It was not the “affection program” former Ambassador Church member Richard Leblanc had envisioned when his church leader described it.
At the front of the church, under the pulpit, his revered pastor, Roy Wood was entangled in a 20-minute embrace with a female member, his waist thrust forward into hers and her arms around his neck.
A month after seeing that, he said at Wood’s Superior Court trial in London yesterday, he left the church he’d believed in for more than 20 years.
LeBlanc, one of Ambassador Baptist Church’s original members, was clearly shaken at testifying for the Crown at the trial of his former pastor.
“Saying these things here would be easier to say against my father,” he said, tears in his eyes, to assistant Crown attorney Peter Kierluk.
“I didn’t go to bed last night because I didn’t want to be here.”
Wood, 57, has pleaded not guilty to 13 charges — 10 involving a “self-control” discipline program imposed on three boys in the church’s alternative school between 1985 and 1987, and three sex- related charges involving females.
The case has focused on the activities of the now-defunct church at King and Adelaide streets and some of the unusual ideas of its leader.
Yesterday, Superior Court Justice Templeton lifted a publication ban on the names of the three boys after assistant Kierluk indicated he wouldn’t seek a permanent ban.
Now men, the boys – John Melonis, 35, and brothers Richard Howell, 34 and Norman Howell, 36 – have testified to being ordered to stand at attention for hours, run laps around the block, have hair pulled from their faces with fingers and pliers and be hit on the shoulder repeatedly. They also described “the basement treatment,” the most extreme discipline where they were punched in the stomach.
LeBlanc, who left the church in the late 1990s, testified to seeing some of these disciplines, but nothing extreme, and added the boys were proud of their self-control.
Wood said at church he was helping the boys become men.
LeBlanc, instructed by Wood once to punch Richard Howell, said he had “complete trust in Roy at that time.”
In cross-examination, Wood, representing himself without a lawyer, reminded LeBlanc four types of affection were taught, although he could only remember three, including physical.
Kierluk asked LeBlanc about church members who left and how Wood would talk about them from the pulpit.
When members left, LeBlanc said, they lost their family and friends. Personal conversations with Wood were leaked.
The affection program was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” for LeBlanc. He stood up to voice his concerns.
When LeBlanc left, Wood told the members he owed money and passed bad cheques, LeBlanc said.
“I snuck out the back door like you told me to,” LeBlanc told Wood.