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Mennonite community ‘distressed’ after 42 children seized

GLADSTONE – A member of a Manitoba Old Order Mennonite community tells Global News that Child and Family Services took 42 children from their homes near Gladstone last week.

“We are very distressed,” said a bearded man riding a horse and buggy who Global News can’t identify to protect the identity of children involved.

“CFS has apprehended all our children that are minors. They walked into the houses, took the babies out of their cribs while they were sleeping.”

The seizure is believed to be related to multiple criminal charges against three men and one woman in the community, including assault and assault with a weapon, specifically a whip, a leather strap and a cattle prod. Court documents say the alleged assaults took place between July 2011 and January 2013.

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“I was surprised when I heard that,” said Peter Dyck, a Gladstone resident.

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“I didn’t think that was happening in their community.”

RCMP are investigating, and on Wednesday afternoon a police cruiser and a blue SUV were at one of the Mennonite properties. A farm resident who lives nearby said the property was home to one of the accused. There was a brief interaction between two men on the property and two RCMP officers. The officers left a short time later.  The occupants of the SUV did not exit the vehicle.

CFS issued this statement when asked about the mass apprehension:

“Child protection professionals are working with the families and children involved in this difficult circumstance, including providing counseling services and supports during their participation in the ongoing RCMP investigation. The child protection staff are also working to ensure culturally sensitive placements for the children.”

According to area residents, the community of about 100 moved to Manitoba roughly four years ago from Ontario.

“They just kind of go about their daily business, doing their own thing I guess,” said a neighbour who lives near the Mennonite properties.

Gladstone residents said members of the Mennonite community frequent the town for amenities such as the auction and veterinary services. Residents said interaction was limited, but always friendly, which is why the criminal charges are a surprise, they said.

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“It’s not that we want to get them out of here.  It’s just … make things right,” said Dyck.

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