Watch the video above: 3 children from the Lev Tahor sect are reportedly in Sick Kids Hospital on hunger strike. Sean Mallen reports.
TORONTO – Several Lev Tahor children apprehended by Chatham-Kent Child Services are on a hunger strike until they are returned to their families, according to an email sent by someone acting as a “media coordinator” for the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.
Three of the children have apparently been admitted to Toronto’s SickKids Hospital to be force-fed, according to Pamela Palmer, who identifies herself as the Lev Tahor’s media coordinator. That includes a 14-year-old girl reportedly rushed to hospital Monday night after she lost consciousness due to lack of food.
“As for the children that are still in the care of the CAS [Children’s Aid Services] since being illegally detained and taken into custody by police in Trinidad, the children are on a hunger strike until they are to be returned home to their families,” said an email signed by Palmer.
A SickKids spokesperson did not “have authorization to release any information” pertaining to whether any Lev Tahor children had been admitted or whether the hospital had been in touch with police or Chatham-Kent Children’s Services as of Tuesday.
The director of Quebec’s youth protection centre—one of the first organizations to get involved in the children’s welfare while the community was still living in St.-Agathe-des-Monts—said in a Sunday statement (translated from French) that he was pleased at the return of six Lev Tahor children from Trinidad and Tobago to Ontario. But there are eight more children under a judge’s apprehension order to be placed into foster care.
“Pursuant to the order of the Superior Court of Ontario, issued earlier this week, the children were taken care by the child welfare services of Chatham-Kent,” Centre jeunesse des Laurentides director Denis Baraby said in a statement.
“Despite this positive outcome, I remain very concerned about the situation of the other eight children, as well as that of the hundred others remained in the community. As such, we continue to closely monitor developments and continue to work with the child welfare services in Ontario and the authorities.”
At least two Lev Tahor families left Canada for Guatemala last week, but some of them were stopped in Trinidad. The group (three adults and the six children) was detained by immigration authorities after their flight landed in Trinidad and Tobago Monday, March 3.
Palmer said those in Guatemala are “on vacation” and will stay there until after their appeal against the order to remove 13 children from their families is heard April 4. She said if Lev Tahor loses the appeal, the group on vacation will likely stay in Guatemela.
Nine members of the sect returned to Canada Saturday evening and the children were placed in the care of the Children’s Aid Society.
The members of Lev Tahor were supposed to appear in court last Wednesday for a hearing in Chatham-Kent, Ontario to contest a Feb. 3 order that 13 of the sect’s children be taken into foster care because of allegations of abuse and neglect—all of which Lev Tahor has denied.
After the verdict, six children were sent to Trinidad and Tobago and six others went to Guatemala for a “vacation.” Canadian authorities, including child protection, flew to Trinidad on Friday to bring them back.
Reports suggest a teenage girl and her infant daughter were met by police Sunday afternoon in Calgary and will be returned to Ontario’s Chatham-Kent Children’s Services at an unspecified time.
The hearing of the appeal has been postponed to April 4.
With files from Global News reporter Rachel Lau and The Canadian Press
Editor’s note: This article has been updated from its original version published March 10 to include information on the third child apparently admitted to hospital and the plans of the Lev Tahor members in Guatemala.
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