An Ontario court has ordered the apprehension of 13 children from the bizarre Haredi sect Lev Tahor, following the news that a few sect members have traveled to Trinidad and Tobago, the Toronto Star reported.
Police and local Children’s Services workers visited Lev Tahor homes Wednesday night, and were allowed by the landlord into premises where the tenants have vacated without notice.
Police officers told sect members who did answer their door that they had a court order to collect their children. That must have gone over well.
Those police and CS teams visited more than a dozen homes on Wednesday night, but walked away empty handed, as the children were not to be found. Although they didn’t invest a lot of energy in searching for the kids – according to the Star, their visits lasted less than 10 minutes.
The court order was revealed after Children’s Services brought an emergency motion on the day that a court had been scheduled to hear an appeal related to an earlier order for the removal of 13 children over allegations—mostly made by one individual—of physical abuse and a substandard education regime within the sect.
Earlier on Wednesday, several members of Lev Tahor were detained by border authorities in Trinidad and Tobago, the Star reported.
A senior immigration official in Trinidad and Tobago told the Star that three adult members of the sect had arrived with six children around 5 AM Wednesday.
The families involved in the court appeal have been under strict restrictions not to leave the region of Chatham-Kent, Ontario.
The official said the sect members had flown in from Toronto and were en route to Mexico.
“Usually if you are coming into the country you must have a ticket saying you are going on to another part. Because they did not have that, immigration refused them entry,” said the Trinidad official.
He said the group refused to go back to Toronto and so it was detained. He said the group hired a lawyer to try to get into Guatemala.
“I think they ended up in Trinidad by mistake because they missed their flight to Mexico,” said the official.
The Sun quotes Lev Tahor spokesman Nachman Helbrans, who confirmed the two families and 13 kids are no longer at the rural Ontario settlement where they had fled to from Quebec last fall just before officials could execute the order to seize the children. He said he did not know where they had gone.
“The children are on a trip, on a vacation,” he told the Sun, saying the families wanted to be out of the country until after the court makes its decision, because they don’t want their kids sent back to Quebec.