TORONTO (JTA) – Child-protection authorities in Ontario have taken two childrenÂ into protective custody from the reclusive Jewish sect Lev Tahor.
A lawyer for the group told The Toronto Star on Monday that officials with theÂ Chatham-Kent Children’s Services in southwest Ontario seized the two children from one family on Dec. 12.
The circumstances surrounding the seizure are not known, but the Star quoted a source as saying that the children taken into custody are not connectedÂ to a Quebec court ruling last month that ordered 14 children from LevÂ Tahor into foster care.
A second source told the newspaper that the children are a brotherÂ and sister about 3 or 4 years old.
The original ruling from Quebec targeted children from two Lev TahorÂ families ranging in age from 2 months to 16 years.
About 40 families from the extremist haredi Orthodox Jewish group fled fromÂ north of Montreal to Chatham, about 200 miles southwest of Toronto, onÂ Nov. 18, a few days before the Quebec ruling was handed down.
On Dec. 4, Ontario child-welfare authorities sought a warrant to seize all theÂ children. An Ontario justice of the peace denied the request; anÂ appeal of that decision will be heard on Dec. 23.
Quebec authorities have documented what they say is evidence ofÂ neglect, psychological abuse, poor dental and physical health, and anÂ education regime run by the community that falls below provincial standards, according to The Star.
The sect, led by Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, reportedly uses extremeÂ violence and mind control. Most of its members are Israeli-born withÂ children born in Canada.
Originally an Israeli citizen, Helbrans went to the United States, where he was convicted in 1994 for kidnapping and served a two-yearÂ prison term before being deported to Israel in 2000. He then settled inÂ Canada.
An Israeli parliamentary hearing last month documented cases ofÂ physical abuse and said the sect is a dangerous cult.