Lev Tahor: Court Matters.

See also:  Lev Tahor: Timeline Canada.

May 29, 2014 - 5:51 PM EDT

CHATHAM- Child welfare authorities opened new protection proceedings involving the Lev Tahor religious sect this week, but with members of the community on the move again, an Ontario court judge had a hard time Thursday making orders on the cases.

I cannot make orders about kids that are not in the jurisdiction. It’s as simple as that,” said Justice Lucy Glenn.

Glenn, who heard the new cases Thursday, learned that at least one of the more than dozen children involved travelled to Guatemala the day after a worker Tuesday tried to notify his parents of the proceedings. The boy’s brother, also subject to the protection proceedings, was already in Guatemala before child protection workers arrived, court heard Thursday.

Publication bans under the Child and Family Services Act prohibit identifying any of the children or their parents.

Lev Tahor, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect that has made enemies in Israel and abroad for their anti-Zionist views, has been nomadic since late last year when child welfare authorities in Quebec began protection proceedings in that province. The families, who had been living in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts near Montreal, fled to Windsor, eventually settling in Chatham. In advance of the courts in Chatham ruling on whether the children would be returned to Quebec and placed in temporary foster care, the families fled again.

Some children were intercepted in Trinidad and Tobago and returned to Canada. An infant and her teenaged mother were intercepted in Calgary. One family, the subject of another case spoken to in court Thursday, made it to Guatemala.

Two children intercepted in Trinidad were the subject of a case spoken to in court Thursday. Those children, the last of the 13 who were originally ordered into care in Quebec, remain in foster care in Ontario. The rest are living with family members.

Court heard Thursday that some of the parents involved in the new files have been deported. “The parents’ whereabouts are not known,” said Ronald Burnette, a lawyer acting for Chatham-Kent Children’s Services, explaining to the court why the agency has been unable to officially serve documents on parents in some of the six files he spoke to Thursday.

Most of the parents, including some that are absent, are represented by Toronto immigration lawyer Guidy Mamann. Mamaan has in turn hired London lawyer Marnelle Dragila to speak to the child-protection issues.

Dragila Thursday did not oppose Children’s Services’ proposals to have some of the children who are still in the country ordered into their grandmother’s care under the agency’s supervision. The grandmother’s own children are also subject of child protection proceedings, but those children left the country about one month ago, the woman told the court through a Hebrew interpreter.

The judge ordered the woman to surrender her own passport and those of any of the children under her care.

Dragila said the immigration lawyer handling the case will begin preparing a list of which children and parents are still in the jurisdiction.

They all have varying degrees of immigration issues,” Dragila told the court. While the parents are not Canadian citizens, some of the children were born here. She urged the court not to judge the parents based on the fact that they are no longer in Canada. “There is a difference between flight and deportation,” Dragila said.

All the cases return to court in July.

By Vicki Gough | Chatham Daily News | Wednesday, May 7, 2014 5:45:41 EDT PM.

A temporary order reached on consent between a Lev Tahor couple and Chatham-Kent Children's Services has made the parents "very happy and relieved."

But Marnelle Dragila, counsel for the parents, would not divulge conditions of the order which goes into effect Thursday.

And no details of the agreement was read into the court record, leaving media only to speculate children would be reunited with their parents after being apart for about two months.

The family, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, were separated when children were whisked out of Canada days before an Ontario court judge in Chatham was to decide on a Quebec child-welfare probe against the ultra-orthodox Jewish community.

Officials in Quebec wanted some Lev Tahor children placed in foster care while allegations of child neglect and abuse, not proven in court, could be addressed.

In Ontario Court in Chatham Wednesday, Justice Paul Kowalyshyn paid compliments to the parents, their counsel and lawyers for the children and CKCS 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."

While the judge allowed media to attend 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, so parties can "have a full and frank discussion" to reach a resolution, said Loree Hodgson-Harris, counsel for CKCS. In previously published reports, six children of two families were intercepted in Trinidad and Tobago and placed 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.


CBC News | Apr 28, 2014 5:36 PM ET Last Updated: Apr 28, 2014 5:36 PM ET

An Ontario court judge has allowed a mother, who is a member of the Lev Tahor community, to have custody of her child again, after the infant was placed in foster care in Toronto.

The judge imposed conditions, one of which forbids any contact between the baby and her father.

The infant’s mother, 17, lives in Chatham-Kent, Ont., with about 200 other members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect.

The baby, along with six other minors of the Lev Tahor community, were placed in foster care after the families tried to flee Canada.

The mother and her baby were apprehended in Alberta, while other Lev Tahor members were intercepted 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 said they were investigating allegations of child abuse and under-age marriages.

Lev Tahor members have always denied the allegations.

The court case for the 17-year-old mother to determine if she will keep custody of her infant will resume in July.

The cases for the six other children taken by Ontario child services will be heard May 7.

A Superior Court of Justice Judge has ruled Judge Stephen Fuerth erred in upholding the Quebec order, meaning the 14 Lev Tahor children can stay in Ontario.
By Tim Alamenciak News reporter | The Star | Published on Mon Apr 14 2014

A Superior Court judge has ruled 14 Lev Tahor children subject to a Quebec court order no longer have to return to that province, where they would be placed in foster care.

Judge Lynda Templeton ruled Ontario Court of Justice Judge Stephen Fuerth erred in his original Feb. 3, 2014 decision that upheld the Quebec order. Her ruling means the children may stay in Ontario, but she directed the Ontario Court of Justice to address the question of what will happen with the seven children who are currently in foster care.

They are there because of an impromptu flight that saw some of the 14 children removed from the country ahead of the first appeal hearing. Eight of those children were apprehended and seven were placed in foster care with Jewish families in Toronto.

The Ontario Court of Justice is the court with the jurisdiction to decide whether they should remain in foster care. The court has already ordered eight hours of weekly visits by the parents of the children and directed Chatham-Kent Children’s Services to pay a portion of the travel costs.

Quebec child protection authorities have documented allegations of abuse, underage marriage and a substandard education regime within Lev Tahor. Leaders of the ultraorthodox Jewish sect have denied all allegations of abuse and say they are the victims of a smear campaign targeting the group for its religious beliefs.

The group originally fled Quebec ahead of a November ruling for the removal of 14 children, which kicked off a long legal saga that sought to determine whether the Quebec order could be enforced in Ontario. Fuerth ruled that it could, but allowed a stay of 30 days on his decision to permit time for the families to appeal.

On the day that appeal was scheduled to be heard, it was found that some of the children had fled the country. Templeton held a secret hearing and issued an emergency order for the apprehension of 14 children. Eight of the children were found, while six of the children subject to the original order remain in Guatemala with their parents.

A few families not subject to any court orders that they knew of attempted to get passports for their Canadian-born children to leave the country, but found that Quebec had issued apprehension orders for their children as well.

Guidy Mamann, lawyer for the group, says the orders apply to all children in the sect. It’s unclear if, or when, they will be brought before an Ontario court.

The appeal decision, issued by Templeton on Monday, instructs Chatham-Kent Children’s Services to continue investigating the community, which it has been since the group’s arrival in November.

