Quebec’s human rights commission is expected to release its report Thursday morning on how well the system handled child protection issues regarding the ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect that fled Quebec last year.
In November 2013, about 250 members of Lev Tahor left Ste-Agathe-des-Monts in the Laurentians to avoid a hearing in Youth Court. The group was facing allegations of child abuse and neglect by Quebec’s Department of Youth Protection, but left the province for Chatham-Kent, a town in southwestern Ontario.
Ontario’s courts ruled against an order made by Quebec at the time to return 14 of the children to Quebec to be placed in foster care. Child services in Chatham-Kent also refused to remove all 127 children from the community.
Many families left Ontario for Guatemala, where they have been living since.
The commission launched its study in May 2014, to determine whether police, youth protection officials, education officials, the health sector and the legal system had the proper tools and administrative and judicial powers. The study is expected to report on how the system protects youth in sects and religious groups, including high-profile cases, such as the 2009 murder of four-members of the Shafia family by their parents and brother.
“The commission has to assure that all young people in Quebec in all communities see their rights respected,” said Camil Picard, the commission’s vice-president responsible for youth matters, when the report was first announced. “We want to know that the actors have what they need to intervene in assuring children’s rights are protected.”
Sûreté du Québec investigators found that within the Lev Tahor community young girls were tied up when they disobeyed and married off before the legal age. Some children were taken away from their family to live with other families, and corporal punishment was used in classes for children. Members are believed to be given psychotropic drugs and generally live isolated from other communities.