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Lev Tahor Children Escape Canada
March 7, 2014 permalink
Members of Lev Tahor and their children have fled to the Caribbean to avoid the threat of forcible return to foster care in Quebec. Six have reached their destination in Guatemala, but Canadian authorities have found nine more on a stopover in Trinidad and are making efforts to get them returned to Canada.
In later news, police in Chatham are keeping a close watch on Lev Tahor to monitor children leaving their premises. Lee Bolton, who is quoted in an enclosed story, reported on Facebook being stopped by police when coming back from a visit with Lev Tahor. In still later news, authorities in Ontario and Quebec are moving for court authority to take all the remaining Lev Tahor children into immediate custody. Three news articles are enclosed.
Canadian judge calls for law enforcement agencies to apprehend Lev Tahor children
TORONTO (JTA) — A Canadian judge has ordered child protection officials to use law enforcement agencies to apprehend 14 children in the haredi Orthodox sect Lev Tahor after most of them fled the country.
On Wednesday, the judge was supposed to hear an appeal of an earlier ruling to seize the children and return them to Quebec to be placed in foster care. No members of Lev Tahor showed up, and reports surfaced that several sect members had fled to Guatemala and Trinidad and Tobago.
The judge ordered child protection officials in Chatham-Kent, Ontario to use the resources of local, provincial and federal police, and the Canada Border Services Agency, to locate the children and return them to Canada to be placed in the temporary care of Chatham-Kent Children’s Services. The order applies to three families.
Police said that 12 of the children under the order have left the country. The location of the other two remains unknown.
Earlier this week, authorities in Trinidad and Tobago stopped nine sect members of the sect — three adults and six children — at the airport as they were en route to Guatemala. They were offered a flight back to Toronto but refused, insisting they go to Guatemala.
According to a report in Trinidad media, the nine are “not detained” and neither are they deemed “fugitives.” They were stopped because of “inconsistencies” in their answers to questions and have hired a local lawyer, the report said. They remain at the airport, having spurned offers of a hotel.
Canadian embassy officials met Thursday with authorities from Trinidad’s security ministry, which handles immigration.
Another six children are already in Guatemala, reported the Montreal Gazette.
In an interview Thursday with the Gazette, Canadian youth protection official Denis Baraby said he’s concerned the remaining members of Lev Tahor are planning another exodus and that the rest of the children have to be seized soon.
“I think the community is preparing a mass move,” Baraby said. “If we want to protect the children that are in the community, we need to start working on the exit of the 114 other children.”
Some 250 members of Lev Tahor fled Quebec in November just ahead of a court order to seize 14 children and place them in foster care. Authorities said they had evidence of physical abuse, neglect, underage marriage and the forced ingestion of drugs.
The Lev Tahor settled in southwest Ontario, where the Quebec order was upheld last month. The affected families were told not to leave Canada pending the appeal. Baraby said the adults who took the children out of the country could be charged with kidnapping.
Source: Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Police keep watch Wednesday at the ultra-orthodox Lev Tahor enclave north of Chatham
CHATHAM - They’re gone, again.
Just a month after a judge raked them over the coals for high-tailing it out of Quebec as the law closed in, some members of an Jewish sect who fled to Chatham have skipped the country — in defiance of the judge’s order — to keep their kids from being seized by child-welfare authorities.
Thirteen kids and their parents, members of the ultra-orthodox Lev Tahor, fled for the Caribbean, and possibly Central America, just as their appeal of an order allowing local children’s aid workers to take the kids back to Quebec and into foster care was to be argued here Wednesday.
The kids are at the centre of allegations — not proven in court, and which the group denies — of neglect and abuse, including of forced marriages of girls as young as 14.
By day’s end Wednesday, another Chatham judge ordered the kids be apprehended.
But the group members took off, despite last month’s order the three families stay in Chatham-Kent until a 30-day appeal period expired.
