Ontario Children's Aid Asks Court To Allow Them To Seize Lev Tahor Cult Children
Child protection workers allegedly found unkempt houses where children slept on beds with urine-soaked sheets, surrounded by garbage; cases of children being forcibly removed from their homes and made to live with other families; poor dental hygiene and substandard health care; and a home-schooling regime that failed to meet provincial standards.
Two girls in the Lev Tahor cult in 2012
The Toronto Star reports:
Children's Aid officials in Ontario have launched what could be a long legal battle to seize custody of 14 child members of the ultra-orthodox Jewish sect Lev Tahor.
After fleeing their longtime base for refuge in Chatham-Kent, Ont. last month, the group that has been the target of a child-protection probe in Quebec received 500 pages of court documents Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. and an order to appear in court Wednesday morning.
Among the revelations in the papers was that Chatham-Kent Children's Services had sought and been denied a warrant on Dec. 7 to take the group's children into custody and ship them back to waiting foster families in Montreal, said Armenia Teixeira, Lev Tahor's Quebec lawyer.
The case, which is an appeal of the ruling on the warrant, will be heard next Dec. 23.
The news came nearly two weeks after a Quebec judge ruled the kids, aged 2 months to 16 years, were at “serious risk of harm” if they continued to live in the reclusive community, which follows a strict interpretation of orthodox Judaism.
Child protection workers in Quebec allegedly turned up evidence of neglect, psychological abuse, poor nutrition and health problems, according to Denis Baraby, the director of youth protection for the region at the Centre Jeunesse Laurentides.
They found unkempt houses where children slept on beds with urine-soaked sheets, surrounded by garbage; cases of children being forcibly removed from their homes and made to live with other families; poor dental hygiene and substandard health care; and a home-schooling regime that failed to meet provincial standards, said Baraby.
Various critics of the group say that the control exerted by its spiritual leader, Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, allows them to classify Lev Tahor as a dangerous cult.
But Lev Tahor's legal defenders say the group's reputation has been sullied by incorrect information.
“Everything that people are saying about them is not necessarily true,” said Teixeira. “I've been with them for a year-and-a-half now and they're not bad people . . . They are entitled to their beliefs and they are not putting their children in harm.”
Teixeira also said that she intends to file an official appeal of a Quebec court ruling from Nov. 22 in which Justice Pierre Hamel claimed jurisdiction over the 14 children targeted by the child-welfare probe despite the fact that they were among 200 Lev Tahor members who fled to Ontario on Nov. 18.
It was this ruling that permitted Judge Hamel five days later to order the children into foster care for 30 days, have the children undergo psychological examinations and ban them from leaving Canada.
Lev Tahor's Ontario lawyer, Chris Knowles, said in an interview before the court hearing Wednesday that the case raises a number of important constitutional questions and could eventually result in legal arguments that the group's Charter rights, such as freedom of religion, are being violated.…