Newly released documents from the Lev Tahor child welfare case reveal a scene of confusion — and of community members seemingly playing defence — when child protection officials discovered 14 children had fled the country days before their families were to appeal an apprehension order.Speaking of which, here's an extra report about how the men in the cult made all the decisions:
The documents also show workers with Chatham-Kent Children’s Services suspected the families would once again flee to avoid an Ontario court order to place the children in the care of children’s aid services in Quebec. [...]
Chatham-Kent Children’s Services workers discovered the children were missing after they arrived at the Lev Tahor compound in Chatham-Kent around 2 p.m. March 4. At the home where some of the children lived, they found no one.
The first sign something was wrong, child protection worker Ted Heath testified, was that the home was unusually silent. “Usually when we do visits we can hear lots of people inside,” he said.
Officials then attempted to enter a nearby school, where they spoke to an adult who would not tell them what was happening or if he had seen the family. They were not permitted to enter the school.
“It took 15 minutes of talking to him to finally for him to say he hasn’t seen them today,” Heath said.
Heath said he tried to speak to one of the community leaders, Uriel Goldman, about the children’s whereabouts. But he and two other community members, Nachman Helbrans and Mayer Rosner — who Heath described in his testimony as controlling essentially everything in the community — moved to run away.
“We noticed Mr. Goldman got into his . . . minivan, and Mr. Rosner yelled ‘Nachman, get in the van,’ ” said Heath. They did.
“It was very odd to have them all leave the community at the same time and not be on site while we’re there,” he said.
Heath testified Chatham-Kent Children’s Services suspected Lev Tahor members would consider fleeing prior to the court date. He and another worker saw some of the 14 children on March 1 — three days before the group fled — and cautioned them not to leave.
Heath said he reminded one of the families they were expected in court March 5 for their appeal of an apprehension order involving the 14 children.
He said the parents, who cannot be identified due to a court-ordered publication ban, answered: “Yes, we know, we will be there, no problem.”
Heath said he and another worker, Jennifer Doran, searched the home for signs they would possibly leave, but found the clothes all hung in closets.
“It did not look like they were fleeing,” he said.
Child welfare officials returned to one of the homes the morning of the hearing.
“There was packing tape on the door,” Heath said. “It was just kind of down the seam of the door and we weren’t sure why that would be there, but it was all quiet inside and we heard nothing.”
At the March 5 hearing, child protection officials also spoke more generally about their recent communications with the community, specifically with Helbrans, Goldman and Rosner.
“Decisions in the community go through these individuals,” Heath said. “If we’re to be let into the home, it goes through these individuals. If they are not to let us into the home, it goes through these individuals.”
Documents show there had initially been a spirit of co-operation between Lev Tahor and the child welfare workers, but relations began to sour after a Jan. 27 meeting with the three community leaders.
At the meeting, they admitted to one case of underage marriage within the sect, though details of what was said were redacted from the court transcript.
The meeting was prompted after staff began receiving letters from family members indicating they were no longer willing to co-operate with authorities.
The care of the Lev Tahor kids who settled in Chatham last fall seemed to be controlled by community leaders, not their own parents, an Ontario court heard earlier this month. [...]It looks like, when the cult leaders realized the authorities were on to their dirty tricks, they started feeding at least some of the children so their abuse wouldn't look too obvious. And it's even more obvious the 3 ringleaders control decisions within the community, right down to money issues, and nobody has free will, or they're brainwashed enough so that Helbrans is their pagan deity. Regardless of whether the children were abused, such a society is extremely distasteful and cannot be supported.
Ted Heath of Chatham Kent Children’s Services testified at the hearing that most of the agency’s concerns revolved around the lack of education for girls in the community and arranged underage marriages.
The children appeared clean, fed and unbruised, he said.
There was always food in the fridges of the families who moved to Spurgeon’s Villa last November.
There were toys, too — though they were usually kept in boxes or appeared “staged” and not age-appropriate for the kids in the home — but that seemed to be the doing of three men who act as community spokespeople, Heath said.
“They control food in the community, the way (others) dress,” he testified.
“The leaders pay their rent. It seems to be up to the leaders, not up to the parents to provide (for children),” Heath said. “(Community members) don’t have the freedom of choice.”
That’s why the sight of those leaders — Uriel Goldman, Mayer Rosner and Nachman Helbrans — jumping into a van and driving away, moments after family service workers arrived March 4 to check on families who had been ordered to stay put, raised red flags, Heath said.
“Usually all three are there and make the decisions,” he said.