Trial of former nun hears testimony about beatings

Journal-Pioneer/September 18, 2002
By Andy Walker

Charlottetown -- The trial of a former nun accused of beating five children in a religious commune in rural Queens County heard shocking testimony Tuesday about the discipline administered by Lucille Poulin.

The first Crown witness was a parent of one of the five children. A court order prohibits media outlets from identifying either the parents or their children. The children, who ranged in age from seven to 12, were seized by RCMP and Child and Family Services last July.

The woman told Mr. Justice David Jenkins she was single and in her 20s when she first joined the commune in Alberta. Poulin and her followers moved to P.E.I. after Alberta authorities began investigating their discipline practices.

The woman later married and had two children. She told the court the children were basically taken away from her and her husband, and Poulin supervised the care and raising of all the children within the commune.

The woman testified Poulin had told her she received her direction from God and she had complete authority over the parents. She said if any parents questioned Poulin's decisions, she would take steps to limit contact between parent and child.

The witness testified that after her second child was born, Poulin ordered her not to share the same room with her husband because she was not allowed to have any more children.

The witness said children were beaten with a paddle from the time they were infants and the blows were always struck in multiples of seven.

She said her child once made fun of a customer that came to the restaurant operated by the commune, and her husband was forced to hold the child while Poulin spanked the youngster 39 times with the paddle.

There were times Poulin asked men in the commune to administer the spankings because she was worried she could not hit the children hard enough, the woman testified.

The witness said the beating escalated after one child died in December of 1999.

The witness said children were encouraged to tell on each other and were not permitted to call each other brother or sister. Birthdays or other holidays were not celebrated.

She said Poulin controlled the food supply and children had to ask for more; taking food was considered stealing and subject to punishment. She said even infants and small children were forced to partake in fasting at certain times of the year.

The woman said she did actually leave for a couple of months when she was single but came back. She said Poulin made it clear to her she was doomed to hell if she left the group.

Defense lawyer Zia Chisti asked the woman why her testimony in court was different from statements she had earlier given authorities. She said at that time, she was still trying to protect Poulin. She has since left the commune.

The trial resumed this morning. It is expected to last at least until the end of next week.

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