Twelve Tribes religious group targeted by child abuse allegations
A Winnipeg religious group is concerned about a letter circulating in the Wolseley area alleging that they abuse children.
"Whoever wrote it, they were so inconsiderate they didn't even put their name on it," said Maurice Welch, a member of the Winnipeg arm of Twelve Tribes, a Christian sect with communities around the world.
"The allegations are false. There's no substance to that whatsoever."
We discipline our children with a balloon stick. It's a thin, reed-like rod.- Maurice Welch
Welch and the other Twelve Tribes members, who live together at a house on East Gate, have reported the letter to police.
Other Twelve Tribes communities outside Winnipeg have also come under fire in the last few years over allegations children are beaten with canes.
Welch said the group does use a thin rod as part of how they care for their children, but he noted that "it's biblical."
"We discipline our children with a balloon stick. It's a thin, reed-like rod," he said.
The group invites anyone who's interested to come visit and ask questions about their way of life.
To that end, Welch and other members held a meeting at the Cornish Branch of the city's public library on Monday night to refute the letter and take questions from people.
"We were thrilled by how warm and supportive our neighbours were," he said.
Abby Flackman, who lives in the Wolseley area, said she has always had positive encounters with the group.
"I don't feel threatened by who they are and I never have. I know they're always inviting and always welcoming people into their homes," she said.
But Nicholas Bala, a law professor at Queen's University and an expert on corporal punishment issues, says Twelve Tribes may need some education on how children can be disciplined in Canada.
"If people are getting up and saying that they are doing things that are clearly criminal acts, that are criminally unacceptable in Canada [and] have the potential to be harmful for children, some investigation and response is appropriate," Bala said in an interview.
In a statement sent to CBC News on Tuesday afternoon, the Manitoba government says the welfare of the children at Twelve Tribes will be looked into by Child and Family Services Department staff.