An Ontario judge has overturned an earlier court decision ordering the 13 Lev Tahor children be returned to Quebec and placed in foster care.
'We thank the Lord for the good news,' - Uriel Goldman, Lev Tahor spokesman
Ontario Superior Court Judge Lynda Templeton said in her decision that to put further upheaval in the children's lives by sending them back to Quebec would have "disastrous" emotional consequences and they should not bear the consequences of their parents' flight.
“We’re very happy. We thank the Lord for the good news … I think it’s very obvious that children should be with their parents, with their family, with their friends — in a natural place,” said Uriel Goldman, a spokesman for the Lev Tahor community, which has denied all allegations of mistreatment.
"Hopefully, the whole thing about the community with the whole persecution and allegations, everything will calm down and we will be able to practise our religion quietly and peacefully.”
No reunion yet for parents and children
Seven Lev Tahor children are currently in foster care with Toronto-area families. The others fled with their parents to Guatemala.
"Rehabilitation that may be necessary for the parents ... in order to achieve reunification of their families and withdrawal or termination of the intervention of the state," Templeton said in her ruling.
Templeton also ruled that a children's aid group in Chatham will continue to investigate the families and the matter will now go to provincial court to determine whether the children are in need of protection.
“The kids we do have in our care right now, we are responsible for taking in whatever information and evidence we have,” said Stephen Doig, executive director of Chatham-Kent Children’s Services.
Doig says officials will be responsible for responding to any issues or complaints they receive about Lev Tahor members as long as they live in their jurisdiction.
“We will respond to any concerns that we get just like we would with any other family.”
Last November, members of the ultra-orthodox Jewish community suddenly left their homes in Ste-Agathe, Que. and moved to Chatham, Ont. They fled Quebec just before a court ordered that some of the Lev Tahor children be placed in foster care.
Since then, several of the families have moved on again, with one now staying in Guatemala.
- Members of Lev Tahor sect flee Canada, intercepted in Trinidad
- Guatemala judge rules Lev Tahor children can stay
Quebec youth protection authorities spent a year investigating issues related to hygiene and health, as well as allegations that children in the Lev Tahor sect weren't learning according to the provincial curriculum.