The Sackville Facebook group that has been a main source for local news and information has been taken over by the director of the Sexual Abuse Network of Canada, an advocacy organization that publishes the names of people convicted of sexual offences against children.
The Facebook group’s former name, Sackville NB Community Concerns, was suddenly changed on September 27th to Sackville NB Daily News Group and is now part of an organization that runs scores of Facebook groups across Canada under the business name Dave Mantin’s Daily News Groups.
“I was surprised at how fast it happened,” says Sackville resident Sharon Hicks who had served as a moderator of the Community Concerns group since 2016.
“I was on the page the night before and everything was normal and got up in the morning and it had totally changed,” Hicks says, adding that she and several other local residents have been dropped as moderators.
During a telephone interview on Saturday, Mantin who lives in Saint John, said he started the Daily News Groups to warn communities when high-risk sex offenders were being released from prison.
He explained that the Groups also report on investigations into perpetrators with a history of offences against multiple victims.
Mantin says that using a Facebook local news group is a more effective way to communicate than setting up a group more narrowly focused on sexual abuse.
“People would lose interest quick because Sackville doesn’t have a sex offender problem every day,” he said.
“So then we said, ‘oh well, let’s make them news groups’,” he added. “Then if there’s a (sexual offender) case, we get to use the network and we know people are following it because they’re getting their local daily news from there.”
Mantin estimates that the Daily News Groups have 160,000 members in New Brunswick including about 30,000 in Fredericton, more than 10,000 in Moncton, 5,000 in Saint John and just over 4,000 in Sackville. He also operates a second local Facebook group called Sackville NB Daily News with about 1,000 members.
He says he took over the Sackville NB Community Concerns group from Micheal Landry who started it under the name Sackville Community Concerns in 2013.
Landry, who lives in Atholville near Campbellton, set up a network of similar Community Concerns Facebook groups across the province that Mantin has also acquired as Daily News Groups.
He says he sells enough advertising on his news groups to generate an income as well as to support the Sexual Abuse Network.
Meantime, Sharon Hicks says she had been spending up to an hour a day as a Community Concerns moderator helping to build the group’s membership because she believed Sackville needed a place to discuss local issues and exchange news and information.
“I was duped basically into believing that this was a local page; I was a moderator, I was helping to further local information. This is a big disappointment,” she adds.
“After this change happened, for a couple of weeks there was a lot of questions posted on the page from local people asking what’s going on, what’s happened here?” Hicks says.
“Last night when I was looking through the site again, I went back to try to find some of those comments and they’ve all been deleted, so there’s no record on the page now of any dissent or questions that were being asked when the change occurred.”
For his part, Mantin, who is 45, says he was abused as a child himself and has been campaigning for more than 20 years to get justice for young victims.
“What we try to do as an organization is push a victim’s story or a sex offender’s story,” he says.
“The fight to get justice is never ending.”