Abuse charges stayed against 3 more from Mennonite community

Charges have been stayed against three more members of a Manitoba Mennonite community who had been accused of child abuse.
Three members of a Manitoba Mennonite community stand with their lawyer outside the Winnipeg courthouse on Thursday, after learning that child abuse charges against them have been stayed. (Karen Pauls/CBC)

Charges have been stayed against three more members of a Manitoba Mennonite community who had been accused of child abuse.

The charges against one man and two women, including the community's lone school teacher, were stayed Thursday in Winnipeg.

Five other members had charges against them stayed earlier this week.

A court-ordered publication ban means neither the Old Order Mennonite community nor the people charged can be named, in order to protect the identities of the alleged victims.

Three more members are scheduled to appear in court March 4, and it's expected that their charges will be stayed as well, the CBC's Karen Pauls reported from the Winnipeg courthouse.

Crown prosecutors say they plan to take four people to trial on the abuse charges.

Dozens of children were removed from the private community by child and family services (CFS) authorities last year, after a number of adults were charged with multiple counts of assault.

The charges are based on allegations of children being excessively disciplined, in some cases with cattle prods, whips and leather straps, between July 2011 and January 2013.

Since they were seized, the children have been placed in culturally appropriate foster homes. They have had scheduled visits with their parents.

The parents and community leaders have been in talks with CFS officials towards having the children returned.

One woman, a mother of two young children, told CBC News she is relieved her charges were stayed on Thursday and she hopes her children will soon be permanently returned.

"The oldest will be four and the youngest is 17 months," she told CBC News outside court.

"They were taken in June. The youngest has been in care as long as he was at home."

Those who have charges stayed have agreed to sign one-year peace bonds requiring them to keep the peace, be of good behaviour and continue with counselling.

They must also not come into contact with the four whose cases are going to trial. No trial date has yet been set.

CFS officials pleased

Jay Rodgers, who heads up the General Authority of Manitoba's Child and Family Services, said he's pleased with the latest development.

"We're very pleased that … eight people have had charges stayed," he said.

"That removes a pretty significant barrier that was there in terms of planning for the return of kids."

Two families were reunited with their children late last fall, but Rodgers said five children from two other families are expected to return home permanently in the coming weeks.