Secret Lev Tahor court orders prevent Jewish sect’s children from leaving country.
Lawyer for ultra-Orthodox group says families have been denied access to the Quebec court orders, which concern more than 100 children and were discovered after some were denied passports.
By Tim Alamenciak News reporter, Allan Woods Quebec Bureau | The Star | Published on Thu Apr 10 2014.

More than 100 Lev Tahor children have effectively become prisoners of this country as a result of secret court orders that prevent them from obtaining passports and crossing international borders.

Guidy Mamann, an immigration lawyer who is representing the ultra-orthodox Jewish group, said the existence of the judicial orders was discovered when some Canadian-born children were denied passports. Their parents are temporary residents in Canada and would therefore be free to leave the country.

“Some of the families said, ‘You know what, we’re not going to apply for (residency) extensions. This is getting crazy — we just want to go,” Mamann told the Star in a telephone interview. “We’re not talking about running; we’re talking about these families do not have permanent status in Canada — they have temporary status. What is being proposed? That they leave their kids here? It’s crazy.”

The families have been refused access to the court orders. Mamann said one of the families demanded to see the orders, which were obtained in Quebec in November, and was told to file an access to information request.

A spokesperson for the director of youth protection for the Laurentians region of Quebec said the warrants for every single child in the Lev Tahor community were obtained in the days after they fled Quebec for Chatham-Kent, Ont. — a departure that was prompted by a fight over the community’s home-schooling regime as well as an approaching court case that risked seeing 14 children from two families taken into temporary foster care.

“Quebec knows what they’ve issued: they’ve issued warrants for committal, it looks like for every child in the community, but they haven’t told us, nor did they tell the court,” said Mamann.

He said Marnelle Dragila, the family lawyer representing the parents in the recent appeal hearing over an order for the removal of 13 children, was shocked to learn of the widespread orders.

“I think this is very heavy-handed. It doesn’t have anything to do at this point with the protection of children,” said Mamann. “If really every single child in this community needed protection, you’d think Ontario would agree. There’s no way that any child protection authority can claim that every single child, if in Quebec, needs protection, while in Ontario … the protection authorities are not taking a position anywhere near that position.”

Quebec child protection authorities had documented allegations of abuse, underage marriage and poor health among the sect’s children. Chatham-Kent Children’s Services have conducted its own investigations, resulting in one child protection hearing involving two children, one of whom allegedly had a bruise on her face.

But Ontario authorities have primarily focused on executing the original court order relating to the 14 Lev Tahor kids. One of them, a married, 17-year-old mother of one, has since been exempted from the foster-care ruling. In an appeal of an earlier Ontario ruling against Lev Tahor, all 14 of the children were discovered to have fled their homes. Six were picked up at the Trinidad airport and returned to Canada, two were apprehended at the Edmonton airport and another six remain in Guatemala with their parents.

Superior Court Justice Lynda Templeton is slated to rule on the appeal concerning the fate of 13 children on Monday — a ruling that could send those children currently in the custody of foster families back to Quebec.

The secret Quebec court orders against the children of Lev Tahor were revealed by Denis Baraby, whose office initiated the child protection case against the Jewish group.

Baraby sent all of the judicial orders to his counterparts in Ontario hoping they would carry out the warrant.

Baraby would not make himself available for an interview Thursday and his spokesperson would not provide any of the information used to obtain the secret court orders.

But a source said relations between officials in Quebec and Ontario have been hampered all along by poor communications and a sense that the child protection agency in Chatham-Kent has not shared the urgency of Baraby’s investigators. That seems to have changed in recent weeks after the various attempts by Lev Tahor members to flee their legal problems by escaping the country, the source said.

Stephen Doig, executive director of Chatham-Kent Children’s Services, explained there was a joint Ontario-Quebec consensus that the priority should be to carry out the original order relating to the 14 Lev Tahor children. That was an obvious choice, Doig said, because a Quebec judge had already made a ruling based on the evidence and testimony of social workers and a former Lev Tahor member.

But Doig said that the differences in child welfare laws in Ontario and Quebec resulted in “uncertainty” about how or whether his office could act on the other judicial orders obtained in Quebec.

“Another factor is that any Ontario law enforcement agency would require either a ‘Canada-wide warrant’ or an Ontario court order to assist in the removal of children where there was likely to be physical resistance from the parents,” Doig said.

By Vicki Gough | Chatham Daily News | Wednesday, April 9, 2014 1:55:05 EDT PM

The fate of the Lev Tahor children named in a Quebec child-apprehension order is now in the hands of a Superior Court judge.

Justice Lynda Templeton concluded Wednesday's appeal hearing of an Ontario Court judge upholding the Quebec order stating, "I will endeavour to have my decision (in writing) by Monday afternoon.

"You will not see me in court again."

"There are a number of silent invisible human beings in this courtroom ... I will now re-focus my thoughts and efforts to the children not here today."

The thoughtful closing comments to the appeal hearing of whether 14 Lev Tahor children should be repatriated to Quebec, commenced with a stern warning from the bench.

The judge said she found unsolicited mail in her mail slot of two Jewish Family Weekly magazines containing stories about Lev Tahor.

"I'm extremely disturbed ... I see this solely as an attempt to influence justice," Templeton said.

The judge also denied a media report that she read a nine-page letter regarding the case and refused a call from someone purporting to be a paralegal who wanted to attend the hearing.

"I did not take the call," Templeton said, noting child protection proceedings are not open to the public.

At issue is whether there is a jurisdictional pathway open to the Chatham-Kent Children's Services to work inter-provincially with counterparts to repatriate the children named in the Quebec order.

Under the Child Law Reform Act, an agent for the lawyer representing some of the children's parents argued the Act is not a remedy for jurisdiction in the case before the court.

"The Child law Reform Act never intended for corporations to seek custody of children," Marnelle Dragila told court.

In reply, Loree Hodgson-Harris, counsel for CKCS, argued case law where the CRLA and the Child and Family Services Act can interplay in custody disputes for the best interest of children.

"It would be unfair for people to avoid their legal obligations by moving from one province to another," Hodgson-Harris said.

"It would fly in the face of reason," she said.

Motions before the Ontario Court of Justice regarding access to children Templeton ordered taken into temporary care when families fled the country, are to be argued at later dates.


By Ashton Patis | Blackburn News | on April 9, 2014

Members of the ultra-orthodox Jewish sect Lev Tahor are back in court for an appeal hearing in an on-going child custody battle.

Lev Tahor is appealing an Ontario judge’s decision to uphold a Quebec court order forcing 14 Lev Tahor children into foster care based on allegations of child brides, forced marriages and abuse.

If we got involved it’s not because we wanted to persecute. We had worries for these children, the way they are brought up, the way they are taken care of. There are health issues at stake here, if the community was showing intent or making things better for the children we would step down or step back,” says Denis Baraby with Quebec Youth Protection, who notes if the kids are placed in foster care it would be beneficial to send them back to Quebec. “We have a longer history with this community and we know very well what the problems are. We have more resources and access to Jewish services in the Montreal area.”

Members of the sect fled Ontario ahead of their initial appeal hearing date. Six children were discovered in Trindad and Tobago, two were apprehended at the Calgary International Airport and six remain in Guatemala.

The sect moved to Chatham-Kent last November after being served court documents in Quebec.

