LONDON, Ont. — A judge tore a strip off a runaway ultra orthodox Jewish family that fled Canada before a child protection hearing, warning she “can’t trust (they) will not take off again.”
Superior Court Justice Lynda Templeton was sent a nine-page letter from the Lev Tahor parents of six children named for temporary foster care disputing allegations of physical abuse, neglect and inadequate education standards in the tiny community in Chatham, Ont.
The parents also deny allegations of foot funguses, underage marriages and that Lev Tahor families are expected to spy on each other.
Templeton told the parents Friday to tell Lev Tahor leaders who are making the Jewish sect’s decisions to stop interfering with their children’s legal rights.
“The conduct of the community has not raised any trust that you will remain in the jurisdiction of this court,” she told the parents at an appeal hearing. “I can guarantee you will obtain fair hearings, but you must allow the court to do its work.”
It’s the second time an Ontario judge has given the group a legal smackdown for flouting court orders and pulling up stakes.
Lev Tahor is challenging a lower court’s decision to uphold a Quebec ruling that 14 children be placed in temporary foster care. The group settled in Chatham in November because it feared Quebec child protection officials would take the children.
Templeton wrote her own emergency order last month when the children and their parents fled Canada, just days before a March 5 court date, intending to go to Guatemala. Six children were returned from Trinidad and a teen mother — who also sent a letter to the court — and her baby were found in Calgary.
Blacked-out portions of Templeton’s emergency order, which the media were allowed to review Friday, show the families had told child welfare officials they were aware of the March 5 court date and would be there. But on March 4, they disappeared.
Templeton, hearing Lev Tahor’s appeal of Quebec’s order, said her biggest concern is parental accountability. “Flight and departure are very serious concerns,” she said.
Parents, she said, have both moral and legal obligations to their kids in Canada — and that applies to everyone.
It’s imperative the families stay in the jurisdiction, as the court orders, she said.
“To me your children are not Lev Tahor children — they’re just children” with the same rights as any others, she said.
And, she added, the allegations are that “the parents are not fulfilling their legal obligations.”
She said it’s “frustrating” the group’s leadership seems to rule, regardless of the court’s goal to protect kids and families.
Templeton ordered the local child-welfare agency to arrange supervised access to the children starting this weekend. “That access has to be supervised,” she said, citing the parents’ conduct and their group’s leadership.