Quebec’s provincial police force has been investigating the Lev Tahor community for nearly two years, according to search warrants obtained by CBC and other media outlets that fought to have the documents made public.
The documents are heavily redacted and provide no information as to the nature of the criminal infractions cited as a cause for the warrants — which led to a raid being carried out at two homes in Chatham, Ont., on Jan. 29.
It’s also not public what was seized at the homes.
However, the documents say the Sûreté du Québec has been investigating Lev Tahor members since April 2012 – after receiving information alleging physical abuse of children and unlawful confinement of minors. It was also alleged that underage girls were being forced to marry much older men.
The allegations, which were never cross-examined in court, have not resulted in charges and members of the Lev Tahor group have always maintained they are false.
According to the documents released Friday, the SQ opened an investigation in May 2012 and began interviewing witnesses.
A young woman hospitalized in the Laurentians told hospital staff that she had been sexually abused.
SQ reports also include allegations that children from other countries were brought to Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., to be married.
Former members of the sect told police they lied to immigration officials to get them in the country.
The police documents also allege children were medicated, and hit with belts, crowbars and whips.
Sect leaders deny allegations
Lev Tahor leaders told CBC News Friday they were aware that their community was under police investigation since 2012 — and they have nothing to hide.
“They said a lot of allegations, and we said, ‘No problem. You want to investigate, we have no problem with that,’” said Uriel Goldman, a spokesman for the sect.
“Investigate, but please, we ask if you don’t find [anything], close the files and leave us alone.”
Sect flees to Ontario
Dozens of Lev Tahor familes living in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts packed up their belongings in November, and moved in the middle of the night to Chatham, Ont.
Two families were supposed to appear in court the following day to respond to allegations of child neglect.
Lev Tahor leaders said members of the sect didn’t run away, claiming the move was planned long ago. The leaders say they co-operated with youth protection services officials in Quebec, even after moving to Ontario.
A few days after the move, a youth court ordered the temporary removal of 14 children from the sect, at the request of youth protection services.
An Ontario court upheld that decision earlier this month for 13 of the 14 children. However, the court gave the sect 30 days to appeal the decision.