Burlington kin support alleged cult leader
by BELINDA SUTTON
The family of a former Burlington woman vowed to stand by her yesterday as she appeared in a Buenos Aires court to be questioned about leading a religious cult said to sexually abuse children.
Steve Borowick said he and his family don't believe that Susan Claire Borowick, 33, was involved in the alleged incidents of kidnapping, physical and sexual abuse of children, incest and prostitution.
Argentine police say the cult known as the Family of Love, an offshoot of the California-founded Children of God, is responsible for the incidents.
"I have no doubt that she was not directly involved in any of the allegations," he said yesterday.
Mr. Borowick said it would be completely out of character for his sister to have been involved. She has always had high morals and been a caring person, he said.
"My sister is the type of person who, if there is an animal on the road that was hit by a car, would stop and do what she could to assist the animal.
"I mean she is a very compassionate person who is, basically as far as I'm concerned, not capable of hurting a fly."
Ms Borowick was among three Canadians arrested last Wednesday in a series of police raids on nearly a dozen Buenos Aires area homes, said Argentine police. In all, 18 adult members of the sect are being questioned.
Police described her and Rafael Martinez Gonzalez, 39, of Spain, as leaders of the group.
About 140 children have been taken into care since the raids. Ms Borowick's 12-year-old son, Esteaban, is believed to be among the children.
The raids were ordered after former cult members reported sex crimes involving children.
Ms Borowick's brother said the family is shocked and astounded by the allegations. Mr. Borowick, a Burlington investment counsellor, said his mother, in her 60s, is extremely worried and distraught.
"All the family members are prepared to do what they can in aid of getting her out of the current problem that she's in," said the 35-year-old man.
A family member may fly to Argentina once more is known, he said. Relatives have already contacted the Canadian embassy.
Mr. Borowick disputed claims his sister is a leader of the group. He said she oversees the education given to children by adult members.
She also acts as a representative for the group because of the time she has been a member and because she is outspoken and intelligent, he said.
"She is purely a spokesperson on behalf of the group and as far as we know she is not involved in the overall group's major decisions."
Mr. Borowick said his sister, the youngest of four children, joined the group about 13 years ago after graduating grade 13 with top marks from Nelson High School.
Ms Borowick was 13 when she first visited South America as a member of a group reportedly sponsored by a local Rotary Club. She spent a year with families in Brazil and nearby countries.
When she returned to South America for a visit after high school, she fell in love with a member of the group and married him.
Ms Borowick returned to visit her family in Burlington for the last time in 1980. By then, she was already a member of the group, her brother said. She separated from her husband about two years ago.
Her mother and family friends have visited Ms Borowick at one of the group's communal homes on the outskirts of Buenos Aires several times and spent up to two weeks there, he said. His mother's last visit there was two or three years ago.
"They have seen absolutely nothing approaching or even resembling any of the allegations that have been levelled and, if anything, have found the children extremely bright and happy and very well mannered."
Mr. Borowick said he doesn't view his sister's group as a cult, but as a group of devout fundamentalist Christians who share common beliefs and a common residence.
Mr. Borowick said the last letter he received from his sister, who hasn't been able to afford a visit back to Canada, was about three or four weeks ago. At the time, she mentioned there were allegations against her group and that she was publicly refuting them in Argentina, he said.
A Toronto spokesman for the group said the incident is a brazen case of religious persecution.
"Our detractors stir up sensational publicity, which forces the authorities to take action against us," Family missionary Dan Fisher said yesterday.
The Family, which claims 9,000 members worldwide, with 40 to 50 in Canada, had 142 children seized on child-abuse suspicions in Australia in May of last year. Legal action was stayed in November.
A police raid in Barcelona, Spain, seized 21 children and members were acquitted last July, with a judge complaining of an Inquisition. Drug charges in Argentina were dismissed in 1989.