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Sask. Bible camp calls alleged exorcism an 'isolated incident'

The board of a Saskatchewan Bible camp says it has been "looking extensively" into an exorcism that allegedly occurred in mid-July where a boy reportedly exhibited seizure-like symptoms.

"A number of weeks ago, the leadership team at Redberry Bible Camp were made aware of a regrettable situation involving some of our campers and a cabin leader and we have been extensively looking into the matter," board chair Wayne Dick said in a statement posted on the camp's website on Thursday.

Earlier this week, CTV News spoke with a mother whose son was attending the Redberry bible Camp in mid-July.

Heather Richinski said her son described an apparent exorcism at the camp during which a boy suffered seizure-like symptoms, collapsing with blood "coming from his face."

The staff member who allegedly performed the ritual, Carlos Doerksen, describes similar symptoms while apparently speaking about the incident in a YouTube video.

"He's shaking, his eyes are rolling back in his head, his nose starts bleeding," Doerksen said.

According to Richinski, the boy did not receive medical attention. She said camp staff told her the boy had been "saved" and the staff member had exorcised five demons.

In an interview with CTV News, the head of the Canadian Medical Association said such symptoms warrant medical attention.

“When children are going through issues like this, it's really important to have immediate medical care,” Dr. Alika Lafontaine said.

In the board's statement, Dick apologizes for the "pain and upset" caused by the incident.

"For this we are deeply sorry and recognize that our leadership has to review our policies and procedures including leader training," Dick said in the statement from the Bible camp's board.

"Situations such as this do not reflect the values of our camp and we apologize not only to those affected by this event but also to the greater community who look to us to treat their children with respect as well as provide a great camp experience," he said in the statement.

On the camp’s website, it's identified as a Saskatchewan Mennonite Brethren camp.

A religious studies professor calls the alleged exorcism that took place at the Redberry Bible Camp “surprising,” given the camp’s Mennonite denomination.

“It's not every day you come across Mennonite exorcisms, particularly when they go bad and make the news,” Virginia Commonwealth University professor Andrew Chesnut said.

According to University of British Columbia religion researcher Katie Kingsbury, exorcisms do occur in Canada but typically take place behind closed doors. She said the practice rose in popularity in the 1970s following the release of the film, the Exorcist.

Saskatchewan RCMP has said no charges will be laid following two separate investigations into the alleged incident.

“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," RCMP Supt. Josh Graham said in an emailed statement.

“Quite unusual to see this kind of exorcism these happening in Canada and perhaps why the RCMP are not used to dealing with these kinds of situations,” Kingsbury said.

Chesnut said exorcisms are more common in Pentecostal churches which “probably perform 80 to 90 per cent of the exorcisms that take place on any given day across the globe.”

Chesnut believes Doerksen has likely been influenced by Pentecostalism.

“He doesn't self-identify on YouTube, but it's clear by all his discourse and everything that he's definitely had a Pentecostal influence,” Chestnut says.

In a message posted on Facebook Tuesday evening, Doerksen defended his actions.

"I do not regret praying for a boy who was in need of prayer and whom I saw with my own eyes be set free by the power of Jesus," Doerksen wrote in the post which also quotes a Bible verse that discusses casting out demons.

Earlier this week, the Saskatchewan Camp Association said the Bible camp's accreditation is under review. Top Stories

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