John de Ruiter, the self-proclaimed leader of Edmonton-based College of Integrated Philosophy or Oasis Group, was granted bail on Friday under strict conditions.
The 63-year-old man that police described as a “self-styled” and “self-appointed” spiritual leader appeared via CCTV before a judge at the Edmonton law courts, where more than 30 of his supporters showed up for the hearing.
His wife and two sons watched on in-person from the gallery in the courtroom.
de Ruiter was arrested last weekend and charged with sexually assaulting four complainants in separate incidents between 2017 and 2020.
He’s accused of telling women they would achieve spiritual enlightenment by having sex with him.
Police were told that the accused “informed certain female group members that he was directed by a spirit to engage in sexual activity with them, and that engaging in sexual activity with him will provide them an opportunity to achieve a state of higher being or spiritual enlightenment.”
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On Friday, de Ruiter was granted bail on the following conditions:
- He was released on $30,000 cash deposit bail
- No contact with any of four complainants or their immediate family members, even through other people
- Can’t be within 100 metres of any workplace or home of any complainant
- Must deposit his passport with his lawyer
- Can’t be alone with any woman other than his wife, daughter, or immediate family members, except with the supervision of a responsible adult who is not his wife
Defence lawyer Dino Bottos wasn’t able to speak to the details of the bail application because it is covered by a publication ban, but did address the nature of the case on Friday.
“This is a unique situation, because the general allegation is that these women that have come forward against John (de Ruiter) were in fact consenting to sexual activity with him, but have now claimed years afterwards that their consent was really nullified and not valid because they were somehow placed under his spell,” Bottos said.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
The Oasis Group operated out of the Oasis Building in west Edmonton — at 109 Avenue and 177 Street — from 2007 to 2021.
Police said de Ruiter “is currently holding meetings at an office building on St. Albert Trail in St. Albert, and offers spiritual retreats out of a campground near Smith, Alta.”
Bottos said de Ruiter can still conduct his meetings but can’t hold them with any detractors or the complainants.
Stephen Kent is an emeritus professor in the department of sociology at the University of Alberta who has been following de Ruiter and Oasis for decades.
He said followers “believe that de Ruiter is the living embodiment of truth and being around him and trying to follow his teachings will lead to their own spiritual enlightenment and advancement.”
Kent estimates there are less than 400 devout followers — some in Edmonton, some further north, and around the world.
He said generally, in groups like this, a spiritual leader using claims of advancement as a reason for members to have sex with them is very common.
“Consent is very complicated when the person committing the sexual actions has a leadership or fiduciary relationship — a relationship of power — over the targeted individuals,” he said to Global News earlier this week.
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The case has the potential to be precedent-setting, Kent believes.
EPS investigators believe there could be other victims and are asking them to come forward.
Police can be reached at 780-423-4567 or #377 from a mobile phone. Anonymous information can also be submitted to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online.
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