Head of Sask. bible camp admits exorcism, but no medical care, conducted on boy experiencing possible seizure

·4 min read
Redberry Bible Camp executive director Roland Thiessen, left, admitted in a recorded phone conversation that he was present for a portion of the late-night exorcism conducted by staff member Carlos Doerksen. (Redberry Bible Camp website - image credit)
Redberry Bible Camp executive director Roland Thiessen, left, admitted in a recorded phone conversation that he was present for a portion of the late-night exorcism conducted by staff member Carlos Doerksen. (Redberry Bible Camp website - image credit)

The head of a Saskatchewan bible camp admitted an exorcism was performed on a boy displaying symptoms of a seizure, and that no one provided medical care during or after the ceremony.

These and other revelations are contained in an audio recording of Redberry Bible Camp executive director Roland Thiessen, obtained Tuesday by CBC News.

The voice on the recording matches that of Thiessen, who referred all questions to board chair Wayne Dick during a brief phone conversation earlier this month with CBC News. He also confirms his name and position on the recording.

In the recording, Thiessen also admits he was present for a portion of the late-night exorcism conducted by staff member Carlos Doerksen.

"[Doerksen] was praying that Jesus would free this boy," Thiessen says in the 15-minute phone call with a concerned parent who called Redberry after hearing rumours of the July 13 exorcism.

Listen to a portion of the recorded phone call:

In the recording, Thiessen tells the parent, Brooke Elliott, that Doerksen, "has experience with the powers of darkness. He was involved in dark things for quite a while. He was probably the best person to be in the room at that point. It was not specifically authorized by the camp. [But] it was not something that once it began could be stopped."

The "dark things" Doerksen was involved in include a recent history of pornography and drug addiction, domestic violence and firing from his previous job as a camp counsellor, all detailed on Doerksen's own Facebook page.

On the call, Thiessen says there were multiple camp staff members on site with medical training, including three lifeguards and a retired nurse, but admitted none were called to check on the boy at any point.

Thiessen said the boy was lying "motionless on the floor for a period of time," and then agreed with Elliott that other symptoms the boy experienced were consistent with a seizure.

Thiessen admits on the recording that Redberry, a 75-year-old camp hosting hundreds of children each year, had no protocols for medical emergencies, but he says they are now in place "more for protecting ourselves than anything."

Thiessen then repeats that the main reason for medical care is to protect himself and other staff members.

Elliott, a licensed practical nurse, tells Thiessen it's "terrifying" to hear that.

"The way you just kind of phrased that is a little unsettling to me. I think right there in that statement you're not putting forward the the interest of the child. I think there needs to be a mindset change," she said.

Thiessen apologizes and says he didn't mean it that way.

Don Somers/CBC
Don Somers/CBC

In an interview Tuesday with CBC News, Elliott said the call convinced her and several friends to cancel their kids' registration for a one-week Redberry camp in late July. She said they demanded and received a full refund.

"This is all so disturbing," she said. "How can anyone feel safe sending their child to this camp?"

RCMP say reported practices 'not illegal in Canada'

At least three parents whose children were subjected to the exorcism filed complaints with RCMP. Tuesday afternoon, RCMP issued a news release saying no charges would be laid and the investigation is closed.

"Criminal investigations ultimately boil down to two things: gathering evidence and determining whether that evidence indicates an individual committed a crime as defined by the Criminal Code of Canada," Supt. Josh Graham, officer in charge of the Saskatchewan RCMP Major Crime Unit, was quoted as saying in an RCMP news release.

"Practices like the one reported may be concerning to some people, but they are not illegal in Canada."

Parents interviewed say that's the wrong decision. They say their children were traumatized, and that some still suffer delusions, paranoia and extreme anxiety.

Redberry Bible Camp website
Redberry Bible Camp website

They say Doerksen "brainwashed" the boys from the beginning. They'd do a full day of vigorous physical activity in the summer heat, then Doerksen would talk to them inside their cabin into the early morning hours. He would warn the children about signs of demonic possession, which included any flickering indoor or outdoor light, thinking a girl was cute, or laughing while watching the Simpsons or other "evil" TV shows.

In a YouTube video posted by Doerksen earlier this month, Doerksen admits he conducted a "deliverance" on a boy who collapsed and was then convulsing on the floor.

"I've got a room full of boys that are absolutely terrified … they are cowering under their blankets," Doerksen said in the video.

Doerksen said he was successful at casting out multiple demons from the boy. Parents say he handed out business cards so the boys could stay in touch should the demons return.

Submitted by Marci Bond
Submitted by Marci Bond

Four of the boys called their parents that night to take them home. Parents say Doerksen and Thiessen and others defended the exorcism. They used phrases such as "spiritual warfare" and "satanic activity," parents said.

"I told them I've never heard a bigger crock of s--t in my life," one father said.

Neither Thiessen, Doerksen nor Redberry board chair Wayne Dick returned interview requests.

Dick has said they are taking the incident seriously.