Third hunger-striking Lev Tahor child hospitalized in Toronto.
By Jennifer O'Brien, Vicki Gough, QMIAgency
IFP | Tuesday, March 11, 2014 11:07:52 EDT AM.
A third Lev Tahor child is now at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto, severely dehydrated from a hunger strike, a spokesperson for the group says.
“We do not know how many children are hunger striking, as no contact is allowed with them,” said Pamela Palmer.
Earlier this week, she said two kids were refusing food — to protest being separated from their parents — and one was at the Toronto hospital after their return to Canada from Trinidad and Tobago where they had been intercepted by authorities after fleeing Canada. But now, Palmer said three kids in total were admitted to Sick Kids.
The children were among nine members of the ultra-orthodox Jewish community detained in Trinidad and Tobago while en route to join their parents and other community members who had gone to Guatemala.
Their parents were waiting for them in Guatemala when the children were intercepted and flown back to Canada, said Palmer. Another six children are believed to have been taken to Guatemala.
The Jewish sect has developed a high profile in Canada this year during a very public dispute with child welfare authorities over allegations of child abuse.
More than 200 Lev Tahor members uprooted from Quebec last fall, as a child-welfare probe closed in, settling in Chatham more than 1,000 km away as a Quebec court ordered 14 kids from three families be taken into temporary foster care.
Lev Tahor has denied the allegations of child abuse and neglect, including of forced marriages of girls as young as 14, saying it’s all persecution for the group — which teaches its own kids — of not following Quebec’s secular education system.
Ordered to stay put in Chatham-Kent by a judge while an appeal period unfolded, adults and the 14 kids vanished last week — one group to Trinidad and two others to Calgary. All were intercepted.
Palmer said high-profile Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby was meeting Lev Tahor members Monday afternoon to discuss their circumstances.
After Ruby told QMI Agency Monday he wasn't representing Lev Tahor, Palmer said the group is trying to gather up enough money for a retainer fee.
* Ultra-orthodox Jewish sect fled Quebec last fall amid child-welfare probe.
* Accused of child abuse and neglect, including forced marriages of girls as young as 14. Sect denies allegations.
* Fled to Chatham; Quebec issued order to seize 14 kids from three families.
* The 14 kids vanished last week, despite a judge's stay-put order, as an appeal was to be heard in Chatham. Another judge issued an emergency seizure order.
* Six kids intercepted in Trinidad, two others in Calgary.
* Six others thought to be in Guatemala.
By Erika Tucker | Global News | March 11, 2014 6:20AM.
TORONTO – Several Lev Tahor children in the care of Chatham-Kent Child Services are on a hunger strike until they are returned to their families, according to an email sent by someone acting as a “media coordinator” for the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.
One of the children has apparently been admitted to Toronto’s SickKids Hospital to be force-fed, according to the Monday statement.
A 14-year-old girl was also reportedly rushed to hospital Monday night after she lost consciousness due to the hunger strike.
“As for the children that are still in the care of the CAS [Children’s Aid Services] since being illegally detained and taken into custody by police in Trinidad, the children are on a hunger strike until they are to be returned home to their families,” said the email, signed by Pamela Palmer, “Media Coordinator for the Lev Tahor Community.”
A SickKids spokesperson did not “have authorization to release [any] information” pertaining to whether a Lev Tahor child had been admitted or whether the hospital had been in touch with police or Chatham-Kent Children’s Services.
The director of Quebec’s youth protection centre—one of the first organizations to get involved in the children’s welfare while the community was still living in St.-Agathe-des-Monts—said in a Sunday statement (translated from French) that he was pleased at the return of six Lev Tahor children from Trinidad and Tobago to Ontario. But there are eight more children under a judge’s apprehension order to be placed into foster care.
“Pursuant to the order of the Superior Court of Ontario, issued earlier this week, the children were taken care by the child welfare services of Chatham-Kent,” Centre jeunesse des Laurentides director Denis Baraby said in a statement.
“Despite this positive outcome, I remain very concerned about the situation of the other eight children, as well as that of the hundred others remained in the community. As such, we continue to closely monitor developments and continue to work with the child welfare services in Ontario and the authorities.”
At least two Lev Tahor families left Canada for Guatemala last week, but some of them were stopped in Trinidad. The group (three adults and the six children) was detained by immigration authorities after their flight landed in Trinidad and Tobago Monday, March 3.
Nine members of the sect returned to Canada Saturday evening and the children were placed in the care of the Children’s Aid Society.
The members of Lev Tahor were supposed to appear in court last Wednesday for a hearing in Chatham-Kent, Ontario to contest a Feb. 3 order that 13 of the sect’s children be taken into foster care because of allegations of abuse and neglect—all of which Lev Tahor has denied.
After the verdict, six children were sent to Trinidad and Tobago and six others went to Guatemala for a “vacation.” Canadian authorities, including child protection, flew to Trinidad on Friday to bring them back.
Reports suggest a teenage girl and her infant daughter were met by police Sunday afternoon in Calgary and will be returned to Ontario’s Chatham-Kent Children’s Services at an unspecified time.
The hearing of the appeal has been postponed to April 4.
With files from Global News reporter Rachel Lau and The Canadian Press.
The Canadian Jewish News | Monday, March 10, 2014.
CHATHAM, Ont. — Uriel Goldman could not contain his anger and frustration. The latest development in the saga of Lev Tahor had him boiling over.
For Lev Tahor, he said “you’re guilty until you prove you’re not guilty.”