With files from Trevor Thompson.

By Diana Mehta, The Canadian Press, MSN News | Updated: Fri, 04 Apr 2014 15:30:05 GMT

TORONTO - Families from an ultra-orthodox Jewish sect who fled the country last month in the midst of a child custody case were chided by an Ontario judge on Friday for not allowing the country's courts to do their work.

Superior Court Justice Lynda Templeton — who will be deciding whether the children in the case should be reunited with their parents or remain in foster care — told the members of the Lev Tahor community that she was concerned about the kid's legal rights, not their religious affiliation.

"Your children are not Lev Tahor children to me, they are just children," she said in Chatham, Ont. "I don't see them as religious entities or gender entities. I do not see them as any other entity than small human beings that have rights."

The appeal being heard by Templeton relates to an order by an Ontario judge, who upheld a Quebec court order that forced 14 children into foster care. Certain families in the community face unproven allegations of mistreatment, forced marriages and child marriages.

A previous session of the appeal had been disrupted last month when it was discovered the families involved in the custody case had fled, which prompted Templeton to order the apprehension of all the children.

Six children were stopped in Trinidad and Tobago and were brought back to Canada, and two were taken into custody at the Calgary airport. Six others remain in Guatemala, where they are reportedly seeking refugee status.

On Friday, Templeton allowed parents supervised access to the children who were in care over the weekend. A 17-year-old girl, however, was released from care.

"Because of the parents' own conduct in fleeing, following apparently the leadership of their community, that access has to be supervised because I cannot trust that you will not take off again," Templeton said.

"I want nothing more than for you to see your children and to have your own community in a healthy, safe, protected environment exercising all the rights we have in this country."

The appeal was being heard in Chatham while detention reviews for three Lev Tahor community members were conducted simultaneously in Toronto.

In those cases, two men and woman — all Israeli citizens— were ordered to remain in custody after the Immigration and Refugee Board found they weren't likely to leave Canada voluntarily if released.

The trio were among six Lev Tahor members arrested in Chatham on Wednesday when the Canadian Border Services Agency descended on the community's housing complex.

The raids came just two days before Templeton was to resume hearing the appeal in the child custody case that has thrust the deeply religious community into the national spotlight.

That timing of the raids was suspect, the lawyer for the trio suggested at the detention reviews.

Guidy Mamann said he had been working with the community and a CBSA director in Windsor, Ont., for days to co-ordinate the planned surrender of certain individuals who had issues with their status in the country.

Yet, he said, the raids took place despite those careful negotiations, rattling the entire community in the process.

"We wanted to avoid a raid, we were about a day or two away from getting that done," he said.

"Today is probably the most important day in the schedule for Lev Tahor, today they appeal the decision that affects the custody of their children... And two days (before), they come to the community and they raid the community and completely derail the schedule that we had."

The IRB member who presided over the detention reviews acknowledged the troubles the Lev Tahor community was facing, but said the child custody case was "not relevant" to his proceedings.

While Andrew Laut noted Mamann's efforts to have the members turn themselves in, he said it wasn't unusual for CBSA to raid the community as they did.

Laut found Avraham Kabaz Kashani, 39, Odel Malka, 30, and Yochanan Lauer, 19, had each flouted immigration rules multiple times and were without permanent legal status in Canada.

Of the three others arrested at the same time, two had been released with conditions, while a third — an American citizen — returned to the U.S.

The review heard Kabaz Kashani first came to Canada on a temporary resident visa in 2000, made multiple failed attempts to gain legal status and once his avenues for appeal were exhausted, was ordered out of the country in 2007.

He did not leave voluntarily, nor did he directly contact authorities about his situation before he was arrested this week, Laut noted.

"I give that pattern of behaviour over an extended period of time, over a matter of more than a decade more weight than I give efforts that were made over the last few weeks to bring you back into contact with immigration officials," Laut said.

For his part, Kabaz Kashani told the hearing that he didn't leave the country when originally asked to because his wife had just had a child.

"I didn't run and I didn't hide. I stayed in the same house. I didn't change my name," he said in Hebrew through an interpreter. "We stayed at home. We said 'If they want to take us, they will take us.'"

In Malka's case, the detention review heard that she first came to Canada in 2000 as a minor, was removed, returned again in 2001 and made a refugee claim and other attempts to stay in the country. She was removed a second time in 2012, but somehow returned again.

Malka could apply for what's known as a "pre-removal risk assessment" which could postpone her departure from Canada for 10-12 weeks.

In Lauer's case, however, a removal date of April 10 was issued right after Laut ordered the young man to remain in custody.

Lauer, who first came to Canada in 1999 and now has three children of his own, may apply for a stay of that removal order, his lawyer said.

— With files from BlackburnNews.com.

By Patrick White | The Globe and Mail | Published Friday, Apr. 04 2014, 9:57 PM EDT

An Ontario judge chided several members of the ultra-orthodox Lev Tahor group for impeding and evading court proceedings during the latest instalment in the group’s ongoing legal battles.

The conduct of the [Lev Tahor] community has not raised any trust that you will remain within jurisdiction of this court,” Justice Lynda Templeton said directly to three members of the community sitting in court. “I can guarantee you will receive fair hearings, but you must allow the court to do its work.”

Police and welfare workers searched for children in an ultra-orthodox Jewish community in Chatham, Ontario Wednesday. The search of Lev Tahor members' homes began after some families at the centre of a child welfare case left Canada.

The families were in court to appeal a court order originating in Quebec that would hand over custody of 14 Lev Tahor children to a Quebec children’s services agency.

Justice Templeton adjourned the appeal arguments until next week to allow all sides to examine new evidence. Until then, she granted the Lev Tahor families extended supervised access to all children currently under agency care.

Eight minors were apprehended by Chatham-Kent Children’s Services after fleeing Ontario with their families just days ahead of a previous appeal date. One family made it to Guatemala with six children, while the others were turned back by airport officials in Trinidad and Calgary.

The group has a history of fleeing unfavourable situations at the first hint of legal troubles. Around 200 members fled Quebec in November when child-welfare workers there began scrutinizing the group closely. Previously, they migrated from Israel to Brooklyn and back to Israel before moving to Canada in the early 2000s.

This whole thing would never have blown up if they had just gone on with proceedings in Quebec and not tried to flee,” said Denis Baraby, director of the child protection agency in Quebec.

Justice Templeton implored the families to trust the legal process rather than try to escape it. “Your children are not Lev Tahor children to me, they are just children,” she said. “I don’t see them as religious entities or gender entities. I do not see them as any entities other than small human beings who have rights.”

Child-services agencies in both provinces allege that Lev Tahor has inadequate health, hygiene and education standards, accusations the group has vehemently denied through its three community leaders. Justice Templeton urged the parents to speak for themselves rather than leave it to the leaders.

The allegations before this court are that parents are failing their obligations,” she said. “The leaders of the community cannot answer those allegations, only the parents can. That is the frustrating part of this process. No matter what leaders say I am not interested. I am interested only in the well-being of the children.

On the first day of an appeal hearing, a judge admonished the family for taking its children out of the jurisdiction.
By Tim Alamenciak | The Star | Published on Sat Apr 05 2014

CHATHAM-KENT, ONT.—A Superior Court judge had harsh words for Lev Tahor parents at their appeal hearing Thursday.

