A judge has ordered members of an extremist haredi Orthodox sect to return to Quebec for a court hearing on allegations of child neglect.
The members of Lev Tahor, or Pure Heart, left their homes in Ste. Agathe in Quebec early last week out of fear that Canadian welfare authorities would take their children. The Canadian media reported over the weekend that the group of 200, including more than 130 children, would make its home in Chatham-Kent, a southwestern Ontario town of 108,000, several hundred miles from Quebec. Many of the families have already leased homes in the community, the Star reported.
Two of the 40 families have been ordered to return for a hearing with child protection officials on Wednesday, the Toronto Star reported Monday, The families will return for the hearing, Nachman Helbrans, son of the community’s leader, Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, told the newspaper.
Sect members told the Canadian media that they made the move due to a dispute with education authorities in Quebec over the curriculum 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, The Star reported over the weekend.
The sect, led by Israeli Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, reportedly uses 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 sect members the day after the group fled their homes, according to the CBC.