Isaac Dawson, leader in the Twelve Tribes

Click here for Video showing Isaac Dawson talking on the raid in 1984



Dawson goes missing with young son

The Daily News (Halifax)/March 30, 1992
By Rob Roberts

Parent’s rights activist Edward “Isaac” Dawson is back in conflict with authorities over his young son. New Minas RCMP said yesterday Dawson, of the Myrtle Tree Farm commune in Waterville, has ignored a March 18th court order granting weekend custody of nine-year-old Michael to Dawson’s ex-wife, Judy Seymour.

Dawson – who was jailed for 23 days in January 1988 for refusing to co-operate with the seizure of his son on what turned out to be unfounded charges of physical abuse – has now gone missing with Michael.

“We’ve got stuff to charge him with under the Criminal Code,” RCNIP Const. Wendell Murchison said yesterday. “I’d like to give him a chance to come back.”

Weekend custody

Murchison said he plans a trip to Myrtle Tree this week. If Dawson can’t be found, he said he will talk to regional Crown attorney Jack Buntain about getting a warrant for Dawson’s arrest.

Seymour sought weekend custody after returning to the Annapolis Valley earlier this year, Murchison said. Family court Chief Judge Marshall Black granted Seymour interim weekend custody on March 13, then permanent weekend custody five days later, Murchison said.

Dawson, 37, did not attend the custody hearing, although Murchison said he was served a summons to attend. When the Mounties sought to serve him with the permanent order, commune residents said he had left, Murchison said.

“If we believe what the community at Myrtle Tree Farm says, he’s away visiting friends and they don’t know when he’ll come back,” Murchison said.

Myrtle Tree spokesman Denis Julian said yesterday he has not seen Dawson for 14 or 15 days, perhaps longer.

“He left and there was no message,” Julian told The Daily News.

The farm is one of several properties owned worldwide by the Vermont-based Northeast Kingdom Community Church, a fundamentalist Christian group [aka "The Communtiy" and "Twelve Tribes"] that distances itself from the outside world.

The church favors corporal punishment as a child-rearing tool, and has received a lot of bad press and several criminal prosecutions.

Murchison said the new Dawson case is similar to the case of church member Stephen Wootten, who has been charged in Vermont with custodial interference with his two sons.

Hit son’s hand

Tom Watts, executive director of the Pennsylvania-based Children’s Rights Investigation Bureau, is looking into the Wootten case and told The Daily mews he would help look for Dawson and his son in the U.S. Once a warrant is obtained.

“We have people up there (in Vermont) looking for them now,” Watts said.

After his time behind bars, Dawson become a vocal advocate for parent’s rights. He and Jean Swantko, a commune member and its lawyer, testified in May 1990 at legislature hearings on Bill 89, the province’s new child-protection law.

Dawson’s son was seized from him Sept. 24, 1987, after a court hearing at which Dawson testified he hit Michael on the hand with a slim rod in disciplinary matters.

On Oct. 27, the boy was ordered into the temporary custody of his mother, then living in Montreal. Michael was returned to his father’s care, but the custody dispute continues and Edward Dawson was ordered jailed indefinitely whet he refused to give the whereabouts of his son.

Arrest warrant issued for dad missing with son

The Daily News (Halifax), Wednesday, April 1, 1992
By Rob Roberts

A Kentville page issued a Canada-wide Warrant yesterday for the arrest of parents’ rights activist Edward “Isaac” Dawson, who has disappeared with his son in the midst of a custody battle.

Provincial court Judge Jean Louis Batiot issued the warrant after a request from regional Crown attorney Jack Buntain, Buntain told The Daily News.

New Minas RCMP Const. Wendell Murchison, the investigator in the case, said, “Hopefully, he’ll turn up somewhere.”

Dawson, 37, faces a charge of disobeying a March 13 court order granting interim weekend custody of his nine-year-old son, Michael, to his ex-wife, Judy Seymour.

Dawson and his son disappeared shortly after the interim order was granted. Dawson did not appear at a hearing five days later when family court Chief Judge Marshall Black granted Seymour permanent weekend custody.

Visiting friends

“An abduction charge is being contemplated,” said Murchison. The Attorney General’s Department would have to approve the new charge, he said.

Murchison said he won’t return to Dawson’s home, the Myrtle Tree Farm religious commune in Waterville, where he has been several times. He has been told only Dawson is away visiting friends, he said.

The farm is owned by the Vermont-based Northeast Kingdom Community Church, a fundamentalist Christian group [aka "Twelve Tribes" and "The Community"] that distances itself from the secular world.

