Roch Theriault and the Ant Hill Kids
February 6, 2023
By Guy Scott
In 1984, Roch Theriault led his followers from the Eastern Townships of Quebec to a lot he had purchased in Somerville Township near Burnt River. Theriault, who called himself ‘Moses’ was fleeing Quebec after some troubling experiences with both the locals and the authorities. In fact his commune had been mysteriously ‘burnt’ back in Thedford Mines, and the commune members were seeing a fresh start in a remote place away from the past.
The commune consisted of Roch, the spiritual leader, 8 wives, 3 minions and eventually up to 23 children. They lived an isolated and precarious existence deep in the bush and had minimal contact with the outside world. Roch was a skilled woodworker, and they eventually built a compound of many assorted buildings. Money was also earned in a variety of ways, including everything from egging to selling crafts. But money woes constantly dogged the commune and they seemed constantly living on the edge.
Roch, or Moses, was a very charming person. He held total sway over his followers, and controlled their every movement. Small transgressions led to physical punishment, but his hold on the community was total. Roch’s cult religion was a strange brew of cave man bullying, sexual sadism and Old Testament religion. But he was always the leader, the Messiah, and equality was not a feature in his commune.
The local authorities were uncomfortable with the Ant Hill Kids Commune. One of the major concerns revolved around the many small children and newborn babies. Eventually, the Children’s Aid Society removed all the children from the commune and placed them in foster homes. As more babies were born they were also removed. Eventually 23 children and babies were placed in foster care.
Roch’s relations with the locals varied. He could be very charming, and many felt sorry for the plight of the commune members. But he was also dominating and violent and suspicions of what really happened in the commune lingered. Several times, commune members were caught shoplifting. Once their sentence included community service at the Kinmount Fair.
An old adage states ‘Ye reap what ye sow,’ and eventually Roch’s transgressions caught up with him. One of his wives suffered an appendicitis attack and Roch, the Messiah tried to perform an operation on her. The wife died and Roch hid her body in the bush, even going so far as to make jewellery out of her bones. When in a fit of rage he cut off the arm of another wife, she turned against him and informed the authorities. Roch successfully hid from the police for several days, but in the end he was caught. He was found guilty of second degree murder and sent to Kingston for life with no parole for 10 years. The commune members scattered, but several wives actually moved to Kingston to be near him and await his release. Roch was killed by another inmate at Dorchester Penitentiary, New Brunswick on February 26, 2011, age 63.