Members of Lev Tahor sect flee Canada, intercepted in Trinidad
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect members fail to appear in court to appeal seizure of 13 children
Some members of Lev Tahor, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect from Quebec that fled to a town near Windsor, Ont., last November, have apparently flown the coop again, this time to Trinidad and Tobago, where their journey has been halted.
Immigration authorities said the sect members were in transit to Guatemala, but officials in Trinidad and Tobago have prevented the members from flying to Central America after the authorities allegedly found some inconsistencies in their responses.
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Members of Lev Tahor arrived at Piarco International Airport Monday and have refused to leave, an immigration officer at the airport told CBC News.
The members are not being detained as fugitives.
A spokeswoman with Trinidad and Tobago's Ministry of National Security said the group was offered hotel accommodations, but the sect members refused.
She said sect spokesman Avraham Dinkel has continued to negotiate with local authorities to travel on to Guatemala and not return to Canada.
A statement released Wednesday by Trinidad's Ministry of National Security said, "the Immigration Services have been advised to pursue the decision of having the group return to their port of origin," which is Toronto.
The flight south comes as two families were scheduled to appear in a Chatham-Kent, Ont., court today to learn the result of their appeal of an earlier court judgment that demanded the children be returned to Quebec and placed in foster care.
Stephen Doig of Chatham-Kent Children’s Services said his agency has alerted sister agencies with offices along the Canada-U.S. border after the families in southern Ontario could not be found at their homes.
It's not yet known if the families involved in the court case are the same members who fled the country to Trinidad and Tobago.
A lawyer for the agency on Wednesday afternoon brought an emergency motion in the case of the removal of some children from the sect.
The motion resulted in a closed court hearing, where the Ontario judge ordered that the children be apprehended immediately and placed in foster care in Ontario, subject to the appeal.
Last month, an Ontario judge upheld a Quebec ruling ordering 13 children in the Lev Tahor sect to be surrendered to child welfare authorities. After being denied an appeal by a Quebec court, the group issued a request for appeal to an Ontario court.
This came after the Quebec and Ontario provincial police forces raided the Lev Tahor homes in Chatham.
Quebec’s Youth Protection Services alleged in court that children living in the sect were medicated with melatonin to control their behaviour, couldn’t do basic math and were married off as young as 14.
Much of the Lev Tahor community of about 200 people left their homes in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., in the middle of the night in November 2013, days after a child welfare agency started a court case against a couple of the families.
With files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press