Info-Cult is extremely blessed by the contribution of its many members and volunteers who give so generously of their time, knowledge and energy. This section is a tribute to some of those who have passed away.
Dianne Casoni (1954-2020)
Dianne was a member of Info-Cult’s board of directors for over ten years and remained an important collaborator for over 25 years. She was also a member of several committees and professional associations in addition to being President of the Order of Psychologists of Quebec for two years. She was respected by her colleagues as being deeply dedicated and passionate about her work, whether as a psychologist, psychoanalyst or professor of criminology at the Université de Montréal. With such an impressive track record, she nevertheless showed great professional humility and continually demonstrated openness to working collaboratively with others.
During her career as a university professor, Dianne worked on numerous research topics such as the leader-follower relationship, the philosophy of groups, criminal withdrawal and radicalization. In addition to having supervised a number of interns, she advised several graduate students in the development of their dissertations or theses. Some of these students made significant contributions to the field of cultic studies and even became important contributors to Info-Cult. Professor Casoni was also involved in the writing of collective works and journal articles (Criminology, Canadian Journal of Psychoanalysis). She was also the author of several important publications (books, articles, etc.), such as her article Never twice without thrice. An outline for the understanding of traumatic neurosis. Published in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, this article earned her the Douglas Levin Prize (from the Canadian Psychoanalytic Society) before being translated into French, Spanish and Portuguese. She also helped found the International Journal of Cultic Studies (now called the International Journal of Coercion, Abuse, and Manipulation) and served as co-editor.
For twenty years, her participation at numerous conferences bears witness to the importance of her accomplishments and her contribution to university outreach. As well, her involvement in the organization of ICSA’s annual conferences not only reflects her dedication but also her original contribution, as she also provided training sessions to specific professional associations (including police officers).
Following her death in 2020, Info-Cult created a literary award to honor Dianne’s memory by recognizing writings about cultic phenomena and related issues. The idea of this award, was initiated by Dianne some time before her death. Today, the board of directors of Info-Cult is happy to count on the support of her daughters (Laurence and Marie-Claude) to make this beautiful and generous initiative a reality on her behalf.
Marilyn Wener (1927-2007)
Marilyn was one of the founders in the late 1970s of a Montreal parents’ group which eventually became Info-Cult. In the early 1970s before “cults” became an issue of concern and before resources existed for families having a cult-related problem, her family experienced a personal loss. Marilyn funneled the pain and suffering of this tragedy into action and became involved in the organizing of educational activities, as well as providing moral support to others who needed someone to turn to who could understand what they were experiencing. In addition, she started different projects to help fund Info-Cult. One of her pet projects was recovering golf balls from a lake near her country house. After cleaning and packaging them in egg cartoons she would sell them. She was active until the end and her great strength and character and her presence will be sorely missed.
Jacques Hébert (1923-2007)
Jacques Hébert’s involvement with Info-Cult was not as well known as his participation in a number of other public causes, but no less important. As a member of our board for many years his passionate belief in liberty and in helping the underdog manifested itself in his thoughtful observations on cultic phenomenon. His views reflected the commitment of our organization for education, awareness and assistance. This extract* from an allocution he gave during an Info-Cult press conference in 1991 continues to inspire us today:
“When the Jehovah’s Witnesses were being persecuted by Maurice Duplessis, the premier of Quebec in the 1950s, I found myself, without hesitation, on the side of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. With other men of freedom more prestigious than me: the Frank Scotts, the Pierre Trudeaus, the Michael Oliviers, the Gerard Pelletiers, the Patenaudes and many others. Yet, I had no particular sympathy for that cult which like many others rejects all those that don’t bow to their brand of the “truth” and considers all criticism as negative, and of “satanic” inspiration.
Because I try hard in all circumstances to be on the side of freedom, I above all don’t want to prevent anyone from practicing the religion of their choice, from propagating their beliefs however absurd and weird the theories are. I am ready to fight for religious freedom but also ready to fight against those that outrageously abuse the freedom that our society grants them – thank God! One of the most democratic in the world…
I summarize in two words: cults, all cults have the right to exist in a free society, the right to express themselves; to recruit followers. But the public also has the right to know their methods, their real objectives, their financial situation… And the public has the right to demand that cults, all cults respect the laws like any organization, like any citizen.”
Jacques Hébert is no longer with us, but he is and always will be a source of inspiration, and his words will continue to resonate for all who struggle for rights and freedom.
* Translation by Info-Cult from the original French text.