CHATHAM-KENT, Ontario, February 5, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Two families in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community have been stripped of their children by an Ontario judge who has ordered that the families’ 13 children be returned to child protection authorities in Quebec to be placed in foster care. Community leaders say they will appeal the decision, which takes effect in 30 days.
Quebec authorities have charged that the children suffered from poor hygiene, improper healthcare, and a lack of education, but the community — called “Lev Tahor,” meaning “pure heart” — has denied it.
Ontario Court of Justice Judge Stephen Fuerth ruled Monday that a Quebec child protection order calling for the removal of the children in November — issued before the 40-family community fled to Ontario — must be upheld.
“It would be impractical at best and potentially harmful at worst if the society were now required, in the context of the need to protect the children, to conduct a separate and new investigation into all of the issues currently before the Court of Quebec … simply because the parents have decided as a tactical manoeuvre to absent themselves from Quebec in order to frustrate the process of justice that had started,” said Fuerth in his decision.
Community leaders say they will fight to keep the children with their parents.
“We are really disappointed,” said Uriel Goldman, a spokesman for the community, to the Toronto Star. “We do think that these two families are just victims; the whole story is just against the community. We will use all legal avenues to oppose the decision.”
Community leaders say the group of about 200 members left Quebec for Ontario three months ago, not because they were fleeing a court order, but because they did not want to comply with the province’s mandatory ethics and religious culture course that they said would subvert the religious formation of the community’s more than 100 children.
“The reason that the community left Quebec is the education decrees in Quebec,” the community stated on its blog at the time.
“If the laws of Quebec, unfortunately, are against our religion, then we go to another place where it is not against our religion,” said spokesman Nachman Helbrans at the time.
Judge Fuerth did not believe the community’s reason for leaving. “The community did not move. It fled in haste in the face of a proceeding that the community perceived to be placing its children at risk of apprehension by the Quebec agency,” he said in his ruling.
Lev Tahor leaders say their community is being attacked in an international feud by other religious groups, who, Lev Tahor says, have managed to influence social services against them.
“A group of vicious people with an ugly soul pursues [our] community,” stated the community on its blog. The community believes it is being “demonized” for its religious beliefs and practices.
One Lev Tahor mother about to lose her children has published legal documents online, against the advice of her lawyer, that she says shows her community to be a “target for persecution.”
The documents contain interviews by the Children's Aid Society probing into the private sexual life of one Jewish couple.
The mother has also published letters online that she hopes will help vindicate her community.
“The media keeps on painting a bad picture of me, my friends and my father, the Grand Rabbi of the community,” she wrote.
“When the media publishes unbiased but false reports, I don't blame them for being misinformed, I just hope the real truth will come out once and for all. The truth will prevail, it's only a matter of time.”
Community leaders say that at stake in their case is religious freedom itself. They are urging people concerned about religious freedom to support their appeal.
“We see as necessary that even those who oppose ‘Lev Tahor’ to join the appeal in order to save the freedom of religion in Ontario, otherwise any religious parent can get involved with the [Children’s Aid Society] without a real reason,” the community stated on its blog.