The Pennsylvania based Children’s Rights Investigation Bureau (CRIB), which has been investigating the case of Stephen Wootten — another custody dispute involving a church member and an ex-spouse who has left the church — has agreed to co-operate in the Dawson case.

“We definitely want to help all we can,” said CRIB executive director Tom Watts yesterday.

Church members have hidden children involved in custody cases in the past, he said’ “It’s definitely very possible (the Dawsons) would be in the United States, but it’s also possible they’re in a safe house in Halifax or Barrington Passage,”

Jailed in 1988

Murchison said the RCMP operated with CRIB when it came to Nova Scotia to search for Wootten’s two children, and the Mounties are glad to have CRIB’s help in the Dawson case.

Dawson was last in conflict with authorities in 1988, when he spent 23 days behind bars for refusing to co-operate with the seizure of his son on accusations, never proven, of physical abuse.


Three cult members wanted in abductions

Cops wait for fugitive

The Winnipeg Sun, Friday, April 2, 1993
By Donna Carreiro – Sun Staff Writer

Three members of a controversial religious cult which moved into Winnipeg this week are wanted across North America on child abduction charges, The Sun has learned.

And police suspect at least one of the fugitives may be headed for Winnipeg — if he’s not here already.

“I wouldn’t be suprised if that’s why they cleared out of Nova Scotia,” New Minas, N.S. RCMP Const. Wendell Muchison said yesterday.

“They left when the pressure got on them about where the kid was.”

Edward Isaac Dawson, 38, is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant for the 1992 abduction of his son Michael, now 10.

Dawson, a member of the Northeast Kingdom Community Church [aka "The Community" and "Twelve Tribes"], was last seen with his son in Barrington Passage, N.S. last year before disappearing–he likely hid out at one of the cult’s Halifax safe houses, police said.

Michael’s mother, Judy Seymour, said cult members told her if she tried to fight for custody legally, “I’d never see my son again. They were right.”

“The last time I saw my son he was waving at me, through a window.”

Two other members, Stephen “Tzuriel” Wootten and Ruth Delozier are also wanted in the U.S. for abducting their children from their estranged spouses, who are not involved in the cult.

Kids spotted last year

Again, the members and the kids were last seen in Barrington Passage last year, officials said.

“We’re looking for a whole mess of kids,” said Susan Davis, a Vermont State Attorney who’s spent the past three years trying to catch up with the cult members.

“And.. there’s no way you’re going to find them. (The cult) is covering at least 12 states and at least six or seven countries.”

Meanwhile, cult member David Saylor, who arrived here this week to establish “the community of believers in Winnipeg” brushed off allegations the group is harboring the charged members.

“All of this is old news,” Saylor said.

“It’s still being played on for the sensationalism of it.”

Still, Winnipeg Police Insp. Con Gislason said yesterday he’ll consult experts within the department about the church.

And two officers have already visited Saylor’s home, just to “introduce” themselves.

Allegations follow church

Allegations of systematic child abuse have long dogged the church, known for its belief in Old Testament philosophies and for condoning corporal punishment, male dominance and submissiveness among female members.

But no allegation has ever been proven, and when assault charges have been laid, they’ve been thrown out in court.

In 1984, officials seized 112 kids from a Vermont church community, but a judge ordered the children returned to their families, ruling the seizure was illegal.

Soon after, one of the church’s leaders was charged after a girl’s father alleged she was beaten for hours with a stick.

But the charges were dropped after the father recanted his statement.

House under close watch

The city health department is keeping an eye on North End house to make sure there won’t be overcrowding after a religious cult moves in.

A member of the Northeast Kingdom Community Church told The Sun as many as 25 members of the church may move into the two-storey home on St. John’s Avenue.

City health inspector Ken Collins received one complaint about the property.

“We had one call last week from an area resident who heard there was going to be 30 families living in the house,” Collins said yesterday.

“All we’ve got now is rumors and allegations. We’re watching it.”

The house, which listed for $79,900, is zoned as a two-family dwelling.

The Public Health Act specifies there must be 7.2 square metres of floor space per person, he said.

“The standard we go by is a two-bedroom apartment –that will hold about six people maximum. It still comes down to available floor space.”

The group, about three adults and six children so far, pans to hold open house meetings.

Ron Williams, of the city’s zoning department, said if the home were used a s church, its residential zoning would have to be changed to conditional use after public hearings.

FBI arrests father for taking his son

Canadian lived with religious group in SC

Santa Cruz County Sentinel/February 4, 1994
By Steve Perez

Santa Cruz–A Canadian man suspected of taking his son from the child’s mother and bringing him to a religious community was arrested by federal agents Thursday morning at one of the group’s homes in Santa Cruz.

