church of Scientology for more than 20 years before becoming ''Case supervisor'' in the Sydney and Melbourne Narconon centers, then director of Narconon for all of australia, there is no doubt that Narconon is an antenna of the Church of Scientology.
«Besides the withdrawal part, all the courses you are doing at Narconon are almost identical to those you do at the Church, he says, Except that when you do them at the church, they cost you about the quarter or the third of the price.»
While he was a client at Narconon, David Love says he was forced to memorise extracts from books by L. Ron Hubbard, the science fiction author that founded the Church of Scientology and that wrote 8 books on which the Narconon program is based.
«Any book that could interfer with that process of altering the mind and brainwashing is prohibited and confiscated», Says David Love.
On top of reading books by Hubbard, David Love also had to accomplish regularly «training exercises» prescribed by the grand master of Scientology.
He remembers one of them, that consisted of sitting down for long hours, while fixing another client without saying a word and without moving. Or a similar exercice in which he was asked to not react while his partner bombarded him with insults.
The man in his fifties also remembers the ashtray exercise. "I had to scream orders at the ashtray: "Stand up" then "sit down" until it obeyed on its own, says the man. But as I could not find the right tone, I had to lift the ashtray myself again and again." After all these training exercises," says Mr Love, "I'm lucky not to have gone mad. "
To help addicts overcome their addiction, Narconon also requires that they compel themselves to a severe regime of vitamins and sauna that Scientologists call the "Purification Program", also offered at the Church of Scientology of Quebec at a cost of 2,000$.
For two weeks, David Love says he had to spend almost four and a half hours per day in a sauna and swallow large amounts of vitamins and minerals each day. He recalls having to intake a lot of niacin, a vitamin (B3) used to reduce cholesterol.
In a July 17, 2004 interview with the Journal de Trois-Rivières, published on the detoxification center’s website, the director of Narconon Trois-Rivieres, Marc Bernard, described the virtues of niacin to expel drugs from fat cells.
"The toxins are trapped in fatty tissues for several years, Mr Bernard explained. When released, this is what addicts call flashbacks."
Asked about the practice, Dr. Lise Archibald, from the Ubald-Villeneuve Rehabilitation Center in Quebec city, told Le Soleil she had never read anything about the benefits of niacin for drug addicts.
A toxicology specialist at the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec, pharmacist Lyse Lefebvre also never heard that niacin could help fight substance abuse. She indicates however that consuming too much vitamin B3 may cause digestive problems, aggravate asthma, cause some form of arthritis crisis and cause redness and itching.
Health Canada recommends a maximum intake of 500mg of niacin per day. Narconon clients as well as scientologists following the "Purification Program" swallow up to 5000 mg per day of the vitamin, asserts David Love.
This regimen of vitamin and sauna was far from pleasant for the clients of Narconon, recalls Mr Love. "It was horrible. People were sick, vomiting and had diarrhea."
"Like military quarters"
During his rehabilitation, Mr. Love wanted to leave the Trois-Rivières detox center to return to his family in British Columbia. But he says that Narconon has refused to give him back his wallet and his identity papers even though he had made his request more than once.
With the exception to special cases, Quebec law prohibits forcing drug addicts to continue treatment, which takes place on a voluntary basis.
Mr. Love recalled that rather than give him his papers, he was instead sent to the "ethics officer" who convinced him to stay longer.
"Many students want and try to leave", he said. "Some even succeed, by walking along the road, but the ethics officer is called and a car is sent to pick them up and bring them back into the Narconon facilities."
David Love said he never saw a customer being force into a car. He argues that Narconon rather calls the parents or the sponsor of a student and convinces them not to pay them a bus or plane ticket.
Day by day, says Mr Love, Narconon staff closely monitor the coming and going of their customers. "It's like a military quarter" he says. There is security, they have radios. They count you every 20 minutes to know where you are. "
From customers to employees
Mr. Love is not the only customer to have worked at Narconon. About 40% of them subsequently become employees, told Devinder Luthra, then president of Narconon Canada, in May 2002, at a meeting of The Special Committee on Non-Medical Use of Drugs in the House of Commons.
When he was employed, David Love was responsible for contacting former clients of Narconon to compile statistics on the success or failure of the program. He says he received emails from many "former students" who had relapsed and still needed help, which did not appear to him as representative of the 70% success rate which Narconon boasts on its website.
Mr. Love said he tried repeatedly to warn his superiors at Narconon Trois-Rivières, who refused to change their practices.
It is from this moment, David Love said, he realized that Narconon was a "hoax" in the service of the Church of Scientology. "Once I understood and beleived it was true," he wrote on a forum by Anonymous, an anti-Scientology movement that originated on the Internet. "My eyes were opened to the reality of the lies that I had fallen for."
From the day he resigned, November 3, Mr. Love said he received threats from Sue Chubbs, the production director of Narconon.
Supporting document in hand, David Love shows she has among other things listed on his Facebook page the words Enemy and Fair Game. This means, in Scientology jargon that "he may be deprived of property or injured by any means and by any scientologist.