Nine Lev Tahor members — six kids and three adults — were reportedly being held by immigration authorities at an airport in Trinidad and Tobago.
A call to that country’s immigration department Wednesday was not returned.
It was unclear where the remaining seven children are.
“The children are on a trip, on a vacation,” Lev Tahor spokesperson Nachman Helbrans said when it became clear no one from the group would attend Wednesday’s Chatham court hearing.
Later, referencing the court’s action, Helbrans said the group is being persecuted for its religious beliefs.
“No one can believe this is happening in Canada, but we will not replace our Torah for a maple leaf,” he said.
Helbrans said the group left the country to wait to see if the Quebec order would be enforced, with the possibility they might not return if the order is enforced. He wouldn’t say where everyone was, but confirmed all the families named in a Quebec child protection order had left the rural enclave of duplexes the group has been renting near Chatham since it fled Quebec last fall.
Later, he said the detainees had a lawyer in Trinidad arguing for their release and claimed he didn’t know where the others were.
He said Trinidad and Tobago wasn’t their final destination — that they planned to go to Central America.
“They are fighting injustice now,” he said.
At the courthouse, the appeal was put on hold until April 4.
But Superior Court Justice Lynda Templeton, after hearing an emergency motion in a closed court, ordered the kids be apprehended.
With the Lev Tahor members now-shows in court, the local child-welfare agency began alerting border agencies across Ontario to “request assistance if necessary,” said Shelley Thibert of Chatham-Kent Children’s Services.
Back at their enclave, where about 200 members of Lev Tahor settled last fall after fleeing Ste. Agathe-des-Monts, Que., in the dead of night, no one was talking.
The few who would, boys and men dressed in the group’s conservative garb, said there was no one to speak.
Nearby, a Chatham-Kent police cruiser stayed parked.
Seen at the settlement was Lee Bolton of Canada Court Watch, a citizen’s watchdog focused on children’s aid cases. She said she didn’t know what was going on, but called herself “a friend” of the group.
Two men in suits knocked on one woman’s door at 8 a.m., a neighbour who doesn’t belong to the Jewish sect, asking if she knew where her neighbours were, she said.
Last month, in Chatham, Justice Stephen Fuerth rebuked Lev Tahor for fleeing Quebec as child-welfare authorities investigated, The group’s “unilateral actions,” he said, “placed these children at further risk of harm.”
Helbrans said the families won’t return to Ontario by their “own will.”
As for the rest of the group “we don’t have any reason, for now, to leave Ontario,” he said.
- Ultra-orthodox Jewish sect
- Led by controversial rabbi who did U.S. prison time for kidnapping
- Dubbed “Jewish Taliban” for deep religious beliefs, modest dress, closed society
- Accused of forcing marriages of young teens to older men, beating and neglecting their children and poor educational programs — allegations the group denies
- Fled to Chatham from Quebec last fall, as Quebec officials began a court proceeding based on a child-welfare probe.
- Quebec officials went to the group’s home north of Montreal last Nov. 18, only to find most members — and the kids — gone
- Nov. 20, 2013: Parents tell a judge their children were gone to Ontario
- Nov. 27: Quebec court orders the kids taken into 30-day foster care
- Feb. 3, 2014: Chatham judge agrees local officials can apprehend the kids. He gives the group 30 days to appeaal.
Source: Chatham Daily News
UPDATED: Removal of 127 Lev Tahor children sought
Quebec and Ontario’s child protection services will ask for the removal of all 127 of the children from the Lev Tahor community, Postmedia News has learned.
The 250-member community moved en masse to Chatham from Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., in November ahead of youth court dates in Quebec. But 13 children were ordered to be placed in foster care in a Feb. 3 judgment that upheld a Nov. 27 ruling in Quebec. Youth protection officials have alleged neglect, child abuse and squalid living conditions.
On Wednesday, when the appeal of the Ontario order was set to be heard in Chatham, it was discovered that all 13 children had left the country.