Goldman, a spokesperson for the ultra-Orthodox sect, was seething at reports that authorities in Quebec were planning to seek the removal of all children in the community, which is based in Chatham, Ont. “They’ve been investigating for two years, police, child welfare, and they’ve found nothing,” he said.
If authorities had evidence of wrongdoing, they should have laid charges and taken the case, or cases, to court. The one time an Ontario court looked at allegations of physical abuse, over a small mark on one child’s face, they returned the child to his parents, he said.
Goldman said children in the community can’t sleep over worry they will be taken from their families.
“The allegations are hate, hate,” he said.
“ We’re going to take you down, to take your children because you’re you. You’re a dirty Jew and that’s it,” he said, suggesting the allegations against Lev Tahor resembled longstanding anti-Semitic stereotypes.
Allegations have appeared in a number of media reports that homes in the Lev Tahor community are filthy and the children are dirty, that children sleep on urine-soaked mattresses, that they do not have basic math skills, that corporal punishment is used for discipline, that Melatonin is dispensed to calm children, that marriages are forced, teenaged girls marry under the legal age and that children are removed from their families as punishments. Goldman said the allegations are all false.
The latest developments in the group’s saga took place this past weekend, when nine members of the group who had fled to Trinidad were returned to Canada.
Arriving at Pearson International Airport on Saturday night, authorities took five girls and a boy into custody. Three adults were not taken into custody.
The children were subject to an order by Ontario Superior Court Judge Lynda Templeton, who ruled last week that 14 Lev Tahor children should be placed in the care of Chatham-Kent Children’s Services. Another six children who were subject to the apprehension order are believed to be in Guatemala – the destination of the group that was stopped, en route, in Trinidad.
On Sunday, two more children were apprehended at the airport in Calgary. A 17-year-old girl and a five-month-old baby were apprehended under the court order and were to be flown back to Toronto.
Templeton’s apprehension order called on child protection authorities to work with police and the Canada Border Services Agency to apprehend the children.
The court had convened to consider an appeal from an Ontario court ruling that upheld a Quebec order to apprehend the children. The group moved to Chatham last November ahead of the Quebec court ruling.
Quebec Judge Pierre Hamel said in the original ruling that he believed the children were at “serious risk of harm.” The judge ruled after he heard testimony from three child-protection workers as well as a former member of the group.
Denis Baraby, the director of Quebec’s department of youth protection for the Laurentians region, said he would ask for the removal of all children in the Lev Tahor community, which number some 250 individuals.
“I think the community is preparing a mass move,” he told the Gazette in Montreal. “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.”
Baraby also said police and Crown prosecutors were preparing criminal charges against the guardians of the children who took them out of the country, the Gazette reported.
Goldman said “those people who left, I cannot talk on their behalf.” But non-Lev Tahor members have told him they understand why parents would flee rather than lose their children.
The allegations against them are not true and there are no substantiated allegations against the rest of the community that would warrant the removal of all their children, he maintained.
Goldman said Quebec child welfare authorities want to destroy the community. Speaking in their voice, he said, “you cannot run away. We have to get you down. Your children are not sleeping at night because they’re afraid. Who cares? They’re just dirty Jews.
“This is normal?” he asked. “This is hate.”
“We feel exactly like 1939 Berlin.”
That suggestion was roundly rejected by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).
“Lev Tahor is a radical cult. Perhaps they do suffer from delusions of persecution,” said David Ouellette, CIJA’s associate director, Quebec public affairs. “Anti-Semitism has absolutely no role in this. The Jewish community in Montreal has been involved in the investigation of Lev Tahor.”
Orthodox families have agreed to provide foster care for the children, should they be removed.
Ouellette said family relations of Lev Tahor members in Israel and elsewhere have raised serious allegations of abuse and neglect.
“It’s preposterous to suggest that Quebec authorities would persecute a religious group because of its beliefs,” he added.
But that’s precisely the allegation that Goldman advanced. He said the group left Quebec because it did not want to comply with the province’s educational requirement to teach their children evolution or about homosexuality.
And the allegations of abuse are ridiculous and unsubstantiated, he said.
“We have to take your children away because they take Melatonin [an over-the-counter sleep aid]. If they take Melatonin, call the police, take away the children,” he scoffed.
“They say they have to take the kids away. Why? Because they don’t know math?”
As to children sleeping on urine-soaked mattresses. “Maybe [a few] kids in the community make in the bed. Even Canadian kids make in the bed,” he said.
Goldman rejected other allegations levelled against the group, that children are taken from their families as a form of punishment.
“Tell me names where children were taken away as punishment. This is lies,” he said. “If someone took my children, I’d call the police.”
Allegations of mass suicide, levelled by a former Lev Tahor member, are likewise ridiculous, he said.
The suggestion came from a former member, who happens to be Goldman’s son-in-law, and who likened their plight to that faced by Jews facing torture and murder during the Crusades. The media accepted the allegations.
“People will believe anything about Lev Tahor,” Goldman said.
Child welfare authorities have visited the community regularly and in an intrusive way, he said. “A social worker asked a couple 35 years old when they last had sexual relations. You have to disclose all your lives and every detail. This is unacceptable,” he said.
As to Baraby’s comment that the members of Lev Tahor are planning to move again, Goldman said, “Absolutely not true. But tell me right now, why can’t I move?”
There’s no court order against Lev Tahor members, he said.
“Why don’t the same rules apply to us?”