Manitoba government gave $50 million to companies linked to secret religious cult


The Manitoba government has awarded nearly $50 million in emergency COVID-19 contracts to a group of companies linked to a controversial and secretive religious cult.

Other companies linked to the little-known cult have received large sums elsewhere for similar contracts, including millions from Doug Ford’s government in Ontario and more than £2 billion for PPE contracts in the UK.

The Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, also known as the ‘Exclusive Brethren’, is a small, reclusive religious sect with only 50,000 members worldwide, mostly in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. In Canada, they are believed to have fewer than 10,000 members.

The PBCC was the subject of a recent CityNews documentary which brought to light disturbing allegations by former members detailing how they were cut off from friends and family under the PBCC’s ‘separation doctrine’. . The PBCC disputes these claims and denies that it is a “cult”.

In a previous statement to PressProgressthe PBCC explained, “We are not secretive, but we are often misunderstood.”

Many brethren are also linked to a global network of “3,000 Family Businesses” affiliated with the church’s “Universal Business Team”, which provides “consulting and group buying services”.

According to public records, Manitoba’s Department of Central Services awarded four companies linked to PBCC members six emergency contracts totaling $49.8 million for medical equipment and supplies.

These six contracts represented 12.5% ​​of Manitoba Central Services’ initial $400 million emergency budget in 2020.

A number of these companies were previously identified in a 2014 Winnipeg Free Press investigation as being linked to PBCC members.

Central Dental Solutions, a Winnipeg dental equipment supplier owned by PBCC member John Haldane, has received 3 contracts totaling $37.5 million for emergency products and services from the Manitoba government.

Acure Safety & First Aid, whose chairman is PBCC member Leonard Cavenagh, has been awarded two emergency contracts worth $11.44 million.

Meditek, whose chief executive Chris Samuels is a member of the PBCC, is listed as having received an emergency contract in April for $780,000.

Both Cavenagh and Samuels are listed as trustees of a trust established in Winnipeg to purchase property for the purpose of “preaching the gospel”.

Central Dental, Acure Safety and Meditek are also all listed as tenants, along with a handful of other PBCC-related businesses, in a two-story building next to the Winnipeg airport.

Several PBCC-related companies that have received Manitoba COVID-19 contracts are tenants of this building.

Two additional Manitoba government contracts worth $70,759 have been awarded to a British Columbia oil company called Klondike Lubricants, whose founders are both members of the PBCC.

According to Manitoba government records, the oil company was awarded a $38,400 contract in early April 2020 for medical instruments and equipment just two weeks after Manitoba declared a state of emergency and that most of Canada has entered its first pandemic lockdown.

The brothers-linked oil company was awarded a second $32,359 contract in May 2020 to supply the Manitoba government with soap and hand sanitizer.

Government of Manitoba

As PressProgress previously reported, around the same time, Klondike Lubricants received nearly $2 million in contracts for face masks in May 2020 from the government of Doug Ford in Ontario.

Klondike co-founder Brad Mitchell has ties to the family of PBCC world leader Bruce Hales. Mitchell is listed as a director of Ox Tools — another company listed as a major PPE importer in 2020 — alongside Dean Hales, son of PBCC chief Bruce Hales, according to company records.

Mitchell also has ties to influential conservative insiders – federal lobby records show that Klondike Lubricants previously retained the services of former Conservative Party of Canada general counsel Gerald Chipeur to lobby on behalf of the company when it operated under its former legal name, “Westec Distributors”.

Other companies linked to the sect have been embroiled in overseas controversies in the UK. Earlier this year, The Times reported that dozens of companies linked to the Brotherhood had received £2.2 billion in COVID-19-related contracts from the UK Department of Health and Social Care.

PBCC’s Universal Trade Team has been listed as one of the top PPE importers in Canada in 2020, according to the Canadian Importers Database.

Brethren members have engaged in covert political campaigns in Canada and abroad, despite church policy which states that members do not vote.

In 2005, the Vancouver Sun reported that members of Brethren were involved in a secret campaign against same-sex marriage.

Klondike Lubricants co-founder Phil Jenner and PBCC members across Canada donated tens of thousands of dollars in 48 hours to the Growth Council of Canada, a third-party advertiser that ran attack ads against Justin Trudeau and federal Liberal candidates in the 2019 federal election.

In addition to members of the PBCC, the CGC was also funded by oil industry figures as well as various insiders linked to Scott Moe’s Saskatchewan Party and Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party in Alberta.

Central Dental Solutions, Acure Safety and First Aid, Meditek and Klondike Lubricants did not respond to multiple requests for comment from PressProgress.

Manitoba Central Services and Manitoba Health also did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

After the Winnipeg Free Press reported in 2014 that the Plymouth Brethren had “transformed from a Christian sect to a full-fledged sect”, the PBCC published a lengthy 23-point rebuttal accusing the newspaper of “untruths, inaccuracies and misleading presentation”. of allegations.

An entire section of the FAQ page on the official PBCC website goes into more detail, explicitly denying that the group is a “cult” or breaks up families.

“No, the Plymouth Brethren are not a cult,” the website states. “Any relationship breakdown within a family is always tragic and every effort is made to prevent it from happening or to try to reach a reconciliation if it does.”

The PBCC also runs a charity called the Rapid Relief Team, which has controversially partnered with the Winnipeg Police Department and other Canadian police departments.

Chris Samuels, CEO of Meditek, is the North American Rapid Response Team Director.

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