In an interview Thursday, Denis Baraby, the director of Quebec’s Department of Youth Protection for the Laurentians region, said he’s concerned the group is planning another exodus.
“I think the community is preparing a mass move,” Baraby said. “If we want to protect the children that are in the community, we need to start working on the exit of the 114 other children.”
The judge in Chatham on Wednesday night ordered that the 13 children who’ve left the country be apprehended and returned to Canada, where they’ll be placed in the custody of Chatham-Kent Children’s Services.
On Wednesday morning, a group of nine members of the community were found at the airport in Trinidad and Tobago. They had flown from Toronto and were in the process of buying tickets for a flight to Guatemala, when local authorities intercepted them. Among the nine were six children who had been ordered into foster care. Another six children are already in Guatemala, while a six-month-old baby is with her 17-year-old mother in New York, according to Baraby.
Marcia Hope, director of communications for the Ministry of National Security in Trinidad and Tobago, said three adults and six children were stopped trying to pass through Trinidad on the way to Guatemala. But she bristled at the suggestion her country is detaining the families.
“Detained is a strong word,” Hope said Thursday. “I wouldn’t use the word detained. We follow an international protocol and we are just basically working with the Canadian authorities to sort out how we treat these individuals.”
She said those families have rented hotel rooms.
“They refused our accommodation to put them in a hotel,” Hope said. “They refused and they decided they’re going to retain a lawyer.”
She said those group members are still fighting, through their lawyer, to go to Guatemala.
Lev Tahor leader Uriel Goldman, who has repeatedly said no children are neglected in his community, claimed he didn’t know the families were headed to Guatemala.
He also said he doesn’t know why they chose to go there. Lev Tahor doesn’t have a community in Guatemala, Goldman said.
Lev Tahor says its members are being held there against their will.
“They are holding them for two days with no reason,” Goldman said. “Obviously there is political pressure right now.
“The game against the community is still going on. A lot of political pressure. Someone wants to get this community down. It’s obvious now.”
Canadian authorities are working to bring the children in Trinidad and Guatemala back to Canada. Baraby said police and Crown prosecutors are preparing to lay charges against the guardians of the children who took them out of the country. He said because they defied a court order issued from youth court, they could be charged with kidnapping.
If that happens, the international Hague Convention treaty would make it fairly straightforward for the families to be returned, explained Howard Barza, a Montreal family lawyer. Both Guatemala and Trinidad respect the convention, which secures the prompt return of children wrongfully removed or retained.
As for the 114 children still in Canada, Baraby said authorities need to act quickly.
“We don’t want them all to leave in the middle of the night to go to Guatemala,” he said. “It will be a bit late to act at that point.
“We want a regular surveillance of the community, but my colleagues in Ontario will have to take certain measures in order to give more powers to police to prevent people from leaving.”
A spokesperson for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said the children will be placed in homes in Toronto while they go through court proceedings. The appeal that was to be held Wednesday has been rescheduled for next month.
“This will be for a short time until the Quebec order (is evaluated by an Ontario judge),” said David Ouellette, director of public affairs for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.
The centre has helped identify families in Montreal that could accommodate the children and their unique needs.
They have strict dietary restrictions, and most speak only Yiddish.
If all the children are ordered by a judge to be removed from the community, Ouellette said there is a plan to welcome them all.
“There is a contingency plan, because this isn’t the first time this possibility has been raised. But I can’t discuss that contingency. Obviously, it would no longer involve families.”
He said the children would be placed somewhere in the Laurentians.
Source: Windsor Star
Addendum: On March 8 the Lev Tahor children in Trinidad were put on a plane retuning them to Canada.
Lev Tahor sect members on the run sent back to Canada
Ultra-orthodox Jewish sect has been under investigation for its treatment of children
Nine members of the ultra-orthodox Jewish sect Lev Tahor who fled Canada earlier this week have been put on a plane to Toronto, CBC has learned.
