Lev Tahor: Quebec police believe members falsified passports, marriage licences

Members of Lev Tahor are believed to have falsified passports, marriage licences and birth certificates, according to a police affidavit used to obtain a search warrant.

A document obtained by CBC/Radio-Canada alleges Lev Tahor members falsified documents to fool officials

Men from Lev Tahor shop at a store in the village of San Juan La Laguna Aug. 24, 2014. They moved to Guatemala City after the village's Elders' Council expelled Lev Tahor. (Jorge Dan Lopez/REUTERS)

Members of Lev Tahor are believed to have falsified some passports, marriage licences and birth certificates, according to an affidavit filed by Quebec provincial police to obtain a search warrant.

The document, called an Information to Obtain, is a written testimony that sets out allegations to a judge to get a search warrant. The sworn document was signed by Sgt. Normand Dion of the Sûreté du Québec.

CBC/Radio-Canada obtained a copy of the extensive document pertaining to Lev Tahor, the ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect that in November 2013 fled Quebec for Chatham, Ont. to evade a youth protection order and allegations of child abuse.

Some of the documents left behind by the Lev Tahor families as they hastily moved to Ontario were seized by SQ investigators. 

The Sûreté du Québec affidavit also details how the suspicion of falsified documents was the crux of the search warrant executed by Quebec's provincial police in Chatham, Ont. on Jan. 29, 2014.

The SQ document of which CBC/Radio-Canada obtained a copy is dated Jan. 28 — the day before the search was conducted in Chatham.

None of the allegations against Lev Tahor made in this affidavit have been tested in court, and no member of Lev Tahor has been charged in connection to them.

Document details

The SQ document lists items seized by the police during the searches conducted in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., the home of the Lev Tahor community before it fled to Chatham.

Investigators seized two laptops, an external hard drive, various banking documents belonging to a company owned by Lev Tahor members, credit cards, marriage licences from Missouri, as well as Revenu Québec and Immigration Canada documents.

Investigators also found several bottles of medication, namely ibuprofen, antibiotics, medication to treat seizure disorders and an antipsychotic. 

There have been allegations that Lev Tahor controlled children in the sect with medication.

A CD containing other documents that was handed to the SQ in the spring of 2012. The CD had been given to a Quebec rabbi by a former member of Lev Tahor.

The SQ in its affidavit alleged the CD contained documents primarily dating from 2010 and 2011, including a forged passport, power-of-attorney documents asserting control over members of Lev Tahor in case of incapacity, notarized real-estate sale documents and at least one other contract. 

The SQ document alleged that most of the materials on the CD were tied to Mayer Rosner, one of the high-ranking members of Lev Tahor described by provincial police as leader Shlomo Helbrans's right-hand man.

Offices seized various letters and documents, as well as hospital and health care cards, in the search on Jan. 29. 

SQ interviews reveal further details

A witness and former member of the sect who was questioned by police made several serious allegations, according to the SQ affidavit. The so-far-unproven allegations include:

  • Children were beaten with a hanger in the community's synagogue.
  • The witness was forced to fabricate false Ministry of Education documents.
  • The children did not attend school.
  • Children were removed from their families and placed with other families if the parents did not conform to the leader's rules.

The witness also alleged that leader Helbrans ordered members of Lev Tahor to go to the doctor with a list of specific symptoms and to request certain medications by name.

Other testimony gathered by the SQ and outlined in the affidavit alleges physical and sexual violence, sequestration of girls and arranged marriages.

The affidavit also alleged that the sect brought children destined for arranged marriages to the Lev Tahor community from other countries under false pretenses in order to fool immigration officials.

Lev Tahor denies all allegations.

Lev Tahor did not teach children Quebec curriculum

Lev Tahor members have admitted in the past that they refused to teach the government-mandated curriculum to their children.

This week, CBC Windsor met Lev Tahor member Nachman Helbrans at the former Lev Tahor compound in Chatham, Ont. He was there to collect items left behind by fellow members who moved to Guatemala.

He said Lev Tahor families fled to Guatemala because they felt that their rights to religious freedom were not being respected in Canada.

“We feel that our rights were violated because there is religious freedom in Canada, and we were relying on it when we came to Canada,” Helbrans said.

He said that they left Quebec when local youth protection authorities moved to take some of the children away because they were not being educated according to the province's curriculum. 

"It was mainly about our education. We were seeing it as a religious issue. There is some particular part that we cannot teach our children, and we would not, because it is against our religion," he said.

“As far as we understand there is no strict education rules in Guatemala.”

With files from CBC Windsor and Andréanne Baribeau