How our reporters infiltrated the sect

The Edmonton Sun/October 11, 2003
By Brigitte McCann

Patience, calm, luck and astuteness allowed our two reporters to collect photos and information over a period of nine months, without ever revealing their true identities.

To cover their tracks and infiltrate the Raelians, our reporters chose false names and rented a post office box to receive all Raelian correspondence.

They then invented occupations in areas that they could easily talk about without attracting attention.

Reporter Brigitte McCann opted for a job in a plant north of Montreal, which she visited prior to the investigation to get the feel of the place.

Photographer Chantal Poirier chose one of her old jobs in the restaurant business.

To register as members, the duo provided anonymous cellphone numbers.

Finally, the two women constructed a family histories for themselves, inventing as little as possible to avoid any blanks.

McCann launched the investigation alone in January. After a few meetings, she was invited to recruit new members in New York City in March.

Introduced as a recruit, Chantal joined Brigitte to assist in the investigation process and take exclusive photos. Constantly faced with the movement's rules and bans, the photographer used a variety of means to take photos, often using her colleague as a screen. The result - over 500 revealing clandestine photos.

During their two weeks camping out among the Raelians in Maricourt, Que., they had to hide a laptop under their inflatable mattress. Every day, they burned photos and text on a CD.

In order to avoid leaving anything on their computer, they would claim they needed a trip to the grocery store and would leave the CD with a shopkeeper in a nearby town who was in on the investigation.

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