As soon as you step into the borders of this country, the parent child relationship engages not only moral obligations but legal ones as well. The legal obligation you have right now is to your children to make sure that they remain within the jurisdiction of the court as the court orders. The conduct of the community has not raised any trust that you will remain within the jurisdiction of this court,” said Superior Court of Justice Judge Lynda Templeton.

I can guarantee you will receive fair hearings, but you must allow the court to do its work,” she said.

The hearing was the second attempt to hear an appeal over Ontario Court of Justice Judge Stephen Fuerth’s February decision to send some Lev Tahor children back to Quebec so that a child protection order could be executed in that province. The group first fled Quebec in November, then 14 children and their parents fled Chatham ahead of the appeal.

Templeton adjourned Friday’s appeal arguments until April 9, but ordered Chatham-Kent Children’s Services to arrange supervised visits with the seven children who remain in foster care.

A lawyer representing the Lev Tahor parents argued that the focus on Lev Tahor’s flight from Quebec has become a “lightning rod” in the case, distracting the court from focusing on the wellbeing of the children.

Moving this matter back to Quebec is really about holding the parents accountable for their hasty move, but in reality it punishes the parents on the backs of the children,” argued lawyer Marnelle Dragila. “It’s not about protecting the children or ensuring their best interests and I submit for this reason it is the wrong choice,” she said.

Quebec child protection authorities have documented allegations of widespread abuse, underage marriage and a substandard education regime within the sect. Lev Tahor leaders and parents who are part of the action have denied all allegations of abuse and insist they are the victims of a campaign unfairly targeting the group for its religious beliefs.

Eight of the children who fled the region have since been apprehended and placed in foster care. One of the original eight children, who is 17 and also a parent, was released from care Friday because of her age. The identities of the children who are part of the action are protected by a publication ban.

I am also going to say to (the 17-year-old), go with your parents, stay with your parents. You’re old enough now to make your own decisions, but I am not going to suggest the release of your baby to you until I am absolutely satisfied that the baby is … healthy and … ready to be looked after by you and that you have the skills to look after that child,” said Templeton to the girl, who was in the court room.

On the original day of the appeal in March, Templeton held a secret hearing that ordered the return of the 14 children. Media were excluded from the hearing originally. After an application by lawyers hired by the Star and other media outlets, she released a censored transcript.

Templeton issued a complete transcript Friday. It paints a picture of a sudden flight from the country and a leadership that tightly controls the sect. One leader, Nachman Helbrans, told a children’s aid worker that his sister was indeed married at 15 despite the community denying such practices.

Six children and their parents remain in Guatemala where the Star and authorities have located them, but the Canadian government and child protection officials have thus far been unable to facilitate their return despite an emergency court order demanding it.

Cases related to 2 separate issues to be decided on in Ontario courts by next Wednesday.
The Canadian Press | Posted: Apr 04, 2014 4:31 PM

The Immigration and Refugee Board has ruled that a member of an ultra-orthodox Jewish sect arrested earlier this week should remain in detention because the man is not likely to leave Canada as ordered if he is released.

It's a twist in a case that has some members of Lev Tahor looking to stay in Canada, while others are attempting to leave.

IRB member Andrew Laut made his decision at a Toronto detention review for 39-year-old Avraham Kabaz Kashani, one of six​ Lev Tahor members who were arrested Wednesday in a raid by the Canadian Border Services Agency.

Some families in the religious community are at the centre of an ongoing child custody case, but authorities said the raids were made over the immigration status of certain individuals and were not related to the custody case.

Kabaz Kashani failed to leave Canada

Laut said that while he acknowledged the issues the community was facing, they weren't relevant to whether Kabaz Kashani should be set free.

Laut found that Kabaz Kashani overstayed a temporary resident visa issued in 2000 and then made several failed attempts to gain legal permanent status in Canada before he was ordered out of the country in 2007.

Laut noted that Kabaz Kashani did not voluntarily leave Canada, nor did he contact authorities about his status in the country until he was arrested this week.

Detention reviews for two other Lev Tahor members — Odel Malka and Yochanan Laver — are set to take place on Monday and Tuesday of next week.

Malka and Laver also had longstanding deportation orders against them.

Custody case decision expected Wednesday

The reviews are taking place at the same time as an appeal hearing in Chatham, Ont. in the custody case involving 14 children from the community.

Justice Lynda Templeton today ruled against a Lev Tahor motion for adjournment, saying the case is turning into a "procedural nightmare."

The judge said the court must move forward "cautiously and as quickly as possible" to determine whether the children should be reunited with their parents.

Templeton said she would listen to all the arguments and make a decision in writing next Wednesday.

In the meantime, the judge ruled that the 17-year-old who is both a child and a parent involved in the custody case can return home to her parents in Chatham. However, her infant child is to remain with his foster family in Toronto.

The judge then turned her attention to the parents of two families and said she had serious concerns about them leaving the country, but allowed them to have access to their children under supervision.
Group fled Quebec after youth protection intervened

The group is appealing an Ontario judge's ruling that upheld a Quebec court order forcing 14 Lev Tahor children into foster care.

The families at the centre of the custody battle fled the country ahead of their initial appeal hearing date last month.

Templeton then ordered the emergency apprehension of all the children.

Six were discovered in Trinidad and Tobago and two were taken into custody at a Canadian airport. Six others remain in Guatemala, where they are reportedly seeking refugee status.

The original Quebec ruling came after the community of about 200 people left their homes in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts in the middle of the night and moved to Chatham just days after a child welfare agency started a court case against a couple of the families over allegations of mistreatment, forced marriages, child brides and not properly following the Quebec education curriculum.

The community has denied the allegations, which have not been proven in court.

CTV London | Published Thursday, March 20, 2014 9:36AM EDT

Several never-before-seen court documents involving the ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect Lev Tahor were released to the media Wednesday.

One of the documents was a letter sent from the heads of the sect to Chatham-Kent Children’s Services on Jan. 27. In the letter the group outlined their views on the child neglect investigationin detail.

The statement starts with the Quebec Department of Youth Protection’s original intervention between Aug. 7, 2013 and Nov. 17 2013. The sect claims that the child neglect investigation originated as result of issues with the groups home school curriculum.

Quebec law dictates that children failing to study the curriculum provided by the Ministry or equivalent thereof, are considered endangered and neglected,” the group says. “This statute provides enough grounds for the Quebec Youth Protection Agency to gain full mandate over the children and their future.

Lev Tahor goes on to explain this procedure in further detail.

Due to the religious observance of Ultra-Orthodoxy and subsequently these families, certain secular subjects such as evolution and sexuality studies are not allowed. Therefore, the children of the community were legally considered "neglected" and in "danger" for the mere fact of not studying the Quebec curriculum. The DYP now has legal grounds to intervene on behalf of the ''wellbeing" and "safety" of the children.”

The leaders claim in the letter that testimony from a social worker for the DYP stated that the original goal of the agency was not to seize the Lev Tahor children.

Well the non-attendance at school was the sub-text that we used for the entire group of children, but the farther we advanced in our elevations, there were other sub-text that were added specifically,” the letter states.

