Lev Tahor member says 'peaceful life is almost gone' in community
The ultra-orthodox Jewish group Lev Tahor says members of the sect who left for Guatemala weren’t fleeing their community.
Rather, they were trying to obtain some relief from what they say is constant harassment by police and child services.
“Lev Tahor elders say their time here in Chatham has been a nightmare,” member Yakev Weingarten told CTV News.
“A lot of children are waking up in the middle of the night with terrible dreams and crying…the peaceful life is almost gone,” he said.
Fourteen children from the sect were expected to be seized this week after an Ontario court ordered that they be placed in the care of Chatham-Kent Children’s Services.
But police said Thursday that 12 of the children named in the emergency order have been removed from Canada by their parents. Police and child services are still searching for the remaining two children.
“There is definitely some concern, and we are trying doing everything that we can to locate these two remaining children,” Const. Renee Cowell of Chatham-Kent Police told CTV News.
Two families whose children were ordered to be removed from their custody left for Guatemala this week, but nine members of the sect had their passports seized in Trinidad and Tobago during a stopover.
Marcia Hope, a spokesperson for Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of National Security, said the members were stopped after officials found “inconsistencies” in their statements.
However, she said they are not being detained, and that they are free to return to Canada.
But the families are refusing to come back.
And one legal expert said the emergency order may not be enough to extradite the members to Canada.
“What you require is a criminal offence to have been committed,” said immigration lawyer Daniel Brown.
A Quebec court had originally ordered that 14 children from the Jewish sect be placed in foster care last year after finding that children in the community were being mistreated, malnourished, and weren’t being properly educated.
The community of about 2,000 people left their homes in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., during the night, and settled in Chatham, Ont. Last month, a judge found that their move had been made to avoid a custody proceeding in Quebec.
With a report by CTV’s Peter Akman