Monday, April 14, 2014

Lev Tahor children won’t be sent to foster care in Quebec, judge rules 

A Chatham judge has granted an appeal from members of the controversial Lev Tahor Jewish sect to shoot down a ruling ordering their children into foster care in Quebec.

Superior Court Justice Lynda Templeton issued a written ruling Monday regarding the 13 children who have been at the centre of a custody battle between their ultra-Orthodox parents and child services groups in Ontario and Quebec.

She ruled that the children don’t have to be returned to Quebec despite the fact that the families fled twice, once to Ontario and then to South America, to avoid court orders.

“I am entirely satisfied that it would be contrary to the best interests of these children to be returned to Quebec,” Templeton wrote. “I decline to visit upon the children, the consequences of the conduct of their parents. These children have already been found to be in need of protection. To create further upheaval and instability in their lives would most surely have disastrous emotional and psychological ramifications for them.”

But Templeton also ruled that children’s services in Chatham can continue to do their work, including moving to have the children taken from their parents if deemed necessary.

“The Chatham-Kent Children’s Services shall exercise its mandate with respect to the commencement and/or continuation of its own protection proceedings,” Templeton wrote.

She said the organization could continue those proceedings based on its own investigations as well as information and evidence from Quebec, “in support of the remedy it sees fit in all of the circumstances.”

The fringe group of about 200 people arrived in Chatham in November after fleeing their Quebec homes in the middle of the night to avoid a child protection hearing amid accusations of abuse, neglect, underage marriage and substandard education.

The Quebec court ruled that the children be temporarily placed with Hasidic families in Montreal. After the group landed in Ontario, Ontario court Justice Stephen Fuerth ruled in February that the Quebec order should be enforced.

But he stayed the order, giving the parents 30 days to appeal.

On the eve of that appeal deadline, the parents fled from Canada with their children saying they wouldn’t return unless the appeal went in their favour. Six children and their parents went to Guatemala. Other children were apprehended in Trinidad and Tobago. The children apprehended are currently staying with foster homes in Ontario.

Templeton wrote that parents of the children involved and the Lev Tahor community as a whole should take away a lesson from all that has happened.

“Flight from one community in Canada to another in either custody or child protection proceedings is to no avail,” she stated. “Not because these parents face the return of their children to a prior home they no long have a connection but because the state will continue to exert its pressure and influence over the family through its local agencies no matter where they are in order to ensure that the children in that family are not at risk.”


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