The members, three adults and six children, left just before a judge was to rule on an appeal of an order to send 13 children into foster care in Quebec.
They were detained in Trinidad and Tobago.
The community had been under investigation for a wide range of issues, including hygiene and the treatment of children. In court-filed affidavits, police also say they are investigating allegations of child abuse and under-age marriages.
The community has denied all allegations of mistreatment.
It's believed other members subject to the order have fled to Guatemala. The nine who were detained in Trinidad had planned to legally challenge any attempt to send them back to Canada.
The next day a seventeen-year-old mother and her baby were apprehended at the Calgary airport. A news article and comment by Lee Bolton are enclosed.
Lev Tahor Jewish sect follower with infant apprehended at Calgary airport
A teenage girl and her baby who belong to the ultraorthodox Jewish sect Lev Tahor were apprehended at the Calgary International Airport Sunday afternoon.
The 17-year-old and her five-month-old daughter were the subject of an emergency child welfare order issued by an Ontario judge, said Calgary Police Const. Laura Bailly. Both are now in the custody of Chatham-Kent Children’s Services, who assisted airport unit officers with the apprehension around 3:30 p.m.
Bailly could not say where the two were travelling from or what their final destination was. She said they will be returned to Toronto
The incident took place one day after six Lev Tahor children and three adults returned to Toronto after being stopped by immigration officials in Trinidad and Tobago. Police and child-protection authorities from Canada flew to Trinidad on Friday after receiving legal clearance to return the group.
Those children are now also in the care of child welfare authorities, while the adults are being processed by the Canada Border Services Agency.
Lev Tahor, which means “pure heart” in Hebrew, is an extreme religious sect which came to Canada in 2005. The community has come under investigation for issues including hygiene, children’s health and allegations that some girls are being married off as teenagers.
The group has denied all allegations of mistreatment.
A Quebec court originally ordered late last year that 14 Lev Tahor children be placed in foster care after the community of about 200 people left their homes in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., in the middle of the night, days after a child welfare agency started a court case against a couple of the families.
The community settled in Chatham, Ont., where a judge found last month that their move from Quebec was made to avoid the custody proceeding there. He ordered that 13 Lev Tahor children be turned over to child protection authorities in Quebec.
Police said Thursday that most of the children have left the country.
Source: Calgary Herald
Lee Bolton She's the one I worried most about. She shouldn't have even been on the order in the first place. It's her parents and another couple that were being sought for apprehension in Quebec to begin with. But due to herl being in her parents care when this investigation first started they left her on the order. She got married after she turned 16 and moved to her own apartment with her husband. They had a child and the Quebec DYP left her on the order and so that automatically put HER baby under the order. She went to court and got removed from the order ...but they wouldn't take the baby off it. Quebec wants as many as they can get.
I'm not sure why she went to Calgary...she would have been safer to stay at someone's house right here in Chatham.
Source: Facebook, Lee Bolton
One of the children forcibly returned to Canada has started a hunger strike. Note the contrast between the diligence of Canadian authorities in repatriating Lev Tahor children with inaction in the case of Edyta Watkins née Ustaszewska who fled from Canada to Poland with two children of her husband Stephen Watkins in defiance of the courts.
Lev Tahor Kids On Hunger Strike
A Lev Tahor spokesperson says children in custody of Chatham-Kent Children`s Services are refusing to eat until they are returned to their families.
A teenage girl has been admitted to The Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto after being brought back to Canada from Trinidad and Tobago. The community is on high alert in Chatham-Kent as youth protection authorities search for another six children from the ultra-orthodox Jewish sect.
There are concerns the group is planning a mass exodus from Chatham-Kent. Packed SUVs, vans and trailers sit at the ready in the community, but boys are still attending school and prayer continues.
