A. Jessica Williams Rochester
Céu do Montreal, Quebec, Canada
July 2, 2008
My initiation into the Santo Daime religion occurred in 1996, after the International Transpersonal Conference in Manaus, Brazil, during an excursion organized by Stephen and Robin Larsen to Mapia. Mapia is a sustainable community in the heart of the Amazon rainforest; it is the Mother Church of the line of Mestre Irineu and Padrinho Sebastian. Padrinho Alex Polari de Alverga, an elder in the Mapia community and the executive director of CEFLURIS (the Church administration) was a speaker at the conference, travelled with us from Manaus, and took care of our group while we visited the community.
Although the Church Works (services) offered opportunities for transformation and healing, it was during a Work deep in the rainforest that I received the message that I was to bring the Santo Daime Doctrine back to Canada. On my return I shared my experiences with some friends and colleagues, many of whom expressed the desire to participate in Works. By the time a year had passed, I had returned to Brazil and had formally became a member of the Santo Daime. The small group that had been meeting regularly to study the doctrine and participate in Works, made the commitment to found a church, Ceu do Montreal. Over the next few years, many people in Quebec and Ontario visited our Works, and over time other churches branched out from Ceu do Montreal.
Until September 2000, I imported the Santo Daime sacrament through Canadian Customs, with the appropriate agricultural documents. At that time a shipment of the Santo Daime sacrament for our Church was intercepted by Canada Customs and given to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP, the Federal Police) for investigation and analysis. It is important to note that the RCMP was extremely respectful throughout the investigation. When I explained that the tea is a sacrament used only for religious purposes, I was informed that I would require an exemption to be able to import the sacrament in the future, as the tea contained controlled substances, DMT and harmala alkaloids.
In April, 2001, having hired a lawyer to represent us and done the necessary research for the application, our church applied to Health Canada, the Department of Controlled Substances, for an exemption under section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Acts, for the importation, transportation and administration of the sacrament. Five years of research and investigation followed, and in July, 2006 I was informed that the evaluation of our request had been concluded and that we were granted an exemption, in principle, pending Brazilian export permission. Again, it is important to note that throughout this period, the government officials working on our file were entirely respectful. At time of writing, we are still awaiting the export permission from Brazil.