By Bev Schellenberg
Sitting at a table in a Victoria Starbucks, 22-year old Angel Crane could be just another University of Victoria student relaxing at the end of a full day. She sips her coffee and takes the occasional call on her cell phone. With her dark hair pulled back into a ponytail, it’s impossible to miss her striking hazel eyes, but the jean jacket she’s wearing is strictly standard-issue.
But this is no ordinary young woman, and she hasn’t been since the summer day 18 months ago that altered her life forever. “I need new words,” she says. “People ask me if I’m ‘overwhelmed.’ ‘Overwhelmed’ doesn’t begin to describe what I’m going through.” She’s referring not only to her father’s shooting death — a crime with which her mother has been charged — but also of becoming the sole caregiver to her five younger brothers and sisters, ages five through 15. It’s no wonder she can’t quite find the words to describe what has happened to her — though that will change as the afternoon wends on.
She’s not one to complain, though. Whining isn’t her style. And her response to a series of events that very few people could handle with such strength and grace has earned Angel Crane the admiration of an entire community.
Her saga began on July 1st, 2006 — Canada Day. Angel and some friends had gone camping on Vancouver Island. On the way back to Victoria she checked the messages on her cell phone, and listened to a terse message from a Thai woman she’d never heard of: Margaret Crane, Angel’s mother, was in jail, and the Thai woman had Angel’s five siblings. “Please let this be a lie,” Angel thought.
It wasn’t. A day later, her mom called and confirmed Angel’s worst nightmare. Her father, a cult leader, Daniel George Dubie, was dead — shot and killed in a restaurant in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Her mother was accused of committing the murder, and, if convicted, could face a firing squad. The woman who had contacted Angel was a close, loyal friend of her mom, who’d recognized that the Canadian children would need to be returned to their relatives.
That day Angel sat in her housecoat working through the reality of her father’s death, her mother’s imprisonment, and her siblings’ predicament. She thought of how things should be. “I had a ticket booked to go to Thailand four days later for a holiday,” she says. “After I heard, I cancelled the ticket.” Most of all, she thought about who would take care of her younger brothers and sisters. In her mother’s absence, someone would have to become their caregiver. That someone, she knew, should be her.
Events leading up to this tragedy began with the meeting of 19-year old Margaret Crane and George Dubie in Hawaii 27 years ago. She was a single mom with a young daughter, Angel’s older half-sister, and he was the charming, charismatic leader of a cult later named “Significance.” Margaret joined the group of about 25 people living under Dubie’s control, but sent her eldest daughter to live with her mother and father in Toronto.
According to a May 24th, 1983 article in the Honolulu Star, police investigations and “internal upheaval” in Dubie’s cult resulted in theft ring charges against him, and a short jail term. In 1984, Margaret travelled to Toronto, where Angel was born and lived, mostly with her grandparents. When she was four, Margaret took Angel to Vancouver and, while there, asked a friend, “Can you take care of my daughter for a week?” He agreed. But a week stretched into months, and Margaret, working on movie sets, didn’t return for her daughter.
Wondering where Angel was, her grandmother, by then living in Victoria, finally located her in Vancouver and brought her home with her. Eventually, when Angel was eight years old, Margaret also moved to Victoria but maintained her relationship with Dubie and had more children with him. Angel’s grandmother continued to raise her and her half-sister, but Angel often stayed with her mother when Margaret was in Victoria, and helped to take care of her younger brothers and sisters, changing their diapers and feeding them. At 13, she chose to go with her mother and siblings when they moved to Puerto Rico. Even at that time, she referred to her brothers and sisters as “her kids.”
When Angel was 16, the family moved to Hawaii, although Margaret and the kids lived on one side of the island and Dubie on the other. Angel decided to move in with her dad, to discover what he was really like. As she was in Hawaii illegally, she did office work for her father rather than attending school. At first the living arrangement worked well.
As time went on, however, Dubie began to manipulate her, telling her that everything he was doing was for a higher purpose. He gradually isolated Angel — refusing to let phone her grandmother in Victoria, then cutting off contact with her mom and siblings. Angel had looked up to her father as a child; her mom spoke highly of him and, although he only visited for short periods of time, he looked like he “had it put together,” she remembers. But now the truth came as a shock.
After her father had been gone a few days on a trip to Europe, she realized she felt trapped. Terrified of his return, she called her grandma in Victoria, who sent a plane ticket. Within the day, Angel packed her bag and caught a taxi to the airport. But her ordeal wasn’t over yet.