The Canadian Cult You've Never Heard of: the Ant Hill Kids

Written by: Jenae


Trigger warning: sexual assault, child abuse/neglect, graphic depictions of violence


No crime scene photos in this post.

When we think of Canada, often the first thing that comes to the minds of many is politeness, maple syrup, and hockey. But did you know that Canada is home to one of the most brutal cult operations of all time? The Ant Hill Kids operated in the late 70s and early 80s, traumatizing the members and shocking the public.


Cult leader, Roch with his many wives


In his early life, Roch was considered to be very smart. Despite that, he dropped out of school in 7th grade and instead began to study the Old Testament of the Bible intensely. Roch believe that the apocalypse was coming and there would be war between good and evil. Roch converted from Catholicism to 7th Day Adventist. This sect encourages a healthy lifestyle which included no tobacco, no drugs and alcohol, and to rid oneself of unhealthy foods. He offered 5-day seminars to folks who were struggling with drug/alcohol and nicotine addictions that focused on what lots of rehabs do: healthy eating, group therapy, and mental health. He also hosted potlucks for the poor, to ensure folks in the community had food, however this was frowned upon by the 7th Day Adventists.


Roch Theriault, leader of the Ant Hill Kids

Like most cult leaders, he was charismatic and used this to his advantage. He often spoke to folks in the church and was able to quickly connect friendships and connects. One documentary stated that when Roch spoke with you, it felt like he was only speaking to you, like you had his undivided attention.


In 1977, Roch decided to separate himself from the 7 Day Adventist Church and convinced a group of people to leave their jobs and homes to come join him on a commune, where folks could freely listen to his “inspiring speeches”, live in equality and free of sin. All of this sounds good in theory. But like all cults, this one began to turn.


Members at the bakery that they ran

Formed in 1977, the cult was named for the “ant like work” the cult members did. When founded, Roch went by Moses (Cult bingo #1). Roch forbade any members from remaining in contact with friends and family or anyone who was in the 7th Day Adventists (cult bingo #2), claiming this was against the cult’s values of freedom. Since there was no money coming in from followers from their outside jobs, The Ant Hill Kids opened a bakery where they sold baked goods from the foods they grew on the commune.


Roch kept his followers under tight restrictions. He watched them and claimed God told him what they were doing. Folks were asked to wear identical clothes. They were to have no contact with the outside world. Followers were forbidden to have sexual relationships with one another, only with him, unless given permission (he had fathered most of the children in the commune, 26 kids to be exact, also used polygamy as a tactic for control). They were not even allowed to speak to each other unless Roch was present. Followers who didn’t bring in enough money at the bakery were also punished.


The punishments for breaking these rules was severe. Punishments ranged from: kneecapping, being shot by a peer, being hung upside down for extended periods of time, being shat on, being beaten with hammers, having each hair individually plucked from you (yes, body AND head hair) or being killed. These punishments became even more violent as time went on. He would make his members sit on hot stoves, eat dead rodents, eat feces, and even cut each other toes with wire cutters.


This abuse was also felt by the children, one even dying from being left in the harsh Canadian elements and one dying from a botched surgery (more on that later, completed by one doctor before Roch decided to do this, he was arrested for a few years, commune ordered to disband but they didn't). The abuse of the children included sexual abuse and being nailed to trees while other children stoned them.



Roch on the commune

Roch believed the end of days would come on Feb 19th, 1979 and used this as an excuse to isolate the commune further, building a town in the woods of Quebec. When the world did not end, no members were alarmed by this and continued to work toward their goal.



Roch decided it would be best for the group to return to their religious foundation and began to offer abusive purification sessions to members. These included Roch’s version of drunken surgery on sick folks in the group, often resulting in death or the removal of limbs, teeth, extremities, and nails (also sometimes used as punishment). Some of these also included circumcision on both children and adults and a twisted version of anesthetic. He often used members as “nurses”, having them sew up wounds or hand him tools. He believed God had given him healing abilities and this is why he continued this practice.


In 1987, 17 children were removed from the commune but Roch never faced any consequences from social services or the police at this time.



The only photo I could find of Solange Boilard, unfortunately with Roch.

Solange Boilard was killed in 1989. She had talked about having a stomach ache. Roch responded by having her strip naked, lay on his “operating table” (a dirty kitchen filled with rusted and dirty sharp objects), punched her in the stomach, then shoved an enema inside her, before finally cutting her stomach open, and ripping out a piece of her digestive system with his hands. She was awake for this whole thing. He then had another member, Gabrielle Lavallee, sew up the wound and another member place a tube down Solange’s throat and blow air into her. She died the next day from complications. Roch then drilled a hole in her head and had every male member ejaculate into it in an attempt to resurrect her. This didn’t work and he forced members to bury her body not far from the commune.



Badass, Gabrielle Lavallee

Gabrielle escaped the commune in the late 80s, telling the police about the horrors she endured at the hands of Roch which included: having 8 teeth removed, a hypodermic needle broken in her back, she had her genitals burned with welding equipment, had her head smashed in with the blunt side of an axe, and had pieces of her breast cut off.


This was not the first time Gabrielle attempted escape. She had tried once before and been returned. When she returned, she had a finger removed with wire cutters, her hand pinned to the table with a hunting knife, then had her entire arm removed with a chainsaw (all conducted by Roch).


Gabrielle’s daring escape made Roch’s arrest possible. Roch was arrested on assault charges connected to the tortures endured by Gabrielle. He received 12 years for the amputation of her arm. She also wrote a book about her experiences called: L'alliance de la brebis ("Alliance of the Sheep").


Gabrielle and a copy of her book


Aftermath:


Although the Ant Hill Kids had been on the radar of the police for awhile, nothing could be done as the commune was officially a church and all that could be done was to protect the kids. Upon Roch’s arrest, most of the cult dissolved.


Gabrielle’s bravery in speaking out on the injustices faced at the commune led to a larger investigation. This investigation led to charges for Solange Boilard’s murder. In 1993, Roch pled guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison. He came up for parole in 2002 but was denied due to fear of recidivism.


Roch died in prison on Feb 26th, 2011. He was killed by his cellmate, Matthew MacDonald by a stab wound to the throat. After committing the murder, MacDonald approached an officer and gave him the weapon stating, “That piece of shit is down on the range. Here’s the knife, I’ve sliced him up.”


This is one of the wildest cults that NAMNAB has ever covered, what do you think? Let us know!

  • Grey YouTube Icon
  • Grey Spotify Icon
  • Grey iTunes Icon
  • Grey Instagram Icon