Translation of a French article posted on April 18, 2012 on the website of the Trois-Rivières daily newspaper
Narconon Trois-Rivières: Disturbing testimony from former employees
by Paule Vermot Desroches
April 18, 2012Photo caption:
From left to right: Émilie Marin, Sylvain Bérard, Julie Ann Pagé, Odette Poulin, and Sylvie Houde,
former employees of Narconon Trois-Rivières.
(Photo by François Gervais)(Trois-Rivières) Things weren't sailing very smoothly inside Narconon during the past few months. This, at least, is what emerges from the testimony of Narconon employees who, after their sudden dismissal, felt the need to speak out in public about the situation to Le Nouvelliste.
First and foremost, the employees wished to defend the program offered by Narconon as an effective program that has time and again produced excellent results, but they said that the center's administration left much to be desired and sometimes even endangered the safety of certain residents and employees.
Sylvain Bérard, the Ethics Officer, said that Narconon had already been experiencing financial problems for some time, to such an extent that, in recent months, the organization had even been admitting clients with more serious problems of a psychiatric nature.
"Some of these cases weren't admissible to the program because it requires cutting off their medication. But the administration chose to keep them anyway. There were several instances of attempted suicide during the past few months. By law, immediate medical assistance should have been provided, but management decided to keep these persons without calling for an ambulance," says the former employee.
His colleague, Julie Ann Pagé remembers a female resident who, less than ten days earlier, made at least two suicide attempts in one day, but she was not referred to a hospital. Ms. Pagé says that incidents like this were blamed on the employees for supposedly "not delivering enough."
"We believe in what we are doing, and we do it for the sake of our residents, for the families, because we believe that everyone can be rehabilitated. But we were treated like assholes, as less than nothing," says Julie Ann Pagé, who was responsible for the withdrawal phase at Narconon.
All of the employees gathered around the table said they had received no pay for at least six weeks, and neither had they received the 4% of salary due to them at the termination of employment. Yesterday morning, they went to the labour standards commission office to inquire about their possible recourse.
"There were several times we didn't get paid on time. But they promised us all sorts of things. It was lie after lie. We weren't supposed to talk about it with each other, otherwise we risked getting fired," remembers Sylvie Houde.
Narconon's finances were so badly managed that Julie Ann Pagé and another co-worker were forced to get rid of the center's trash because Narconon couldn't afford to have its garbage bins emptied. Sylvain Bérard also recalls that, in 2009, clients were compelled to eat ground beef for a whole month, even though the clients could spend between $20,000 and $30,000 for their stay.
"We had no right to have a personal opinion. The only thing that mattered was their teaching of Scientology. Don't do to others what you wouldn't want them to do to you. This was one of their internal rules, but they themselves don't apply it. They have no respect for us or for the residents," says Sylvie Houde."We're playing with people's lives"
While the Narconon employees were at [i]Le Nouvelliste, one of their cell phones rang. On the line was a woman from the Maritimes who was worried because she hadn't heard from her brother who was in therapy in Trois-Rivières. The man she was referring to had been relocated to the Narconon center in Calgary. His family members had not been notified and no one at Narconon Trois-Rivières was answering the phone to reassure them.
Discouragement was perceptible around the table. "There's no better example to show the kind of management that goes on there. Right now, they're taking away all of the center's records, confidential files they don't want anyone to see because of the crooked way they manage," says Odette Poulin.
Odette Poulin points out that every employee had to sign a contract with Narconon that prohibits them from speaking to the media. "We weren't supposed to reveal anything to the press. We're speaking today anyway for the sake of the parents and the students, but also for the employees. We were treated as less than nothing," says Julie Ann Pagé. "We didn't even get a thank you or a letter of reference," laments Odette Poulin.
Émilie Marin, who resigned from Narconon last March 30, emphasizes however that their criticism of the administration only concerns Narconon Trois-Rivières and does not necessarily apply to the other centers around the world.
Sylvain Girard, for his part, suspects that the Narconon Trois-Rivières administration is now turning to Toronto to open a new center. "I think this is the biggest danger, because they'll open somewhere else in Canada. The whole country needs to be aware of what's happening. As far as the program is concerned, I firmly believe in it. I believe that a person should not be cured of an addiction by taking other drugs. The Narconon program is a logical program. But it was time for the government to close down Narconon Trois-Rivières because psychiatric cases are out of line with our capabilities. The situation had become dangerous," said Mr. Bérard. "We're playing with people's lives," adds Julie Ann Pagé.Le Nouvelliste
tried again to contact the administration of Narconon Trois-Rivières by telephone and by email to offer an opportunity to respond, but without success.