Solar Temple cult worries rise as millennium nears

Reuters, April 26, 1999
By Patrick White

QUEBEC CITY - More mass suicides linked to the Order of the Solar Temple doomsday cult, implicated in 74 deaths in Canada and Europe in the past five years, are a real possibility as the millennium nears, police said.

"Yes, there are Solar Temple members remaining in Quebec. There may be about 30 of them left," Officer Pierre Robichaud of the Surete du Quebec provincial police said.

"They say they are inactive but, unfortunately, we cannot say without doubt that, yes, they are inactive," Robichaud told Reuters in an interview. "We are not worried but, unfortunately, there are things we cannot predict."

Police are prepared for the worst, he said. "Tomorrow, another massacre like the one in St. Casimir can blow up in our face. It is a very touchy matter."

Quebec police were stunned in March 1997 when five Solar Temple members committed suicide at their retreat in St. Casimir, a village west of Quebec City, the provincial capital. After three earlier mass suicides, police had thought Solar Temple had run its course.

Rebirth on a star

Members of the Solar Temple order believe that "death voyages" by ritualized suicide lead to rebirth on a star called "Sirius." They think the world will end in fire and that they must die by burning in order to reach the afterworld.

Solar Temple is still incorporated in this French-speaking Canadian province and is based in Quebec City. Its 1998 legal filing showed four members are managing its affairs.

In the months before Jan. 1, 2000, Quebec police have about 75 investigators focused on sects operating in the province. Police in France and Switzerland -- where there have also been Solar Temple-related suicides -- as well as IN Quebec have warned that the approach of the millennium could lead more cult members into mass suicides or other acts of violence.

Because of constraints imposed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and because their file on Solar Temple members is currently closed, police said it has become difficult to investigate the cult.

"We do not and we cannot investigate the Solar Temple or its members. We have no proof and no information leading us to believe they committed, or are about to commit, criminal activities," Robichaud said.

Keeping eye out for solar temple members

But he said Quebec police were keeping an eye out for Solar Temple members, who are mainly well-off professionals, and were even meeting with some on a voluntary basis.

French investigators looking into a 1995 Solar Temple mass suicide in France will fly to Quebec next month to interview members of the sect. Last August, a Swiss court dropped its probe into the deaths of 48 Solar Temple members in 1994.

"They are telling us they are inactive, but they told us the same thing before St. Casimir in 1997. They said the Solar Temple was over," Robichaud said.

St. Casimir was the fourth mass death ritual by cult members. In October 1994, 48 people including several children died of poison and gunshots in Swiss farmhouses and chalets. On the same day their charred bodies were found, five Solar Temple members died in a house fire near Montreal. And in December 1995, 16 people died in a Solar Temple mass suicide in France.

The original leaders of the Solar Temple order, Canadian Joseph di Mambro and Belgian Luc Jouret, died in the Swiss incident, but cult watcher Mike Kropveld said he would not be surprised if some of their followers were still active in Quebec. He said he had seen estimates that there are about 60 Solar Temple members in the province.

"They are not as organized as they were in the past but we cannot deny that, at the dawn of the new millennium, the possibility of another drama involving the Solar Temple or any other sect is possible," he said.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.