A new twist to the Lev Tahor controversy is now taking place. Several newspapers have published letters from two of the children embroiled in the controversy of whether or not child welfare officials in Chatham, Ontario should follow-up and implement the ruling of Quebec courts to place children of the sect into Quebec foster homes.
At the heart of the matter is a jurisdictional dispute between Lev Tahor and the Chatham-Kent Children’s Aid Society about whether or not Ontario child welfare officials have the jurisdiction to implement a Quebec court order.
Lev Tahor is a ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect, viewed by many within the Jewish religion, as being a cult. It is led by Shlomo Helbrans who was convicted on child abduction in the U.S.
Initially, the group resided in St. Agathe, Quebec. Investigations and evidence obtained by Quebec child welfare authorities documented psychological abuse, poor dental and physical health, the drugging of children, children separated from their parents, poor hygiene, and sub-standard educational standards. Quebec Child Welfare authorities then took action to obtain a court decision to place 14 of these children into foster care. In fact, Quebec’s Youth Protection Department was first made aware of problems within the ultra-Orthodox sect in 2007, when a new mother was found to be taking anti-psychotic drugs in the hospital.
The Quebec court order was not executed because most members of the community of 240 fled from to Chatham, Ontario, before they were due in court. Ontario child welfare officials are now involved in an attempt to implement the Quebec order, and a Chatham judge is to rule February 3rd.
It is disheartening that Lev Tahor, is now using these children as pawns in a strategy to gain sympathy and to deceive the public by issuing some letters that supposedly were written by children. This is purely manipulating the children in order to manipulate public opinion and gain sympathy for the sect.
The following images are excerpts from 2 letters that were supposedly written by the children of Lev Tahor:
Both letters may be viewed in their entirety at: http://ow.ly/sIFHU.
It is questionable that these letters were written by the children of Lev Tahor. Most children age of 16 or 17 years, do not write at this level of maturity; especially when English is not their first language, and is only used minimally amongst the sect. Also, which 16 year old uses an initial as their signature rather than their given name?
Also, one would think that a distraught teenage mother would not use phrases such as: beautiful harmony, and beloved mother unless she is under coercion. In a normal environment her words and actions would tend to be more simplistic and less colourful.
One of the letters state that they had problems with the education regulations of Quebec which did not agree with their religious practices, and that their religion does not comply with Quebec educational regulations. From what I could see, only one other ultra-Orthodox school in Quebec expressed this same concern, and they have chosen to fight this matter in the courts and not flee to another province. Other Orthodox Jewish schools are continuing to receive provincial subsidies.
In spite of, and despite the letters and behaviour of Lev Tahor, the concerns of child welfare authorities in Quebec are legitimate based on their investigations and findings. A former member of the sect has gone on record that “the stated goal of the Lev Tahor community is to arrange marriages for children as young as 13”.
One cannot fault the Chatham-Kent Children’s Aid Society for continuing to pursue this matter which was initially identified and emanated in another province. Would a police force in Ontario decline to take action in a criminal or suspected criminal matter that had taken place outside the Province of Ontario?
The World Health Organization (1999) definition of child abuse can be applied to the case of Lev Tahor.
Child abuse or maltreatment constitutes all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.
The Chatham-Kent CAS is merely doing its job: to protect the most vulnerable in society. In this case it is taking the initiative based on the investigations and findings of a similar authority with the same mandate in another jurisdiction. If abuse by one group is suspected and proven in one jurisdiction, it is more than likely that it could happen and will happen in another.
Shame on Lev Tahor for abusing their children in this manner! Also, shame on the newspapers for allowing them to be manipulated in this manner! They may have published these letters without questioning its honesty, accuracy, integrity and credibility.