Nine members of the haredi Orthodox Lev Tahor sect who fled Canada earlier this week were returned to the country.
A plane carrying three Lev Tahor adults and six children from Trinidad and Tobago was greeted Saturday night by Toronto-area police and children’s aid officials. The children were taken into the custody of Chatham-Kent Children’s Services, located about a three-hour drive southwest of Toronto.
The three adults were processed by border agents, according to the Toronto Star.
The Lev Tahor members were stopped in Trinidad and Tobago on March 7, apparently en route to Guatemala, where several other sect members fled earlier in the week. The children – 12 in total – were named in a court order that sought to remove them from the community and place them in foster care.
Their departure was reported on the same day as an appeal was to be heard in an Ontario court of an earlier ruling to seize 13 children. Sect members failed to show up in court, and the judge instructed local children’s aid workers to use all law enforcement resources to apprehend the children.
Saturday night’s seizure of the six children “went well,” a police spokesman told the Star.
But earlier in Trinidad, things did not go so smoothly, according to a local media report.
“Members of the group of men, women and children did not all go quietly,” reported the Trinidad Express. “One elderly man had to be carried by law enforcement officials while another, a screaming female, had to be pushed by two women police officers into a waiting 25-seater bus to be taken to the airport.”
Sect members were stopped in the Caribbean nation because of inconsistencies in their stories, border officials had said. They refused to go back to Canada and wanted passage to Guatemala.
In November, about 250 Lev Tahor adherents fled to Ontario from Quebec just ahead of an order to seize 14 children. Officials said they had evidence of physical beatings, underage marriage, forcible confinement and neglect. That order was upheld by an Ontario court, which exempted a 17-year-old girl but not her baby.
Both mother and baby are now believed to be in New York state, and the fate of sect members in Guatemala is unknown.