“Unfortunately, history repeats itself and we’re now standing in Berlin 1939, where the only option was to go to the gas chambers,” says Lev Tahor Spokesman Uriel Goldman, who denies all allegations of forced marriages, abuse and neglect. “They’ve been watching us for two years and couldn’t find anything wrong, just allegations. Leave us alone, unless you have concrete evidence of wrongdoing.”
Chatham-Kent Children`s Services issued an emergency order to apprehend all 14 Lev Tahor children, currently at the centre of a custody battle, after they vanished last week.
Two have since been apprehended at the Calgary International Airport, while another six were stopped in Trinidad and Tobago and sent back to Canada. It is believed the other six are in Guatemala and will be returned with the help of the OPP, RCMP and CBSA.
Source: Blackburn Radio
Addendum: The teenaged mother who fled to Calgary has been reunited with her child. The father is still forbidden to see his child.
One Lev Tahor Child Released
Chatham-Kent Children’s Services is releasing one Lev Tahor infant from foster care, but with strict conditions.
The child will be placed in the care of her 17-year-old mother. The father is banned from seeing the child until further notice from the court.
Justice Paul Kowalyshyn told the the mother there will be “very, very specific terms of supervision.” However, details of the terms and conditions were not released by the court.
The infant and its mother were taken into custody at the Calgary Airport. They fled Ontario after a judge ruled 14 Lev Tahor children would be sent back to Quebec and placed in foster care.
The custody hearing for another six children from the ultra-orthodox Jewish sect will take place next week. Those six children were discovered in Trinidad and Tobago after they fled the country last month. A judge issued an emergency apprehension order for the children, who were also taken into custody and placed in foster homes in the Toronto area.
A superior court judge then overturned the ruling forcing the children back to Quebec, stating it would be best if they stayed in Ontario. The sect continues to deny all allegations of child brides, forced marriages, abuse and neglect.
Source: Blackburn Radio
Addendum: On May 7 a consent agreement was reached allowing four of the six children who fled to Trinidad to get out of foster care and back to their parents. The full terms of the consent remain confidential. Other reports suggest that the parents of the two remaining Trinidad returnees are now in Guatemala, possibly leaving them with the dilemma of keeping some of their children safe in Guatemala, or returning to Canada in an effort to get the last two out of foster care.
Lev Tahor family reunited with 4 children in foster care
CHATHAM, Ont. — A Lev Tahor couple was "very happy and relieved" Wednesday when a temporary order on consent between them and the local children's services agency will allow them to be reunited with their four children.
But Marnelle Dragila, counsel for the parents, would not divulge conditions of the order, which goes into effect on Thursday.
The family, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, was separated when their children were among those who fled Canada in early March, just days before a judge was to decide whether they should be sent back to Quebec as part of a child-welfare probe.
The couple's four children have been living in foster homes in the Toronto area.
About 200 members of the ultra-orthodox Jewish sect left their homes near Montreal in November 2013 to settle in Chatham, where community leaders hoped Ontario's education regulations would be less strict and allow their religious home-schooling.
They also hoped to evade Quebec authorities, who maintain allegations of child neglect and abuse, which have not been proven in court.
Ontario Court Justice Paul Kowalyshyn on Wednesday lauded the parents, their counsel and lawyers for the children and Chatham-Kent Children's Services after reviewing their motion.
"I compliment all parties and counsel in court for the appropriate, thorough and well-thought-out consent," Kowalyshyn said.
The judge urged all parties to continue their "notable spirit of co-operation."
Terms of the order were not read into court records.
While the judge allowed media to be present for what was to be a temporary care and custody hearing, Kowalyshyn made it clear media was to have no access to court files or documents relating to the matter.
Nor will media be allowed to attend the follow-up settlement conference on Aug. 7.
In previous published reports, six children of two families were intercepted in Trinidad and Tobago and returned to foster homes in the Toronto area.
Another six children are believed to be living with Lev Tahor members in Guatemala.
A baby was returned to her Lev Tahor mother under provisions reached in court last week.
Source: Toronto Sun