The sect says they were willing to work with DYP to come to a compromise on their curriculum, but nothing was accomplished. They say this ultimately led to their departure from the province.

The deception of the DYP regarding the education resulted in the community hastening their decision, and actually leaves the province of Quebec on November 17, 2013.”

Approximately 40 families with the Jewish group left Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., and relocated to Chatham in November after a Quebec court ordered 14 children into foster care.

A decision from Justice Stephen Fuerth in Chatham-Kent on Feb. 3, ordered the 14 children from the sect back to Quebec child services, pending a possible appeal. As part of the decision, the children were ordered to remain with their families and couldn’t leave Chatham-Kent until an appeal was made.

On March 5, 14 children and members of their families left Chatham-Kent. Since, six children have been placed in the care of CAS in Ontario after leaving Canada for Trinidad and Tobago. Another two children involved in the case were apprehended in Calgary.

Six other children who left with their families for Guatemala remain in that country.

Judge’s rules on transcript an “unnecessary restriction on openness,” lawyer says.
ByWendy Gillis News reporter | The Star | Published on Wed Mar 19 2014.

Justice Lynda Templeton has placed a ban on making copies of the Lev Tahor court transcripts

After she banned the media from attending an emergency court hearing to address the disappearance of 14 Lev Tahor children, an Ontario judge on Wednesday allowed access to transcripts of the March 5 hearing.

But Superior Court Justice Lynda Templeton put limits on that access that place an “unnecessary restriction on openness,” says Iris Fischer, a lawyer representing the Star and other media outlets.

Although the Ontario Court of Appeal recently ruled that access to court exhibits includes the ability to make copies, Templeton placed a ban on making copies of the court transcripts.

No reporter seeking the transcript, available to media at the London and Chatham-Kent courthouses Wednesday, was permitted make a copy of the document, which totals more than 80 pages. Templeton provided a copy of the transcripts to media lawyers — meaning reporters outside of London or Chatham-Kent did not have to travel to access them — but also placed the same restriction on copies.

Access to court transcripts is a key part of openness and ensuring accuracy,” said Fischer. “You should be able to have copies and take them away.”

By Jennifer O'Brie | The London Free Press | Wednesday, March 19, 2014 07:43 PM EDT | Updated: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 10:57 PM EDT

LONDON, Ont. -- The care of the Lev Tahor kids who settled in this area last fall seemed to be controlled by community leaders, not their own parents, an Ontario court heard earlier this month.

Details of the hearing held March 5 behind closed doors in Chatham, Ont., are contained in a transcript released Wednesday in response to a request from several media outlets.

The ultra-orthodox Jewish sect fled Quebec last fall amid a child-welfare probe, and settled in Chatham. They deny allegations of child abuse and neglect, including forced marriages of girls as young as 14.

The hearing was held after 14 children left Chatham in violation of a court order. At the conclusion of the hearing, a judge issued an emergency seizure order.

Six of the children were since intercepted in Trinidad, two others in Calgary. Six others are thought to be in Guatemala.

Ted Heath of Chatham Kent Children's Services testified at the hearing that most of the agency's concerns revolved around the lack of education for girls in the community and arranged underage marriages.

The children appeared clean, fed and unbruised, he said.

There was always food in the fridges of the families who moved to Spurgeon's Villa last November.

There were toys, too -- though they were usually kept in boxes or appeared "staged" and not age-appropriate for the kids in the home -- but that seemed to be the doing of three men who act as community spokespeople, Heath said.

"They control food in the community, the way (others) dress," he testified.

"The leaders pay their rent. It seems to be up to the leaders, not up to the parents to provide (for children)," Heath said. "(Community members) don't have the freedom of choice."

That's why the sight of those leaders -- Uriel Goldman, Mayer Rosner and Nachman Helbrans -- jumping into a van and driving away, moments after family service workers arrived March 4 to check on families who had been ordered to stay put, raised red flags, Heath said.

"Usually all three are there and make the decisions," he said.

At the end of the hearing, Superior Court Justice Lynda Templeton ordered the kids be tracked down and immediately apprehended based on the original accusations of abuse, which haven't been tested in court.

By Staff Global News | March 19, 2014 9:56 pm 

Everything seemed fine when a Chatham-Kent child services worker visited a Lev Tahor family’s house March 1: There were beds unmade, clothes hung up, toys everywhere – not what you’d expect to find in a household preparing to flee, according to court transcripts made public Wednesday.

They’d been living there, renting a rural compound, since leaving Quebec’s Ste-Agathe-des-Monts. The community was under investigation by children’s services in both provinces regarding allegations of child abuse – allegations Lev Tahor has denied and characterized as anti-Semitic persecution.

But on March 4, that family was gone – no lights, no answer at the door, adults in the community reluctant or unwilling to explain their whereabouts. A trio of community leaders, approached by child-service workers, piled into a van and drove away.

Turns out the families had left the country just before they were supposed to be in court appealing an order to take 14 Lev Tahor children into foster care.

This is a very carefully thought-out plan in terms of removing these children from this jurisdiction,” the lawyer for Chatham-Kent Children’s Services said in court March 5.

That sudden disappearance sparked a chaotic emergency hearing in the courtroom, now closed to reporters, during which the judge issued an apprehension order for the 14 children.

I am entirely satisfied that the allegations, although untested before a court, of sexual, physical and emotional harm, and deprivation of the rights of the children to an education are sufficiently grave and serious that intervention of a court is immediately warranted,” the judge said, adding that these children were at risk of suffering emotional or psychological harm.

The extremely unusual circumstances created solely by the appellants themselves require, as I’ve indicated, immediate intervention of the court,” the judge said. “I have no option, in my view.”

She added she expected that ”if these children are returned on a plane, that they will be apprehended at the doors of the plane as soon as it lands.

That same day, it turns out, authorities in Port of Spain, Trinidad were calling Canadian Border Services about a family at the airport who’d been detained because they had one-way tickets and no explanation for being there.

Those Lev Tahor members have since returned to Canada, with many of the children placed in foster care (the community’s advocates say some are on hunger strike because they want their parents and have been hospitalized; no hospital or children’s aid worker has confirmed this).

Another six children and three adults got permission this week to stay in Guatemala, for now. It isn’t clear what will happen to them or whether they’ll check in at the Canadian embassy as the judge instructed. In the meantime, Canadian authorities say, they’re trying to make good on the apprehension order and bring the children back to Canada.

Media organizations including Global News are fighting in court to have further documents relating to the Quebec Lev Tahor investigation made public.

PATRICK WHITE | The Globe and Mail | Published Wednesday, Mar. 19 2014, 3:40 PM EDT

A London, Ont., court has released documents that shed new light on the panic and confusion that ensued when social workers found that 14 Lev Tahor children embroiled in a child-protection case had fled the country with their parents just days before their families were set to appeal an apprehension order.

In the document, one social-worker describes an odd silence around Spurgeon Villa when he arrived on the afternoon of March 4 to check on three families belonging to the ultra-Orthodox Jewish group.

Home to dozens of Lev Tahor families, the Chatham, Ont., cottages were usually a hive of activity, with children peeking out windows and parents in conservative black garb hustling from house to house.

