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The Jewish sect Lev Tahor, which means ‘pure heart,’ came to Canada in 2005, after their spiritual leader Rabbi Shlomo Elbarnes was granted refugee status here.


Local authorities have removed two toddlers from the controversial ultra-Orthodox Jewish community Lev Tahor, which recently relocated from Quebec to the Chatham-Kent area, ahead of a bid by Quebec officials to place 14 other children into foster care.

The two youngsters who were taken by Chatham-Kent Children's Services are a brother and sister, and were removed last Thursday, community member Uriel Goldman said in an interview.

A court hearing Tuesday in Chatham will be held to review the interim care order obtained by CKCS, said Chris Knowles, a lawyer for Lev Tahor.

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"We want the application dismissed," Mr. Knowles said in an interview Monday.

"This is an unfortunate example of the state intervening with people's lives with no basis," he added.

He said the two children were taken without warrants after an investigation by CKCS. Chatham police officers were present but no criminal files were opened, Mr. Knowles added.

He said there were marks on the children's faces but said it might have been just ink stains.

"Short of some definite evidence of abuse or immediate harm, we don't see why those children are not with their parents or with someone in their community," Mr. Knowles said.

It is unclear who is caring for the two siblings. Mr. Knowles said it is unlikely there are Hasidic families in the Chatham area that could provide a Jewish orthodox foster environment for the toddlers.

The two children are not in the same group of 14 who had been ordered into foster homes last month by Quebec Court Judge Pierre Hamel.

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Those 14 children, among the 200 community members now in Ontario, would have been placed with orthodox families in the Montreal area.

That earlier case stemmed from a long dispute between the community, Quebec child-protection authorities and former members of Lev Tahor.

Lev Tahor used to live in the Laurentians town of Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, north of Montreal, until they relocated to the Chatham area last month, citing fears that Quebec officials would remove their children.

The Centre jeunesse des Laurentides alleges that the children were not properly schooled and were raised in squalor. Other allegations of abuse were heard in court but are under a publication ban.

The CKCS is now trying to get Judge Hamel's order recognized in an Ontario court. A hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 23.

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