(JTA) – Members of an extremist haredi Orthodox cult that fled their Quebec homes out of fear that Canadian welfare authorities would take their children have settled in southwestern Ontario.
The Lev Tahor, or Pure Heart, cult left their homes early last week, and were said to be planning to move to Iran.
But Canadian media reported over the weekend that the group of 200, including more than 130 children, will make their home in Chatham-Kent in southwestern Ontario, a town of 108,000.
Cult members told Canadian media that they made the move due to a dispute with education authorities in Quebec over the curriculum that they were being required to teach the children, who are home schooled, including subjects such as evolution.
The sect was concerned that the children would be placed in foster care, according to The Star.
Ontario reportedly has liberal requirements for faith-based home schooling.
The cult, led by Israeli Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, reportedlyÂ usesÂ extreme violence and mind control. Most of its members are Israeli-born with Canadian-born children.
Quebec youth protection services told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that there are concerns that the children were neglected. The children reportedly were forced to live in the homes of families other than their own for punishments. Youth protection officials had been scheduled to meet in court with members of the cult the day after the group of some 40 families fled their homes, according to the CBC. The files have been sent to youth protection services in Ontario.
Some in the group have already purchased homes in the new location, and the rest are currently living in a local motel, the Globe and Mail reported.