Former nun convicted of assaulting kids on P.E.I. faces sentencing hearing

Canadian Press/November 6, 2002
By Chris Morris

Charlottetown -- The final chapter is about to be written in the courtroom saga of Lucille Poulin, the 78-year-old former nun found guilty of assaulting children at a Prince Edward Island commune.

Poulin, the spiritual leader of the commune in Hazel Grove, P.E.I., will be back in court on Thursday for a sentencing hearing. She faces a maximum sentence of five years in jail as a result of her conviction on five counts of assaulting children in her care by beating them with a wooden paddle.

While prosecutors have said they doubt the elderly woman will get the maximum sentence for assault, some of her relatives are hoping Justice David Jenkins of the P.E.I. Supreme Court will send a message to people who believe it's alright to beat children.

"I think she probably needs to go to prison for some time," said one of Poulin's nieces who lives in Vancouver and who cared for two of the abused children.

"Unfortunately, she would take prison as another chance to suffer for God. I don't think it will be a deterrent to her personally. But I think it may be a deterrent to others who think this is okay."

Another relative in Alberta looking after several of the commune children said the family wants Poulin sent to jail.

"The children want her punished," she said.

The children cannot be identified under a court-ordered ban. All nine children who lived at the commune when its members moved to Prince Edward Island from Alberta in 1995 have either left or been removed by child welfare officials. Most now live with relatives in Alberta.

One child died in 1999 of a blood disorder. There have been calls on the Island for an inquiry into how the boy's case was handled by child protection officials.

Poulin is considered a prophet by the four other adults still living on the commune property, which includes a once-popular restaurant as well as a couple of homes.

She told the court during her closely watched trial that God instructed her to hit the children with the wooden paddle, which she called a rod of correction. She said children need to be physically punished in order to keep them on the straight and narrow path towards heaven.

Poulin said she was not concerned about the judgment of man, because her soul has already been saved and she is assured a place in heaven.

The five children described their lives at the commune as a living hell where they were hit frequently and often without reason.

"I'm appalled," said her niece in Vancouver.

"I just can't even conceive what it must have been like to live in those circumstances."

The niece said that if Poulin is not given a jail sentence, she hopes she is institutionalized where she can receive psychological care.

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