On this day, however, everything was quiet. Social workers with Chatham-Kent Children’s Services saw movement in only six of 16 houses. There was virtually nobody outside.

It was an early indication that three families under a court order to remain in the Chatham area had fled the country.

A transcript of court proceedings from March 5 details two frantic days when social workers slowly learned that 14 children they were set to apprehend had left Canada for Trinidad and Guatemala.

The apprehension order had been deferred pending an appeal from Lev Tahor, scheduled for March 5. But instead of dealing with the appeal that day, lawyers and social workers found themselves scrambling to find and retrieve the three families.

The transcript covers an emergency motion brought by Chatham-Kent Children’s Services on March 5 to immediately seize the 14 children. The agency’s lawyer, Loree Hodgson-Harris, argued that the families had violated a court order by fleeing the Chatham area, placing their children at risk of harm.

This is the second time in a very short period where these children have been uprooted from their home,” she told the judge, referring to a previous migration the community had made from Quebec to Ontario. “I am sure they’re horrified by having to be moved again in secrecy as such they are being moved in various locations.”

Superior Court Justice Lynda Templeton eventually agreed with the lawyer’s argument after hearing from a several witnesses describing how they came to realize the families were missing.

One social worker, Ted Heath, told the court that he had arrived in the community at 2 p.m. on March 4 to speak with the families and remind them of their court date the next day. On previous visits, the families had been unco-operative, he said, refusing to speak with social workers, instead handing them a letter written by community leaders explaining their refusal to co-operate.

This time around he found their houses empty and he said he was barred from entering the community’s school. When he spotted three community leaders – Uriel Goldman, Mayer Rosner and Nachman Helbrans – the men jumped in a van and drove away. Other adults openly stonewalled the social workers, he said.

Only three days before, Mr. Heath said, the three families had assured him that they would appear in court on March 5.

Staff at the child-welfare agency tried contacting all three community leaders, whom they allege wield total social control over the community, but got no response.

Testimony from Chatham-Kent Police Detective Gabe Tetrault revealed how social workers eventually learned where some of the children had ended up. The veteran officer said he had received a call on March 4 from a Canada Border Services Agency office in Kingston, Jamaica, telling him that nine Lev Tahor members – two males and seven females – were being refused entry at an airport in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

[Our] information was that they were being refused entry at that time because they had one-way tickets and they couldn’t explain why they were there,” Det. Tetrault testified. “So they were being sent back to Canada, however, the group refused to get on a plane and come to Canada.”

He said he had information suggesting that the five other members had flown to an unknown destination.

A lawyer for Lev Tahor said she had not received instructions from community leaders and could not put up much of a defence.

Justice Templeton said she had no “less intrusive alternative” than to order that the children be apprehended immediately.

Since those two frenzied days, Trinidadian authorities have returned the group to Canada. Two other families remain in Guatemala.

Official also seized two minors in Calgary and returned them to Ontario.

Many of the allegations before the court stem from the group’s time in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., where they lived before relocating to Chatham in November of last year.

Child-welfare workers in Quebec alleged that Lev Tahor children were not being educated up to provincial standards and that there were a multitude of hygiene and health issues.

Mr. Heath testified that some of those concerns continue in Chatham. He described cramped cottages housing up to nine children, medication being left on the floor around children and a lack of education for girls beyond “really basic sewing and some cooking.”

Another social worker, Robin Rose, described to the court how she had confronted Lev Tahor leaders about underage marriage on Jan. 27. She said one leader initially denied the accusation before another admitted to one underage marriage in the community, according to her testimony, which was heavily redacted.

Ms. Rose also testified that the agency had ongoing reports that Lev Tahor leaders were removing children from families as a form of punishment.

Community leaders have vehemently denied those accusations, countering that the courts, police and child-welfare agencies are engaging in a campaign of religious persecution.

They want to attack us,” community leader Uriel Goldman said. “They have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars investigating and attacking our community. Our kids are not sleeping at night because they’re afraid they’ll be taken from their parents. People care more about dogs in the street than our own kids.”

The group’s appeal of the apprehension order is set to be heard in court on April 4.

Transcripts from emergency hearings in the ongoing child welfare case of 14 children detail confusion and concern.
By Wendy Gillis News reporter The Star | Published on Wed Mar 19 2014

Newly released documents from the ongoing Lev Tahor child welfare case reveal a scene of confusion — and of community members seemingly playing defence — when officials from child protective authorities discovered 14 children involved in an ongoing welfare case had fled the community days before an appeal in their case was set to be heard.

The documents also show workers with Chatham-Kent Children’s Services were suspicious that the families may once again flee to avoid a court order that would see 14 children taken into protective custody.

On March 5, Superior Court Justice Lynda Templeton issued an order to immediately apprehend 14 Lev Tahor children — “at the doors of the plane as soon as it lands” — because of the “extremely unusual circumstances” of the case.

The details of the emergency apprehension order, made during a previously secret court hearing, were made public Wednesday after Templeton reversed a previous decision to ban all media from attending the hearing or accessing transcripts.

The documents show Templeton and child welfare authorities moving with great haste to arrange for the immediate apprehension of the children.

I am entirely satisfied that the extremely unusual circumstances created solely by the appellants (Lev Tahor families) themselves require, as I’ve indicated, immediate intervention of the court,” Templeton said.

My expectation is, so it’s clear, that if these children are returned on a plane that they will be apprehended at the doors of the plane as soon as it lands,” she said.

Service workers with Chatham-Kent Children’s Services discovered the children were missing after they arrived at the Lev Tahor compound in Chatham-Kent around 2 p.m. March 4. Attending to the home where some of the children lived, they found no one home.

The first sign something was wrong, child protection worker Ted Heath testified, was that the home was unusually silent — “usually when we do visits we can hear lots of people inside,” he said.

When no one answered the door, officials attempted to enter a nearby school, where they spoke to an adult who would not tell them what was happening or if he had seen the family. They were not permitted to enter the school.

It took 15 minutes of talking to him to finally for him to say he hasn’t seen them today,” Heath said.

Heath said when he spotted one of the community leaders, Uriel Goldman, he tried to speak to him about the whereabouts of some of the children. But he and two other community members, Nachman Helbrans and Mayer Rosner — who Heath described in his testimony as controlling essentially everything in the community — moved to run away.

We noticed Mr. Goldman got into his . . . minivan, and Mr. Rosner yelled ‘Nachman, get in the van,” said Heath. The three community leaders then got into the van, Heath said.

It was very odd to have them all leave the community at the same time and not be on site while we’re there,” he said.

Heath also testified that Chatham-Kent Children’s Services had suspicions that members of the group may be considering fleeing prior to the court date. He and another worker saw some of the 14 children on March 1 — three days before the group fled — and cautioned them not to leave.

Heath said he reminded one of the families that they were expected in court on Wednesday for their appeal of a recent Ontario ruling that the 14 children be removed from their homes.

Asked what their responses were, Heath said the parents, who cannot be identified due to a court-ordered publication ban, said: “Yes, we know, we will be there, no problem.”

Heath said he and another worker, Jennifer Doran, searched the two-bedroom, one-level home for signs of them possibly leaving, but found the clothes all hung in closets.

It did not look like they were fleeing,” he said.

Child welfare officials returned to one of the homes of the families the morning of the hearing, March 5.

