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Mrs. Gariepy's difficult tale // Scientologist Buttnor, cleared of child abuse, says his former parishioner is out to get him

Title: Mrs. Gariepy's difficult tale // Scientologist Buttnor, cleared of child abuse, says his former parishioner is out to get him
Date: Monday, 29 April 1991
Publisher: Alberta Report (Canada)
Author: Greg Heaton
Main source: link (291 KiB)

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Police last month arrested Allan Anthony Buttnor, a minister and director of special projects for the Church of Scientology in Edmonton. They claimed he was working at the church offices last November 30 when he fondled the chest of a church member's 10-year-old daughter. They also alleged he had picked up the girl in his car near her home on March 7 and repeated the act. Last week, after a crown prosecutor told the court that there is no evidence to substantiate the allegations, a provincial court judge dismissed all charges: two counts of sexual assault, two counts of sexual interference and one count of unlawful confinement.

Mr. Buttnor says he is the victim of spurious allegations levelled or prompted by Janice Gariepy of Edmonton, whom Mr. Buttnor describes as a former parishioner with a long history of this kind of thing. He has filed a $1-million lawsuit against her and two policemen for malicious prosecution. For her part, Janice Gariepy claims her daughter is not the only one in her family to have suffered abuse at the hands of scientologists, and has filed a $10-million suit against the church, claiming that its members conducted a program of physical, emotional and verbal harassment against her and her family.

One thing they both agree on is that until 1980, Mrs. Gariepy was a member of the Church of Scientology, a worldwide movement founded by American science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, that claims about 300 members in Edmonton. Mr. Buttnor says she was "excommunicated from the church in 1980 for her refusal to abide by the moral and ethical codes of the church." The woman claims she left after about five years in the movement because she "didn't agree with their weird ideas."

Last summer her husband Michel drifted back into the church as their marriage began breaking up. Her 10-year-old daughter, the eldest of their six children, also became involved, helping Mr. Buttnor in the office. Last month, says her mother, the girl levelled the accusation of abuse against Mr. Buttnor to her school counsellor.

Mr. Buttnor was arrested a short time later and released on $1,500 bail. While his criminal lawyer prepared his defence, a second lawyer filed suit against Detective Reed Leary of the RCMP, Detective Ken Montgomery, who investigates "cult, occult, ritualistic and religious influence crime" for the Edmonton Police Service, and Mrs. Gariepy. He alleged that the woman has a lengthy history of laying false allegations of sexual abuse that made her testimony incredible and that the police knew or ought to have known that.

In support of that, he produced an affidavit from a former neighbour of the woman who says that on October 19, 1989, the woman and one of her children came to his son's birthday, invited the boy back to their home to get a birthday present and then reported to the authorities that the neighbour had been sexually abusing his son. An investigation soon cleared him, the man writes, but not before he was forceably separated him from his wife and children for 24 hours. "I spoke with my son ... about what happened on October 19, 1989. He told me that he had been taken aside by Mrs. Gariepy and coached as to what to say." Mrs. Gariepy confirms she reported the neighbour.

Last summer, a man with whom Mrs. Gariepy had been having a relationship was accused of sexually assaulting his own 15-year-old son. The boy withdrew the allegation and the charges were dropped within days. Mrs. Gariepy claims she had nothing to do with that allegation. But a friend of the man, one Bonnie Halladay, swears in an affidavit that she was aware of the circumstances and believes Mrs. Gariepy filed the complaint with the child protection branch of Alberta Family and Social Services. Mr. Buttnor and Susan Kerr, the regional director of special projects for the Church of Scientology, also claim Mrs. Gariepy has a history of involvement with sexual abuse allegations. They wrote in a press release that she has "a long list of complaints on record with the police including incidents of child abuse, arson [and] sexual assault." A letter from the Edmonton Police Service to Mrs. Gariepy's estranged husband confirms only that there are "numerous file entries under the name Janice Gariepy." The letter says nothing about the subject of the complaints or what became of them.

For her part, Mrs. Gariepy insists she has never accused anyone but her former neighbour of sexual abuse or assault. One other person has come forward with a different story. Barry Morgan, a private investigator in Edmonton, says that late one night in August 1987, he got a call from a distraught Mrs. Gariepy claiming her life had been threatened. "We were in the business long enough to know when someone's lying," he says. "But she convinced us she was in mortal danger." Over the next four days, Mr. Morgan surveyed her home from time to time, installed a tape recorder in her home, and responded after she called police to report an arson attempt, but found nothing to substantiate her claim. After about four days, he recalls, "I told her 'Look, I don't believe a word you're saying," and suggested she hire another company. The next day, he says, she reported to police that a man who looked like Mr. Morgan pushed her down the stairs. The next night she reported that four men, led by Mr. Morgan, had raped her. Mr. Morgan says he called police asking if they wished to question him. "The officer said, 'No, this isn't the first time this lady has pulled something like this.' " Mr. Morgan was never charged.

According to newspaper reports of the time, in July 1980 Mrs. Gariepy told police that three men had entered her home, tied her up and vandalized the apartment. When she went downstairs to have the landlady untie her, she says, the men returned and lit the baby's bedding on fire. She said that she had recognized the men, but police dropped the matter eight days later due to "lack of co-operation from the complainant." Three weeks ago she reported to police that someone had fired pellets at her home. It was the fourth time that week that she'd reported pellet-gun attacks on her and her family. Police found three holes in the window but say they don't know who put them there or why and weren't able to locate any pellets. Mrs. Gariepy refuses to say who she thinks is responsible for the shooting.

But she says she has been the target of other kinds of harassment, saying that someone has been watching her house, placing phone calls and frightening her. "Basically the harassment has come about since my daughter made the allegation against Mr. Buttnor," she says. Betty McCoy, of the Edmonton Cult Information Service, says scientology is a movement that they are watching very closely in the wake of a 1977 FBI investigation that turned up evidence of a concerted effort by the scientologists to discredit Paulette Cooper, a New York author who wrote a scathing book about the movement. Mrs. McCoy confirms that Mrs. Gariepy contacted her back in December to complain of harassment, and she says she was with Mrs. Gariepy at her home one evening last Easter weekend when she heard shots come through the front-room window. "I can't say what happened before I met her," says Mrs. McCoy, a mother of five, one of whom is deeply involved in scientology. "She had called the Edmonton Society Against Mind Abuse to complain of harassment. All I'm doing is supporting her. I don't know her that well but I know the stripe of the enemy."