Illegal Hasidic school targeted in youth protection raid
Raid comes as representatives from Batshaw youth services seek access to school
An illegal school in the Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie borough was the target of a youth protection operation on Wednesday, led by Batshaw Youth and Family Centres with the help of the Montreal police.
The school is operated by the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish community, apparently operating without an Education Ministry permit.
About 60 students attend the school, a three-storey brick building featuring a storefront with covered windows on Parc Avenue at the corner of Beaubien Street.
There was a heavy police presence at the school on Wednesday.
Dozens of Hasidic boys were seen exiting the school, using their hats to cover their faces.
Earlier, police escorted a group of a dozen women out of the school and to their cars. Some of them were holding folders, but neither they nor police would confirm if they were teachers in the school.
Negotiations for access to school
Youth protection officials had been attempting to arrange a visit to the school to assess the children and came with police Wednesday to gain access.
Officials from the school says they had been in negotiations with Batshaw about scheduling that visit when the raid occurred.
A community spokesperson told CBC the school never refused access to youth protection officials but could not say how long those negotiations had been going on.
Hershber Hirsch, a member of the school's board, said the visit will take place "in the coming weeks." He said the raid was not required.
"We are certainly not very happy with the trauma caused to the kids, which was not in any way necessary given our co-operation with the [youth services] up until now," he said.
"We will surely continue to cooperate with them," he said.
Police also would not comment.
Education Minister Sébastien Proulx would only say he is "aware of the raid," while a spokesperson for the Education Ministry said there isn't a registered school at the location.
Debate over religious accommodation
Montreal's Hasidic population is situated mostly in nearby Mile End and in Outremont.
Schools in the tight-knit religious community have come under increased scrutiny for failing to comply with Education Ministry requirements.
The community has also occasionally been the target of municipal bylaws and a focal point in the province's debate over religious accommodation.
On Monday, Outremont's borough council moved ahead with a controversial bylaw that would ban the establishment of new places of worship, including synagogues, on two main thoroughfares.
The raid comes a day after a report from Radio-Canada about an illegal Hasidic school in Outremont, Beth Esther Academy.
In the report, the all-girls school showed how it was attempting to comply with provincial law by meeting the requirements for home-schooled children.
with files from Ainslie MacLellan and Ryan Hicks