Judge grants bail for Alberta spiritual leader charged with sexually assaulting 4 women
John de Ruiter, the self-proclaimed leader of an Edmonton-based spiritual group, was released on bail on Friday after being charged with sexually assaulting four women earlier this week.
Edmonton Provincial Court Judge Randal Brandt released 63-year-old de Ruiter on strict conditions, including surrender of his passport and posting $30,000 in cash bail.
He is not allowed to contact any of the complainants or their family members, either directly or indirectly through his followers.
He must not be within 100 meters of the complainants’ places of worship, schools or workplaces.
The judge also directed that de Ruiter should not be alone with any female other than his wife, daughters or immediate family members unless under the supervision of a responsible adult who is not his wife.
That bail condition does not apply to a 49-year-old woman, who is described as roommates with de Ruiter and his wife at their rural home.
De Ruiter is also required to report regularly to a bail bondsman, live at a bail bondsman-approved residence, and remain in Alberta unless relocation is approved by the bail bondsman.
“Guided by a Spirit”
Edmonton police arrested de Ruiter on January 21. Police allege he assaulted four women in separate incidents between 2017 and 2020. None of the allegations were proven in court.
The police assume that there could be other complainants. Investigators are urging anyone with leads to come forward.
“It has been reported that the defendant informed certain female group members that he was being directed by a spirit to engage in sexual activity with them and that sexual activity with him offers them the opportunity to attain a state of higher being, or spiritual enlightenment reach,” Edmonton Police said in a statement Monday.
Known simply as John by his followers, de Ruiter is the leader of a group known as the College of Integrated Philosophy, or the Oasis Group, which has operated in Edmonton for decades. The group has more than 300 followers in Edmonton and other locations around the world.
On Friday, de Ruiter appeared via CCTV from the Edmonton Remand Center.
He often looked directly at the camera with a piercing gaze that his followers are familiar with.
The hearing had to be relocated to accommodate onlookers, including 33 people posing as de Ruiter supporters. His wife and two sons sat in the front row of the courtroom.
Details of the bail hearing and the identity of the applicants are protected by publication bans.
The accused has no criminal record.
Defense attorney Dino Bottos said the allegations were “strongly disputed” by his client but it could be years, if not months, before the case makes it to court.
Bottos said the nature of the allegations made the case an unusual one in which questions about consent, coercion and whether spiritual gains were expected in exchange for sexual acts would be at the heart of the case.
“I’m very hopeful,” Bottos said Friday outside the courthouse. “Nobody has a crystal ball and I know from experience that the more complainants come forward, the harder it gets.”
Bottos said the terms were strict but his client had no problem complying.
He said de Ruiter would likely be released by Friday night and could continue to engage his supporters at local meetings.
Raised in Stettler, Alta, De Ruiter worked as a shoemaker and Christian preacher in Alberta before eventually converting to New Age practices and developing his own philosophy.
He soon began hosting meetings at his home and founded the college in 2006.
The group previously operated at the Oasis Building in Edmonton. De Ruiter regularly hosts spiritual retreats at a former campground near Smith, Alta., a purchase supported by donations from group members.
Followers also attend regular meetings at an office building in St. Albert, outside of Edmonton.
Intense group meetings often involve de Ruiter staring at his followers in silence and intensely for hours. His teachings promise that enlightenment and spiritual awakening can be achieved by letting go of selfish desires and realizing deeper levels of consciousness.
According to de Ruiter’s official website, by looking into the eyes of his followers, he “connects with everyone in the room.”
De Ruiter has admitted to having sexual relations with women outside of his marriage.
On his website, he describes engaging in “consensual sexual relationships with women beyond the traditional framework of marriage” and characterizes these acts as “independent of desire.”
In a statement to CBC on Monday, a spokesman for de Ruiter said he would continue to vigorously challenge the charges in court. “This situation is having a major impact on those who know Mr de Ruiter,” the statement said.
De Ruiter’s next scheduled court appearance is on February 24.