De Ruiter, 63, is accused of sexually assaulting four female followers between 2017 and 2020 under the guise of spiritual teaching. A former shoemaker from Saskatchewan, de Ruiter has been a self-styled spiritual leader for 30 years.
An Edmonton judge has granted pre-trial release to a messianic spiritual leader accused of sexually assaulting female followers.
John De Ruiter appeared by CCTV from the Edmonton Remand Centre Friday for a bail hearing on four counts of sexual assault alleged by former members of his College of Integrated Philosophy. Dozens of de Ruiter’s supporters packed the courtroom, some sitting practically on top of one another to fit on the crowded benches.
You are reading: Edmonton ‘spiritual leader’ John de Ruiter granted bail on four sexual assault charges
De Ruiter, 63, is accused of sexually assaulting four female followers between 2017 and 2020 under the guise of spiritual teaching. A former shoemaker from Saskatchewan, de Ruiter has been a self-styled spiritual leader for 30 years, operating out of his home base in Edmonton.
Provincial court Judge Randal Brandt granted release, on the condition de Ruiter provide a $30,000 cash deposit, stay away from the complainants, surrender his passport and not have any unsupervised contact with women other than his wife, daughter and a housemate.
Evidence and arguments heard at the bail hearing are protected under a type of publication ban commonly granted to preserve the accused’s fair trial rights. Edmonton defence lawyer Dino Bottos is representing de Ruiter, while Jennifer Danker appeared for the Crown.
Readmore : Man with stiff person syndrome shows improvement after using THC-CBD spray
De Ruiter founded his “college,” also known as the Oasis Group, in 2006. He holds weekly meetings in which he sits on a stage facing his audience, who sign up to speak with him in front of the group. Oftentimes, the hours-long meetings are silent, with de Ruiter quietly gazing at each person in the hall.
A lengthy frequently asked questions section on the organization’s website addresses previous controversies about the group and dismisses claims it is a “cult,” saying there are no initiations, vows, or special clothes required to attend de Ruiter’s meetings.
The organization initially held its gatherings at a $1.7 million headquarters at 109 Avenue and 177 Street, before moving to a nondescript office building in St. Albert in 2021. De Ruiter also hosts meetings at a campground near the hamlet of Smith, 200 km north of Edmonton near Lesser Slave Lake.
In a news release announcing the arrest, Edmonton Police said investigators believe there may be more complainants and asked them to come forward.
The release said the complainants named in the current charges claim de Ruiter told them a “spirit” directed him to engage in sexual activity with them, and that the sexual activity would “provide them an opportunity to achieve a state of higher being or spiritual enlightenment.”
Readmore : Delhi L-G launches Operation Clean Delhi, says role of Safai Sainiks is commendable
More than 30 of de Ruiter’s followers attended the bail hearing, along with a smaller group of people supporting the complainants.
De Ruiter himself watched the proceedings silently from a video conferencing cell at the remand centre, wearing orange and black coveralls, his brow furrowed. His next court appearance is set for Feb. 24.
Outside court, Bottos said he was pleased with the result, adding it will be months or years before the matter ultimately goes to trial.
“This is a unique situation, because the general allegation is these women … were in fact consenting to sexual activity with him, but have now claimed years afterward that their consent was really nullified or not valid, because they were somehow placed under his spell,” he said. “Those allegations will be hotly contested by my client, and as well a good number of witnesses who know the other side of the story.”
The Crown and members of de Ruiter’s family declined to comment.