I have longed for thy salvation, O L-RD; and thy Torah is my delight. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. Psalm 119:174-176

10 November 2014

The Twelve Tribes in Canada - Winnipeg Case

New growth in a tree stump, photo by J. Stahl

It seems that after the Twelve Tribes has begun being exposed in Germany, that their community in Winnipeg, Canada is also being exposed.

I've been trying to track down any news on the subject since the story broke, but there isn't much being shared at the moment. While I was looking to see if there was any further information, I found that the Winnipeg community has been in the news before.

First things first. In Canada, there are restrictions on corporal punishment and what is considered "reasonable force". Also, using implements when physically disciplining children is strictly out of bounds. This was something that both Focus on the Family and the HSLDA (Homeschool Legal Defense Association) fought against in 2004, when the laws were firmed up.

Q - What is not reasonable force?
  •  Hitting a child under 2 years of age. Such a young child is not able to understand why someone is spanking them;
  •  Hitting teenagers: This may alienate the youth and promote aggressive or anti-social behaviour;
  •  Using objects to hit such as belts, rulers, etc. because they can be harmful both physically and emotionally;
  • Slaps or blows to the head;
  •  Degrading or inhumane treatment;
  •  Corporal punishment that causes injury.
    Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia - Child discipline

Most folks know the Twelve Tribes by their "Common Sense Deli", which opened in 2010. Others may know them by their online yerba maté store, their "intentional community" or their "Little Mountain Farm" which is an all organic farm that anyone can come to and work on for a time through WWOOF. They are also known for their homeschooling operations, which is registered in Winnepeg as a "Non-Funded Independent School", where they teach grades 1-10.
From what I can tell, the commune has been in Winnipeg for the last 21 years, after moving from Nova Scotia. Since 2013, the Twelve Tribes in Winnipeg have expanded their operations to include a bakery at their deli location, moved from Sherbrook Street to Rue Des Meurons and additionally opened a "Common Sense Natural Foods", and "Common Sense Storehouse".

In 1992-1997 they were under investigation due to child abduction allegations in the Steven Wooten Case.

Prior to the recent infiltration of the community by a reporter in Winnipeg, others have visited and blogged about their experiences. There have also been interviews with members of the Twelve Tribes, ex-members and visitors in Canada.

Joe Hawkins has been quite upset about his wife keeping their children in the commune against his wishes, and his inability to get custody of their children. He has been blogging about the issue for quite a while, and referenced in these recent blog posts.

On October 21st, news broke that the Twelve Tribes have been implicated in child abuse charges. They have defended their use of implements and corporal punishment methods, a reporter detailed his six weeks with their commune. Former members of the Twelve Tribes faced off on CBC Radio about child rearing methods, mind control and spiritual abuse the experienced. Current members defended their beliefs and corporal punishment practices.

Read and listen for yourself:

Welch said the group does use a thin rod as part of how they care for their children, but he noted that "it's biblical."
"We discipline our children with a balloon stick. It's a thin, reed-like rod," he said.
The group invites anyone who's interested to come visit and ask questions about their way of life.
To that end, Welch and other members held a meeting at the Cornish Branch of the city's public library on Monday night to refute the letter and take questions from people.
CBC: Twelve Tribes religious group targeted by child abuse allegations
CBC: Une secte de Winnipeg visée par des allégations de maltraitance d'enfants

The group's spokesperson, Maurice Welch, said the law interferes with parental authority.
"We are basing what we do on the word of God," he said. "The scriptures make it very clear that if someone 'spares the rod,' they hate their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them."
CBC: Twelve Tribes defends use of sticks to discipline children

My very first night at their house on East Gate, I wandered around the premises a little to scope out the place. That very first evening I managed to find five of the rods that were described by ex-members. They are slender wooden sticks roughly 60 centimetres long. I found one above a cabinet in the main floor washroom, one in the classroom they turned into a guest bedroom for me, and three in the basement.
Over the course of the next six weeks I would locate as many as 20 different rods. Usually they were in places you wouldn’t run across them as a casual visitor. It was unsettling to come across these rods and hold one in my hand.
CBC: Opinion: My six weeks with Winnipeg’s Twelve Tribes community

In 2001, Matthew Klein - an Australian - was a member of the Twelve Tribes community in Winnipeg. We reached him in Sydney, Australia.
Information Radio - MB | Oct 22, 2014 | 10:59 --Members of religious group Twelve Tribes speak out
They held a public meeting Monday night to defend themselves against allegations of child abuse, but then said they hit their children with sticks. Our interview with members of Twelve Tribes.

Hopefully this will help clear up some information on what is going on in Winnipeg. To keep up with the news about the Twelve Tribes in Germany, you can read along here:

Part 1, part 2 , part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10,  part 11, part 12, part 13, part 14, part 15, part 16, part 17, part 18  and 19 to be better informed on this issue.You will also find that the Wikipedia page on The Twelve Tribes Community has been updated to include basic information of what is happening in Germany as of September 2013. There have been no current updates in English-speaking papers. However, the German Wikipedia page has most of the information behind what is, for all intents and purposes, an ongoing court case.
You can also find information on the Twelve Tribes from the English-language Sites YATT and Twelve Tribes Ex

11.11.2014 update to fix link errors and spelling errors