New light has been shed on the Canadian operations of the controversial Church of Scientology by files made public by a U.S. District Court in Washington.
The evidence refutes denials by Toronto cult leaders of information I reported more than five years ago in a series of articles based on internal cult documents and interviews with defectors.
Other accounts since then of clandestine operations by the cult in Canada are also supported by the files, submitted in court after being seized in Los Angeles and Washington as part of a 2 ½-year investigation by U.S. authorities. The trial resulted in jail sentences for nine leading U.S. Scientologists, who are out on bail pending another of many attempts to have documentary evidence used in the case ruled illegal.
As reported in the accompanying instalment in a series of accounts of the U.S. court proceedings, 35 Scientologists were alleged to have participated in conspiracies to steal government documents and to obstruct justice. Besides the nine sentenced to jail, 23 people were named as unindicted co-conspirators. Three others have been indicted and investigations are continuing in various parts of the United States by state and federal agencies.
Canadian activities have included the planting of spies with agencies and individuals considered to be barriers to the progress of the wealthy world-wide organization. It recently announced it had purchased $3.5-million worth of property in Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal.
Philip McAiney, a Toronto minister of the cult founded by L. Ron Hubbard, was quoted in The Globe and Mail in 1974 as calling my series of articles at that time "misrepresentation and distortion."
He and Douglas Pearse and Sue Surgeoner, both from the Toronto Guardian Office of the organization, disputed a number of the statements in the articles.
A large number of the Canadian or Canadian-related documents told of harassment of the McLean family of Sutton, Ont.-Eric and Nan McLean, their two sons and a daughter-in-law-all of whom had left Scientology. Some of the harassment, one Guardian leader's log says, was organized by the Toronto office.
Washington documents-consisting of orders from leaders and reports from agents-describe an international campaign against Better Business Bureaus aimed at the covert scrutiny, and removal if possible, of any files critical of Scientology.
Her leaders' files document more than one interrogation and many investigations of members thought to be "security risks" to the cult, which is administered on military-style command lines. There are details of one member, Michael Meisner, being kept under guard and once being handcuffed and gagged. He turned state's evidence in the U.S. conspiracy trial.
The Washington documents include one stolen from the U.S. Government that confirms reports in books the Scientologists have called libelous. Mr. Hubbard did so poorly in his first university year that he was put on probation for the second year, the document says, and he dropped out after doing worse. He got an F in atomic physics, although cult publicity pieces have suggested that he is an authority in that subject.
According to many of the Washington court documents, the gumshoeing is on the other foot in both the United States and Canada.
The week after the Toronto Scientologists were defining mental health associations as enemies of their movement, one of their colleagues took a job in the Canadian Mental Health Association headquarters. Later that year another Toronto member took a full-time job there and a third one had a part-time job.
Documents submitted to the court in the U.S. case included Guardian office reports that the Scientologists had "Penetrated Toronto mental health hospital and established an agent as director of volunteers."
There were reports of clandestine monitoring of the CMHA files and of the covert disruption of agencies critical of Mr. Hubbard's theories, which he has claimed have improved people's mental health and cured physical ailments.
One report from a Toronto official who signed, "Love, Jaan," told his superiors in the United States he had a way of finding out what the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons might have on Scientology.
The report said Jaan had an operative "who is a legitimate MD ... in the
process of getting registered in the province of Ontario as a physician
It said he was having her line up a personal interview with J.C. Dawson, then the college's registrar, "to see what he has on us."
In a recent interview, Dr. Dawson said he could not recall any such interview. He said the college a few years before had submitted a short brief on Scientology to an Ontario Government committee probing sectarian healing.
One document submitted to the Washington court was the report of a Scientology agent who said he had thoroughly checked out (the method was not specified) the Vancouver office of the World Federation of Mental Health.
The report said the agent found nothing about Scientology, as expected, but he did send his superiors a letter he found on a desk, commenting:
"Thought you'd be interested."
I didn't see that letter in my combing of the thousands of files seized by the FBI, but there were other health agency documents and references in covering letters from Toronto Guardians to such material.
There was a prompt reaction from George Rohn, managing director of the Canadian Mental Health Association, and his assistant, Hilda Mackow, when I asked them about the references in the report to Mr. Hubbard about clandestine operations against their organization.