On the side of the door where we usually knock on there was packing tape on the door . . .” Heath said. “It was just kind of down the seam of the door and we weren’t sure why that would be there, but it was all quiet inside and we heard nothing.”

In the March 5 hearing, Chatham-Kent child protection officials also spoke more generally about their recent communications with the community, specifically, with community leaders Helbrans, Goldman and Rosner.

Decisions in the community go through these individuals,” Heath said. “If we’re to be let into the home, it goes through these individuals. If they are not to let us into the home, it goes through these individuals.”

There was a point in time they were being co-operative, Heath said, but not anymore. The leaders had in fact handed the Chatham-Kent Children’s Services letters saying that the child welfare officials could enter the homes of people in the community but they could not speak to the families.

They discuss the possibility that the community acted together to plan the exit of the 14 children, their parents and a few others adults from the ultra-orthodox Jewish sect.

The 14 Lev Tahor children, alongside several adults, fled Canada two weeks ago ahead of an appeal of an Ontario court order mandating that the children be placed in the care of children’s aid services in Quebec.

Eight have since been returned: Six were apprehended after fleeing to the Caribbean country of Trinidad and Tobago, en route to join the Guatemala group, while two others — a 17-year-old girl and her infant daughter — were apprehended in the Calgary airport.

The six remaining children and their parents are in Guatemala, in defiance of Templeton’s Ontario court order. This week, a Guatemalan judge ruled the six children could stay with their parents in the Central American country, provided they return to Solola court with paperwork signed by embassy officials saying they are allowed to stay.

At the March 5 court hearing held following discovery of the children’s disappearance, the lawyer for Chatham-Kent Children’s Services — the child welfare authorities leading the Ontario investigation — brought forward an emergency apprehension motion under the Family and Child Services Act. Templeton immediately ordered all media and members of the public out of the courtroom and did not hear arguments or allow time for a lawyer for the media to arrive.

The London judge also initially ruled that transcripts of the court hearing would not be made available until the safe apprehension of all of the children. Templeton overturned that decision Sunday, saying the complete ban on public access was no longer necessary because circumstances had changed and some of the children had already been placed under the care of children’s services.

Lev Tahor has been under investigation by child protective authorities for more than two years following allegations ranging from corporal punishment using crowbars, belts, whips and a coat hanger, to forced medication, to confinement of disobedient girls in basements of the homes. Child protection authorities in Quebec have documented allegations of underage marriage, physical abuse and more.

The sect has denied all allegations of abuse and say they are being persecuted for their beliefs.

Last November, more than 200 members of the controversial, ultra-orthodox sect fled Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Que. for Chatham-Kent, in advance of a court order in Quebec for the removal of 14 children.

By Erika Tucker | Global News | March 18, 2014 6:02 pm

TORONTO –Six Lev Tahor children under an Ontario apprehension order have been allowed to stay with their parents after appearing in Guatemalan court Monday, as Canadian child services agents work with officials to retrieve and place them in foster care alongside eight others under the same order.

An Ontario judge issued an apprehension order for the 14 children following a Quebec investigation into allegations of child abuse and neglect. The Lev Tahor community has claimed parents have done nothing wrong and are the victims of religious persecution.

Chatham-Kent Children Services Executive Director Stephen Doig said his agency hasn’t sent any staff to Guatemala but is working with Foreign Affairs in Canada, the United States and Guatemalan officials to resolve the situation in Guatemalan court.

Working through the government officials, we’re doing what we can do to have them appreciate the court order that exists in Canada,” Doig said.

The Guatemalan court reportedly didn’t find sufficient evidence was presented by Canadian authorities to proceed with a removal order. The judge let the group keep their passports and requested the family visit the Canadian embassy within three days of the ruling. RCMP referred Interpol Canada requests to Guatemalan officials, who declined comment Friday. A Canadian Foreign Affairs spokesperson referred a Global News request regarding consular involvement to Doig.

But this case is proceeding “very quickly” by Canadian standards, according to Queen’s University law professor Nicholas Bala.

[Hague convention] cases often go quite slowly and unfortunately the history of Canada’s enforcement of Hague proceedings from other countries—including in South and Central America—is often very slow … [dragging] on for months or even years,” Bala said.

He added that orders have to be proven in a particular manner, and it’s possible the Guatemalan court hasn’t received an authenticated copy, for example. He said the fact that Lev Tahor has been asked to attend the Canadian Embassy suggests authorities there are concerned with the situation and are dealing with it “fairly rapidly.”

As I understand it, the judge in Guatemala actually met with the children and spoke through an interpreter, and was satisfied they’re not in any immediate risk,” Bala said.
Bala suggested there’s the potential for Lev Tahor to submit refugee application in Guatemala, a move that would delay the court proceedings significantly.

There has to be some inquiry, but the claim of persecution in Canada does not seem to be well-founded, but will have to be considered by the courts in Guatemala. Canadian courts sometimes refuse to send people back … because of threats of persecution,” he said, citing examples of parents bringing Roma children from Hungary to Canada who are permitted to stay.

Bala explains the Hague conventions generally indicate apprehension orders should be respected and children should be returned, but there are two exceptions he suspects the Lev Tahor parents may argue: If a mature child objects to the return, and if there’s grave risk of harm from the return.

The “mature age” definition is a child-based assessment, typically estimated at around 10 years old in Canada, but can vary. Letters purportedly written by some of the Lev Tahor children and sent to media in January suggest they prefer to remain with their parents, though the degree to which parents were involved in the writing is unclear.

As to the next steps for Lev Tahor, Bala said it’s hard to gauge given the lack of information made available by Guatemalan officials.

It depends on how much the parents are willing to fight this in Guatemala and what their resources are for doing that. But Canadian Hague cases sometimes take years to resolve,” he said.

Yes, there’s been flight involved, but these are not criminal charges.”

Two other sect families with nine members attempted to reach Guatemala but were intercepted in Trinidad two weeks ago and returned to Canada; two minors were also taken into custody in Ontario after they were apprehended in Calgary March 9.

Doig said he’s aware of alleged hunger strikes that Lev Tahor claims resulted in the hospitalization of three children his agency had placed in foster care, although he wouldn’t confirm the reports’ veracity. Asked if it’s possible parents had told the children any food provided by outsiders of the community would be non-kosher or poisoned, he said the children have been put in “religious and culturally appropriate placements.”

Their lives are definitely not at risk right now,” Doig said.

Lev Tahor community spokesman Uriel Goldman, who said he doesn’t know what the families’ plans are in Guatemala, suggests the order to apprehend the children is an act of persecution against the group’s religion.

The Guatemala judge was the proof. … If it’s so obvious the kids are being so abused and are in such a bad situation, why didn’t this judge see that?” said Goldman.

But Doig reiterated that the order for the 14 children was reviewed by multiple judges in Canada who all reached the same conclusion.

All of the evidence has been reviewed by three separate judges: One in Quebec, two in Ontario—one of which was a superior court judge—all of whom felt that there was sufficient evidence to order the children into the care of a child protection agency.”

Meanwhile, Global News and other media organizations are in Quebec court arguing for more documents in the Lev Tahor investigation to be made public – and trying to obtain access sooner rather than later as hearings get pushed back by several months.