His 11-year-old son was reunited with his mother later in the day, the FBI said.

Asked for comment as he was being led away from the well-kept home in the 300 block of Dakota Street, the bearded man, identified as Edward Frank Dawson, 39, said only, “Praise Yahshua, praise Yahshua.” Yahshua is Jesus’s Hebrew name [sic].

District attorney’s investigators and Santa Cruz police accompanied FBI agents and aided in the arrest shortly before 8 a.m.

Dawson was arrested without incident.

Press reports from Canada and the northeastern United States where the “Northeast Kingdom Community Church” is based have described it as a “cult” [aka "The Community" and "Twelve Tribes"] with a history of taking children underground.

According to a spokesman for the local community, the group describes itself as a part of a network of Messianic communities who share the same beliefs and direction “as a body under one head (Jesus).” The community lists groups across the U.S. and in Canada, France, Brazil and New Zealand. Members say they have no ties to any other church or community.

According to news accounts from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Dawson and his common-law wife, Judith Seymour, became embroiled in a child custody fight that became highly publicized because of his ties to the group.

Seymour was unavailable for comment Thursday and en route back to Canada, but Diane Gauthier, an attorney friend in Montreal said the members of the group had prevented the woman from visiting her son.

“The cult members, they did not want her to see her son,” Gauthier said, in a telephone interview with the Sentinel on Thursday. “That poor child, I’m sure he wanted to see his mom.”

A spokesman for the religious community said the group did not prevent the child from seeing his mother. “We leave those matters to the child’s parents. We don’t get involved.”

Neighbors in Santa Cruz described group members as courteous and well-behaved, but keeping to themselves.

An FBI agent said Dawson was in violation of a year-old court order issued by a Canadian court on behalf of the child’s mother, giving her “interim custody” of their son.

Dawson was taken to federal court in San Jose for arraignment and ordered extradited to Canada by a federal magistrate after his arrest, said William Smith, supervisor of The FBI’s San Jose office.

Dawson’s arrest was the result of a six-month investigation that began after the FBI was contacted by Canadian authorities, Smith said.

Members of the community, who reportedly have forsaken their worldly possessions to join the group and “obey the Messiah” of the Bible, said the child had been living with his father since he was 3-year-old.

In a prepared statement, the group said it did not believe Dawson was guilty of any wrongdoing regarding his son “whom he had custody of. We witnessed his love and care for his son on a daily basis. We as a Community stand on our life, our beliefs, and the work we have done in Santa Cruz. We lead an open and accessible life, welcoming people into our home every day.”

Authorities said they found the group members praying at the Dakota Street home when they arrived.

According to Smith and Canadian press accounts, a Canadian court gave Seymour custody in February of last year, but Dawson failed to appear in Canadian court on a judicial summons the following month.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police eventually sought, and obtained a warrant for parental kidnapping and contacted the FBI for assistance when it was learned Dawson was in this country.

Dawson’s arrest surprised residents of the quiet neighborhood. They said for this last two years, members of the religious group were a common sight, the men in simple clothing with their long beards and hair tied back in pony tails, the children described as “well-behaved little adults.”

“I know he (the boy) was very happy over here,” neighbor Dana St. Pierre said. “They’re just the nicest, friendliest people.”

Other residents complained of the noise from the group’s boisterous weekend celebrations of the Sabbath around bonfires in the backyard to the beat of drums and other musical instruments.

Twelve adults, on average, live in the house, according to the group.

The mother reportedly was not a member of the community. Neighbors say church members frequently pass literature around in downtown Santa Cruz as invitation to join.

Although press reports from Vermont contain accounts of children being flogged with thin sticks to make them “pure,” the boy taken by authorities Thursday appeared to be in good health.

Those familiar with the group’s practices say women and children are subservient under their beliefs.

The group, however, said that while they believe men are the head of a family, that they also believe in the equality of men and women in “God’s grace.”

Tom Watts, an investigator who founded Children’s Rights of Pennsylvania because of a custody dispute of his own involving Northeast Kingdom Community Church 10 years ago, said in a telephone interview that it was “maybe the sixth or seventh time” members of the Church had been involved in such an incident.

“Basically, if you don’t join the church after a certain period of time, they try to cut off all contact between that person and the child,” he said. “Basically, they see everyone outside their group as evil and of the world.”

The group denies any such behavior. “We don’t make those judgements. We don’t look at ourselves as better than other people. We just see that our Master saved us and we want him to save others. We don’t do any of these manipulating things.”




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