They said that some time back they discovered that they had employed at least three members of the Church of Scientology, and that during part of that time Scientologists had demonstrated against the CMHA outside the mental health organization's Toronto offices.
The files submitted to the court in Washington contained many reports of Scientology having agents in Better Business Bureau offices and of the acquisition of BBB documents critical of the cult's business practices with its clients.
Among the court documents that had been seized from the U.S. headquarters of the cult was a report summarizing the contents of files on Scientology in both U.S. and Canadian BBBs. And as I have reported in the past, the files of the Edmonton bureau were stolen.
Canadian public libraries have also lost books critical of Scientology and articles have been scissored out of their magazines. Files in various newspaper libraries have been rifled.
There was a deja vu feeling as I read through the voluminous files in the Washington District Courthouse, in which I found the church referring to me at times by the code names Marta or Martello.
I read FBI item 5871, the report of a Scientology agent planted in the Clearwater Sun, a newspaper that had helped expose the fact that a group buying up property there was a Scientology front.
The agent was itemizing-for 15 offices of the church-conversations reporters there were having with me.
A great deal more attention was paid to two other Canadians in Florida, Nan McLean and her son, John, who with other members of their family had defected from the movement and campaigned against it. They had been invited to Florida to brief journalists and politicians about the cult. John had served with Mr. Hubbard aboard his flag ship, and one item submitted to the Washington court said that he helped the U.S. tax men with information.
Mrs. McLean was a Scientology minister in Toronto, but quit in disillusionment in 1972, along with the rest of her family.
Now dedicated to getting people out of the cult, she finds that documents from the court case help her persuade them.
She was the only Canadian beside myself who worked through masses of the files after the court ordered them released.
She was particularly delighted when she found documents referring to Scientologists' efforts to break up her family and to harass family members in other ways since their defection.
One was a report written in May, 1975, by a U.S. Guardian called Flavian, suggesting an agent planted in the McLean household could help break up the family.
Mrs. McLean said in an interview her family had taken in a young man who claimed he was also a defector (a favorite cover story, according to court documents from the U.S. cult offices describing how agents should be trained). He lived a month with them and later tried unsuccessfully to get police to take some kind of action against the McLeans.
As I reported in July, 1974, there had been numerous hate calls from the McLeans to neighbors and others. Members of the family were accused of everything from embezzlement to sexual immorality. The article prompted a nine-page written denial by Mr. McAiney of the Toronto Scientologists.
The Washington files contain a variety of Guardian office scripts written for members recruited to make harassing phone calls and to play other roles. Some, loaded with foul language of a sexual and blasphemous sort, were for church agents who would act as mistresses or prostitutes to frame U.S. government and private-agency officials.
In the court documents there also were passing references pointing to an aborted breaking-and-entering attempt in Toronto.
In October, 1975, two men named Michael Chornopesky and Allen Coulson had pleaded guilty to possession of burglary tools. They had been found at night the previous April in a locked section of a downtown Toronto office building, and Mr. Chornopesky said the two intended to use some highly professional lock-picking equipment to enter a particular law office in the building. First offenders, they were given suspended sentences after a brief hearing.
In 1975 I reported that Mr. Chornopesky and Mr. Coulson had been members of the Toronto Guardian's office of the cult at the time of their arrest and that the law office they were going to enter had contained files to be used the next day in the McLean's defence against a Scientology lawsuit.
There's another cryptic reference in the Washington documents: Box 67, Folder 90, Volume 1 of 2. Dated Jan. 13, 1976, it reads: "Operating Targets-Channel A-FSM (field staff members) to case out Baskin's office and have full knowledge of his area."
Baskin and Sears is a U.S. law firm whose offices include one in Clearwater headed by Robert Hayden, who in January, 1976, was representing Mrs. McLean and John McLean in litigation with Scientologists.
In March, 1976, it was discovered that documents Mrs. McLean had given to her lawyer had disappeared at some unknown time.
In the Washington documents were weekly reports from George Pilat, who had responsibilities for the south-eastern United States for Scientology and was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Washington trial.
One report dated March 3, 1977, had an item: "1 -- Hayden files (base)."
At the end of the typed line was a hand-printed "Done."
And a check mark.