A lawyer for the ultra-Orthodox Lev Tahor community says an immigration crackdown at the sect's Chatham, Ont., community was an unnecessary intrusion timed to disrupt the group's preparations for an important court appeal on Friday.
"Someone made a call knowing full well this would derail the community two days before a huge appeal," Guidy Mamann said. "It looks like they wanted us to wobble into the court on one leg."
Canadian Border Services Agency agents flooded the community on Wednesday holding arrest warrants for seven members on suspected immigration lapses and deportation orders. They detained five of those named in the warrants, as well as U.S. citizen who did not have documentation to uphold his claim to visitor status, according to Mr. Mamann. The man opted to return to the United States rather than face an immigration hearing.
Mr. Mamann is negotiating for the remaining two members to meet with immigration officials in the coming days.
Of the five detained, two were released. The remaining three will face immigration board hearings in Toronto on Friday morning – the same time the group is scheduled to appear in a Chatham courtroom to argue against a court order to apprehend 14 Lev Tahor children.
In the days before the bust, Mr. Mamann had been negotiating to have the seven people meet with immigration officials. He said he fell ill with the flu last Thursday, temporarily delaying the negotiations. Six days later, border services officials arrived at the group's Chatham enclave with local police and child-protection workers.
"I guess somebody lost patience and decided to go through with the operation on Wednesday," Mr. Mamann said. "If they would have waited a day or so, none of this would have been necessary. I don't agree they needed to spend the resources they did on this."
The CBSA declined to comment on the matter.
The 10 a.m. raid took place at the same hour that the group's leaders were away in Toronto meeting with immigration officials. On Friday morning, the group is scheduled to appeal a court order originating in Quebec for the apprehension of 14 Lev Tahor children stemming from allegations of poor hygiene and insufficient education standards.
The group moved from Quebec to Ontario to avoid the order, but an Ontario judge endorsed the apprehension directive in February.