An Empty Victory for Lev Tahor

The Orthodox sect Lev Tahor has successfully appealed a ruling that would have returned 14 children to be placed in foster care in Quebec.

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Members of Lev Tahor

It was a rare but empty victory for Lev Tahor, which many feel is a cult.

The cult left Quebec for Chatham, Ontario just before a sentence could be enforced by that province’s child welfare system that 14 children be placed into foster care. Once they got to Chatham, they again were required to face Ontario’s judicial system about these same allegations. This time, they attempted to outrun the courts by fleeing to Guatemala. Several of them never reached Guatemala but were returned to Canada from Trinidad.

There have been allegations by child welfare officials, which was reported by the media. Allegations included child abuse, beatings, children forcibly being removed from their parents and being placed with other parents as a form of punishment, underage marriages as young as 14 years, children sleeping in urine soaked beds, poor hygiene, low educational standards, running away from the law, and applying for refugee status in Guatemala and Trinidad. They left Canada to avoid prosecution, and to avoid facing charges, allegations and evidence of the abuse of children .

Some call the recent decision a “rare legal victory” as removing the children to Quebec “would be contrary to their best interests,” and would also “have disastrous emotional and psychological ramifications for them”. I agree that separating the children by moving them to Quebec would not be a good move for any of these children, and would certainly have psychological consequences for them.

The ruling is only an empty or hollow victory for the cult. I say this looking closely at the comments made by Superior Court Justice Lynda Templeton in her 36 page decision which she released to the public. Her decision shows that Lev Tahor is not exonerated from the allegations facing them.

One has to realize, when legal appeals are made, the decision that is made and the scope of the issue considered are very narrow indeed. The Courts only look at whether or not the trial decision was correct in law. In this case, Justice Templeton only addressed the issue of whether or not the children should be returned to Quebec, and be placed in foster care in that province.

She was quite clear of that in her decision. She made her decision that would not require the children to return to Quebec based on the emotional and psychological damage that would be created. Her comments throughout the written decision makes it abundantly clear about the court’s concerns about the validity of these allegations of abuse, and the behaviour of the adults.

Justice Templeton’s decision contained a number of statements expressing concern about the circumstances of the children relative to the allegations of abuse. She explicitly points out that the children are at risk.

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Her decision best exemplifies the fact that the concerns and actions of the courts and child welfare authorities are not an issue of persecution, or the religious smear campaign that members of the cult and their outside supporters claim. It may not even be an issue of parents being unable to care for their children. The issue is that it is strongly felt that the children are at risk. It may not even be the fault of the parents. It must be remembered that Helbrans and his enforcers exhibit a great deal of influence on all members of the cult, and especially the parents of these and other children within that community.

The best summary of the concern of the Courts and Chatham-Kent Children’s Services is best found in Justice Templeton’s statement within her decision that:

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In other words, the government or state has an obligation and responsibility to protect children, and particularly these children. As such, Chatham-Kent Children’s Services can no longer investigate or act on the allegations put forward by Quebec’s child welfare agencies, but is obligated to undertake its own investigations and obtain its own evidence. They are also obligated to undertake new investigations and any actions that it may feel are appropriate to protect these children, most particularly from the cult’s leaders.

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In other words, they cannot outrun the Courts. Wherever they go, authorities will always be required to ensure that these children are not placed at risk. Chatham-Kent Children’s Services is required to act on behalf of government and the Courts to ensure that these children are not at risk.

Hopefully, they will not find any proof of the allegations before them. But based on what we’ve heard to date, I seriously doubt it.


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