CHATHAM, ONT. - An Ontario Court of Justice judge has denied a request for two Lev Tahor children to spend Passover with members of the community, citing a concern over flight risk raised by the lawyer for Chatham-Kent Children’s Services.
William Sullivan, the lawyer representing two children who were apprehended and placed in foster care, said the family of Mayer Rosner, a community leader in the controversial ultra-orthodox Jewish sect, was willing to host them for three days during Passover.
“They are prepared to come here, participate in Passover, and if ordered, to return,” said Sullivan of the two children. “I said to my children clients when I saw them on Sunday, I said I want you to be the engineers of building this small bridge. I want you to, if this court was to permit you, to come to Chatham to spend Passover on the days that I’ve mentioned … to show the court that you will respect it.”
But Loree Hodgson-Harris, lawyer for CKCS, alleged Rosner played a role in the flight of the families that prompted the emergency order.
“Mayer Rosner is one of the community leaders that the society has concerns with,” said Hodgson-Harris, who said she was not given enough time to fully respond to the request. “The circumstances of this case involve parents fleeing the jurisdiction in the face of a court order. The evidence will be that it was with the assistance of the community leaders and in particular Mayer Rosner. The long and the short of it is that it’s much more complicated than the girls spending a few days in the community.”
Justice Lucy Glenn ruled that the two children could have access to the other children in care in Toronto and visits from their parents, but would not be returned to the community for Passover.
Glenn also ordered that the parents of the children be allowed eight hours per week of supervised visits. Chatham-Kent Children’s Services agreed to pay part of the cost required for the parents to travel to Toronto where the children are in care.
Glenn refused to release any of the documents filed with the court Tuesday. It’s not known exactly what the record contains, but one element filed by a lawyer for some of the children is an affidavit from a “clinical investigator.” A lawyer for the Toronto Star will fight for access to the court record Wednesday.
The two girls are part of a group of eight children apprehended after a March 5 emergency order. The court found that 14 children were taken out of the region of Chatham-Kent contrary to an order that they remain. Eight of the children were apprehended and placed with Jewish families in Toronto, while six remain in Guatemala with their parents.
The identities of the children and their parents are protected by a publication ban.
Child protection authorities in Quebec have documented allegations of abuse, underage marriage and a substandard education regime in the sect. The group fled Quebec en masse ahead of an order for the removal of 14 children to foster care. An Ontario court upheld that order, but allowed a 30-day stay for the families to appeal. On the day that appeal was scheduled to be held, it was discovered the children had been removed from Chatham-Kent.
The sect has categorically denied any allegations of abuse and says the Quebec case was solely related to its religious-only education.
The appeal hearing is scheduled to resume Wednesday.