Skip to main content

Sask. man says he was forced into remote church-run 'detention centre' as a teen

Share

Mark Drapak vividly remembers the terror of being taken away from his family as a child to work at a remote bible training centre.

Drapak is a former student of Christian Centre Academy, now known as Legacy Christian Academy, who attended the private school from 1991 to 1999.

When Drapak was 15-years-old, he was pulled from his classroom and asked to go to the pastor's office — the head of the school.

It was the last time Drapak saw the inside of a high school.

"When I was approached and essentially voluntold that I was going there," he said. "My first reaction was to ask my parent if we can talk about this. They didn't even let me talk to my parent."

Drapak was sent home to pack a bag, where a vehicle picked him up an hour later. The destination was Canaan Land near Big River, which Drapak described as "an intensive one-year residential program designed for men 18 years and older who have had some kind of life-controlling issues or addictions."

Drapak said it was "unheard of" for children to be sent there.

When Drapak arrived at the site roughly three hours later, he was shown the room he would share with another roommate and told to sleep.

He awoke to learn nearly every hour of his day was scheduled and monitored by staff. There were also a number of strict rules:

• You have to agree to participate with everything religious and program-based.

• You cannot phone or visit anyone outside the program, except for a 30-minute monitored phone call.

• You can write and receive unlimited letters, but staff will screen them

• Family can visit on special occasions if preapproved.

• Only pre-approved books, videos, or music are allowed. No radio or TV allowed.

• You can’t possess more than one dollar.

• You have to limit your shower to three minutes.

The daily routine revolved around praying and working, which was mostly chopping down trees to feed the property's wood-burning furnace.

"The rule were incredibly strict since it was intended for drug addicts and bikers," Drapak said. "It felt like it was more of a detention centre or a gulag or a prison than being in any type of place that a child should be."

At first Drapak resisted the program, but he quickly took to the camp's lessons in hopes his compliance would reflect well when it came time to graduate. Pastor Keith Johnson, the leader of the church at the time, had other plans.

"They originally made it sound like it was going to be a short stay, but a little later I found out it was going to be an entire year I was going to be there," Drapak said. "Even worse, after being there for an entire year, I was told, 'No, you can't graduate.'"

"It turned out to be two-and-a-half years later."

On weekends, participants of the training camp drove to Saskatoon to attend church, where Drapak said it felt like he was part of a "chain gang" as him and a few others were displayed prominently during services in the third row of the service to be made an example of.

Another participant who CTV agreed to not identify was at the facility at the same time as Drapak. He said every aspect of the "military-style" camp was supervised.

"I remember they super glued the AM/FM control on my radio," the person said. "Everything was very controlled."

During his stay, Drapak shared a room with Nathan Schultz, an accused abuser named in a lawsuit from former students. It wasn't until he saw former students he recognized sharing their stories of abuse on the evening news when he realized that this person was his roommate at the time.

"When he arrived, they told me a cover story," Drapak said. "The timeline... perfectly lined up with my experience and my story and explains why he would have been sent there."

Drapak only completed eight high school credits by the time he was 18. A year later when he was able to obtain his GED diploma, a staff member of the church urged him to attend the church's faith college or "never darken the doorway of the church ever again."

Drapak has never stepped foot on the property since.

To this day, Drapak was never offered an explanation of why he was sent to Canaan Land.

Canaan Land shut down in September 1999, just three months after Drapak finally graduated. 

CTVNews.ca Top Stories

What to know about Super Tuesday and why it matters

It's almost Super Tuesday when voters in 16 states and one territory will cast their ballots in the 2024 presidential primaries. Here's why the day matters — and why it looks a little different this year.

Stay Connected