Poulin now only witness left in high profile case

Journal-Pioneer/September 28, 2002
By Andy Walker

Charlottetown -- Pictures of a happy, if somewhat basic life, were painted for the children of a rural commune in Queens County during testimony Friday at the assault trial of Lucille Poulin. The testimony of Hanna Laliberte and her husband, Simon Peter, was in stark contrast to story of almost daily beatings and starving children told by Crown witnesses during the first week and a half of the trial.

Poulin, who is charged with assaulting five children at the commune (ages 7-12) between October of 1999 and July of 2001, had been expected to begin her testimony Friday.

However, it was late in the day when Crown lawyer Darrell Coombs finished up his cross-examination of Hanna Laliberte and both sides agreed to adjourn until Monday.

Poulin is expected to be on the stand at least two, or possibly, three days.

Although she did consult with the Lalibertes and her lawyer, Zia Chisti, during breaks in the proceedings Friday, for most of the testimony she pulled hr chair slightly back from the defense table.

"The children were happy and healthy," Hanna told Chisti.

She said there was time set aside in both the morning and afternoon for school work and the children worked in the restaurant run by the commune usually from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. or 9 p.m. in the summer months.

She said they also performed other tasks such as cutting wood for sale and the making garden planters.

Hanna said they had no toys that were "of this world" but did have wagons and balls. He said the children were very creative and made some of their own toys, adding they also liked to draw.

She said many children also had special projects they worked on in their own time like sewing.

"They didn't like to do nothing," she testified. 'If they were idle, they asked for something to do."

Hanna said all of the children in the compound loved Lucille and would always run up to her when she returned from any trip outside the commune.

The mother of two children ( neither of which is one of the five Poulin s accused of assaulting), Hanna said her daughter would go to Poulin when she was afraid or wanted comforting.

Hanna said the rod was only used for serious offences like lying and stealing or hitting another commune member.

When Coombs asked her why some of the children who testified told of almost daily beatings while both she and her husband testified the beating only happened infrequently, she said children are prone to exaggerate.

Both Hanna and Simon Peter told the court the purpose of the rod was to teach children repentance and to obey God's word.

Hanna said she believed Poulin was a prophet, saying she as dedicated her entire life to serving God.

The Crown prosecutor asked Hanna if the intent of the bible verses could be fulfilled by just showing children the rod or applying it lightly.

She replied no, since all of the verses talked about the "blueness of the wound."

Simon Peter blamed Satan for luring some of the older children of the compound away.

Several adult children stayed behind when the commune moved form Alberta to P.E.I., and they later helped some of their siblings escape.

Simon Peter said he felt the older children were jealous of the way the commune members ad chosen to live.

His wife expressed similar sentiments, saying the older children held out promises of a life outside the compound that included such things as the television.

"They would be drawn to those things, curious to know what it is," she testified.

"They may not have intended it to end up the way it did, but it snowballed."

Simon Peter told the court had once administered 39 whacks with the rod.

The court earlier heard testimony punishment with the rod was always given in multiples of seven, with 39 being the top number.

That was the number of lashing Jesus Christ received in punishment.

In response to a question from Coombs, he said he had no idea how much pain the punishment would inflict on a child.

However, he said he considers the punishment reasonable in the circumstances.

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