Police investigating young commune member's death

Sister wants answer

The Edmonton Sun (Canada)/December 1, 2002
By Kevin Connor

A city woman says a police investigation into the death of her little brother - who lived in a Prince Edward Island religious commune run by a former Alberta nun convicted of child assault - may prevent deaths of more children.

"We have had questions around Jonathan's death so we are glad the RCMP are also concerned," said Annette, who ran away from the commune five years ago, prior to the cult leaving Alberta for P.E.I. She does not want her last name used.

"There was abuse that was so bad that someone could have died. I've seen beatings on little bodies so bad that they could hardly take it."

RCMP in P.E.I. this week launched the investigation into the death of the 12-year-old boy who lived at the commune run by Lucille Poulin, a former Alberta nun now in jail for child assault.

There have been calls for a public inquiry into the boy's death since he died in 1999.

"This cult was capable of anything. We may never know the truth," said Annette.

"One of the things I want is the police to look into the lack of medical treatment."

Annette said she was told Jonathan suffered from either Immune Thrombocytopenia Purpura (ITP) - a bleeding disorder caused by a low blood platelet count - or a massive viral infection.

"That's not something he should have died from," she said.

The group's religious faith led them to forbid any blood transfusions for the ailing boy.

Poulin, the 78-year-old self-described prophet and the spiritual leader of the commune which originated in Westlock, 84 km northwest of Edmonton, was convicted last month of assaulting five children ranging in age from seven to 12.

She received an eight-month sentence for her role in beating the children.

During the trial, Judge David Jenkins of the P.E.I. Supreme Court stressed that Poulin wasn't on trial for anything other than assault.

Sgt. Richard Thibault of the RCMP in Charlottetown said he expects the investigation will be lengthy.

He said the decision to investigate the boy's death was based on "information uncovered during the trial of Lucille Poulin."

"We wanted to wait until that file was over before beginning a new investigation," Thibault said.

Annette says she and her family have "run into brick walls" in their efforts to find out how their brother died.

"There were weird circumstances surrounding his death. There are all sorts of forms of abuse we want the police to look into," Annette said. "I have my suspicious, but I'm not willing to discuss them until they are proven."

An autopsy performed in Nova Scotia found nothing unusual about the child's death, said Attorney General Jeff Lantz.

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