Media wins partial access to Lev Tahor meeting transcript.
Partial access is granted to a transcript of a recent secret courtroom meeting that led to an emergency order to take 14 children from the ultra-orthodox Jewish sect.
By Wendy Gillis News reporter | The Star | Published on Sun Mar 16 2014.

The media will be granted partial access to a transcript of a recent secret courtroom hearing that resulted in an emergency motion calling for the apprehension of 14 children from the ultra-orthodox Jewish sect, Lev Tahor.

After initially banning media from attending the hearing or accessing a record of it, Superior Court Justice Lynda Templeton reversed her decision Sunday, ruling that a total restriction on publication of proceedings was no longer warranted.

Any information that could identify the children, however, will be redacted from the transcripts, which will be made public by March 19. The latest ruling likely means the public will learn most of what happened in court, said lawyer Iris Fischer, who represents the Star and other media.

(Templeton) certainly recognized the fundamental importance of open courts, and the need for the public to be able to scrutinize the courts and public agencies,” Fischer said.

Media organizations have been fighting for access ever since the March 5 emergency court meeting, which saw Templeton order that the children be put in the temporary care of Chatham-Kent Children’s Service.

That ruling came after the discovery that members of the sect had fled the country in advance of a court hearing deciding whether some of its children would be removed from their families.

The controversial ultra-orthodox sect has been the subject of a broad-sweeping investigation by child protection authorities in Quebec and Ontario. Authorities have documented allegations of widespread physical abuse, underage marriage and more within the sect.

Lawyers for the Toronto Star and other media outlets have been fighting an order that excluded the media from a hearing that allowed a judge in Chatham to decide in secret on Wednesday 5 March 2014, to remove 14 children from three Lev Tahor families. The media had been refused time to consult counsel or make arguments themselves.

After lawyers for the media petitioned for a release of the transcript, Superior Court Justice Lynda Templeton agreed on Tuesday 11 March, to revisit her exclusion order and was expected to release a decision on Friday 14 March, but it was reported that on Friday afternoon a court official said the decision was not yet available. For some reason, unknown to us at this time, Justice Templeton made the decision to take a further two days over this weekend to decide whether the media will be allowed access to the transcript from that secret meeting in her courtroom.

The timing of this delay is interesting because we know that the Judge in Guatemala will also be hearing the case of the Lev Tahor refugees on Monday 17 March, 2014. Is it likely that the court transcripts will be unsealed, and even if they are unsealed, will it be in time to be available on Monday to that Judge in Guatemala? Would the contents of the transcripts make a difference in her understanding of the situation?

Paul Schabas works for the firm Blakes, Cassels & Graydon LLP, and he is one of the lawyers representing the Toronto Star, CBC, the Globe and Mail and CTV.  He had this to say:
It’s very disturbing that a judge would just simply close a courtroom without any opportunity to make submissions about why it should be closed or giving any indication herself about why it’s closed other than in the vaguest terms about protecting children,”... “An order closing a courtroom is a very extreme order. Typically children are protected by not naming them.” SOURCE
Schabas,  filed the notice of motion on Thursday 6 March 2014 requesting that the matter be heard on an urgent basis. In it, he noted that access to court is protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and calls the exclusion order “an extraordinary restriction of the open courts principle.” SOURCE
What this judge has done is simply cloak everything in secrecy without telling us why. That raises suspicion about what judges are doing,” said Schabas, who noted children are protected by a publication ban on their identities that the media has respected throughout the hearing. ”

Lawyers are still waiting to hear whether the matter is deemed urgent, at which time a court date will be scheduled. If it is judged to be urgent by the court, the date will be sooner than if not.

It’s an urgent matter because something’s happening in a courtroom and the public doesn’t know what’s going on. The public has a constitutional right to know when it happens what’s going on in our courts,” said Schabas.

The decision as to whether the matter is urgent falls to Regional Senior Justice Thomas Heeney, who has received the request but, as of Thursday evening, had not yet responded.

I think it’s extreme. The act allows for the judge to exclude members of the media where there’s evidence that there will be harm to the children, but the case law is clear that that should only be ordered when it’s absolutely necessary when any lesser remedy is available. It strikes me that the court could have done any number of things short of an exclusion order,” said Sean Moreman, senior legal counsel for CBC. SOURCE
Meanwhile in Guatemala, efforts by Canadian and Guatemalan authorities to seize child members of the Lev Tahor were blocked by a temporary court ruling by Judge Mariela De Leon. She ruled on Saturday 15 March 2014 that the children be allowed to stay with the adults until Monday 17 March, 2014, when they will go before a Judge specializing in family and child law. This temporary ruling by Judge Mariela De Leon found that Canadian officials working with the office of Guatemala’s Solicitor-General had not provided sufficient evidence to proceed with a removal order. De Leon also based her ruling on the lack of a rescue order from Interpol and the fact that many aspects of the case were outside her jurisdiction. She did not take the passports of any family members and made no provision that they remain in Panajachel. SOURCE 

Time alone will tell what is decided in Guatemala. Like many countries in the world, Guatemala has had its own brutal experience of genocide carried out by its own government forces with energetic encouragement and assistance from the usual suspects. The promise of justice is still only a speck on their horizon. Both the immediate details of and the historical circumstances surrounding this case are replete with ironies. No matter what happens in Guatemala, my hope continues to be that justice will prevail. All authorities involved need to proceed with more transparency.

Media have argued that court proceedings in the case are of high public interest, with children's identifying information removed.
By Wendy Gillis News reporter, Toronto Star | Published on Fri Mar 14 2014

Superior Court Justice Lynda Templeton now says she will decide over the weekend whether the media can access a transcript from a recent secret meeting in her courtroom, in which she ruled that 14 children from the Jewish Lev Tahor sect should be apprehended.

Lawyers representing various media outlets, including the Star, have been arguing that the public should be able to know what went on in the court proceeding, during which time there was an “emergency motion” to deal with the children’s sudden departure.

Media were excluded from the courtroom proceedings, which were held last Wednesday.

Right now, the public doesn’t know what went on in court that day — we don’t know the reason that public agencies did certain things, we don’t know why the court made the apprehension orders that it made, we don’t know the basis on which the orders were made,” said lawyer Iris Fischer, who is representing the Star and other media.

On Tuesday, Templeton held a hearing to discuss whether to overturn her ruling keeping the court proceedings secret, and said she would decide by Friday.

She opted to revisit her original decision to exclude media because circumstances had changed: when she made her original ruling, all of the 14 children and the adults travelling with them remained out of the country. By Tuesday, eight were back in Canada and under the care of children’s services.

Six still out of Canada are staying in a hotel in the Guatemalan town of Panajachel with two adults.

Templeton told lawyers Friday she would now make her decision over the weekend.

Last week, Chatham-Kent Children’s Services apprehended the Lev Tahor children who had been returned to Canada. Lawyers representing children’s services as well as a Lev Tahor mother who is also a minor have argued that publishing details of the hearing would cause emotional harm to the children.

They also said it could potentially adversely affect any police investigation into Lev Tahor and allegations of child abuse.

Lawyers for the media say the issue is of “high” public interest, and that the media would respect a ban on publishing information that would identify the children.