Efforts by Canadian and Guatemalan authorities to seize child members of the Lev Tahor sect who left Canada two weeks ago with three adult members of the group have been blocked by a temporary court ruling.
Judge Mariela De Leon ruled Saturday that the children can stay with the adults until Monday, when they will go before a family court judge. The temporary ruling found that Canadian officials working with the office of Guatemala’s Solicitor-General did not provide sufficient evidence to proceed with a removal order.
De Leon also based her ruling on the lack of a rescue order from Interpol and the fact many aspects of the case were outside her jurisdiction.
“Without further evidence, I see no grounds [for removal],” she said.
The three adults and six children have been staying at a hotel in the tourist town of Panajachel, a few hours west of Guatemala City.
The Lev Tahor members arrived in Guatemala March 4 after they left their homes in Chatham, Ont., amid a pending judgment in an appeal case.
The group, originally from Quebec, appealed an Ontario court’s ruling that demanded 13 children be returned to Quebec and placed in foster care.
Another group of three adults and six children were stopped in Trinidad and Tobago en route to Guatemala. They were returned to Canada last weekend.
Child protection agency officials in Quebec said they were concerned about the children’s health, safety, hygiene and schooling.
Leaders of Lev Tahor have always denied the allegations of neglect and abuse.