Chilliwack pastor facing child pornography charges
A Chilliwack pastor is facing several charges relating to child pornography following an investigation that began when someone noticed something suspicious on a church computer.
Johannes "John" Vermeer has been charged with two counts of possession and two counts of accessing child porn, for offences alleged to have been committed between three and eight years ago.
The RCMP's Upper Fraser Valley Regional Detachment started looking into the pastor in 2015 after allegations of possession were reported. Following what Mounties called a "very technologically based" investigation, he was charged with offences dating back to March of that year, and between May 2010 and June 2012.
The 58-year-old was arrested last month, and first appeared in a Chilliwack courtroom on March 29. He's due to reappear next Tuesday.
The lead pastor at the Main Street Church, which has more than 1,000 attendees, told CTV News Tuesday that Vermeer recently resigned from the position. The congregation was informed of the allegations on Sunday.
"It is shocking. It was shocking for our church," Main Street Pastor Shawn Vandop said.
"The sexual exploitation of children we take very seriously as a church. We have programs and policies and principals in place to protect every level of our kids' ministry."
Vandop said it was the church who initially reported the allegations, after an outside company that monitors their office computers noticed concerning activity. Mounties were called immediately, he said, and officers came to the church to confiscate their computers.
It was several years ago, but charges were only approved at the end of March.
"That was a frustration for us as well," Vandop said. Vermeer continued to work at the church until last month.
"There was no suspects or names or anything given to us at that time, and so we were really at the mercy, waiting for them to communicate next steps."
CTV News went to Vermeer's home, but no one was there. Main Street said he did not work with children in his pastor role, and he is no longer part of the church he attended for 17 years.
A biography on the British Columbia Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches website said Vermeer was a founding charter member of Main Street. Vermeer's bio said was an executive committee member of the BCMB with an "extensive background in business and post-secondary education."
Denis Ferderau from BCMB told CTV the organization was shocked by the charges. He said Vermeer contacted them after his arrest and asked to be removed from the board.
"We take these allegations very seriously and so we are absolutely supportive of the criminal justice system and all efforts to prevent harm," Ferderau said.
He added that he is providing support for Vermeer and his family emotionally and through prayer.
Vermeer's bios have been removed from both the BCMB's and the church's websites, but a cached version said he's been married 39 years and has two grown daughters.
It describes him as being passionate about changing lives and growing churches.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Michele Brunoro