May 15, 2014

Lev Tahor lawyer seeks lifting of apprehension order

Jason Magder
The Gazette 
May 14, 2014

The lawyer for Lev Tahor said Quebec must lift an order for the apprehension of all the children of Lev Tahor to allow the group to travel freely outside of Canada.
An apprehension order was issued by Quebec’s court last year asking for the return of all 127 of the children of Lev Tahor, an extremist ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect that moved en masse to Ontario late last year after living in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts since 2001.

The apprehension order was not executed by Children’s Services in Chatham-Kent, where the group relocated. Guidy Mamann, the group’s lawyer, said they only discovered the order existed several weeks ago, when some of the children applied to get Canadian passports. He said passports aren’t issued to people who have an outstanding warrant against them. The passport office has since asked that the children who have valid passports return them.

Mamann said since the order won’t ever be enforced, it must be lifted, because keeping it in place could force some families to leave the country without their children.

Most of the adults of the group are Israeli or U.S. citizens, and are in this country on temporary visas. Although they have been renewed in the past, Mamann said recent events lead him to believe the government will probably deny future requests.

“The dozen years they spent here were uneventful, but the last six months were clearly not,” he said. “It has become quite clear that the (Canadian Border Services Agency), and (Citizen and Immigration Canada) have a very different approach to Lev Tahor at this point.”

In recent months, seven of the members were arrested by CBSA, and three have since left the country. If the residency status of other members expires, they may also have to leave the country. If their children don’t have Canadian passports, they won’t be permitted to travel with them.

“They’re going to risk being arrested and deported without their kids, and that’s crazy,” Mamann said. “This order that was meant to protect the children may end up harming them if their parents are deported and they end up here on their own, risking being placed in foster care. That makes no sense.”

Mamann said the group is looking for a new place to live because it seems to have worn out its welcome in Canada. Several members have recently relocated to Guatemala in Central America.

Isabelle Dugré, a spokesperson for the Department of Youth Protection in the Laurentians region confirmed by email last week the apprehension order is being maintained, but refused to elaborate on the reason. The department’s director has declined an interview request.

In the meantime, the uncle of eight children who are part of the sect said he’s disappointed with how Canadian authorities have handled the situation. The man can’t be identified because the children are the subject of youth court proceedings in Quebec.

“These children were born in Canada and four have Canadian citizenship,” he recently wrote in a blog. “Canada is responsible for them. We demand that the Government of Canada meet its obligation to protect these children.”