MONTREAL — Sûreté du Québec investigators got help from Interpol and authorities in Israel to establish a criminal case against the ultra-Orthodox sect Lev Tahor.If those children are still in foster care, they're lucky, as the following should make perfectly clear:
These are among several new revelations from search warrants unsealed by a judge on Wednesday. The warrants were issued by a Quebec judge to SQ investigators to search the homes of Lev Tahor members in Chatham-Kent, Ont., last Jan. 28.
The warrants allege members of the community falsified government documents, and engaged in human trafficking.
The community of about 250 lived in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., for about a decade before youth protection authorities were alerted to allegations of widespread abuse and neglect. The Department of Youth Protection in the Laurentians ordered the parents of 14 children to appear in court last November, but the community fled en masse to Chatham-Kent, Ont. Last March, the community relocated again to Guatemala, though two of its members remain in foster families in Toronto.
The case against Lev Tahor began in April of 2012, after the SQ received a letter from the lawyer of Nathan Helbrans, the adult son of the group’s leader, Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans. Nathan had left the sect earlier that year, telling Israeli media his resistance to orders brought him in conflict with the community’s leaders. Several members twisted his legs until they broke, he said.This is absolutely horrific, and furthers my disgust at the Canadian immigration board who gave Helbrans refugee status, allowing this terrible abuse to happen. Here's more from the Toronto Star, which stupidly describes the cult as a "sect", when they're definitely not that, nor are they true Judaists:
Nathan Helbrans’s lawyer transmitted to the SQ a list of allegations of wrongdoing within the sect including:
The use of physical force as a method of punishment during classes for children.
Young girls of 13 and 14 years of age are tied up in basements when they disobey.
Teenage children of 14 and 15 years old are forced to marry older men.
Children are forcibly removed from their families and relocated with other families as instructed by Shlomo Helbrans for not being properly educated.
Members of the community are forced to take psychotropic drugs.
The community controls all money received by members from the government.
Children from other countries are sent to the community to be married to members of the community, and they arrive under false pretences in order to evade immigration authorities.
Over the course of their investigation, SQ investigators met with Nathan Helbrans as well as other former members of the community, and with concerned family members who live in Israel. The sect was started in Israel in the late 1980s by Helbrans, so many of the community’s members have Israeli passports and citizenship, as would their children. Helbrans resettled in Brooklyn in the 1990s, but he was deported after he was convicted of kidnapping a 13-year-old boy. He was granted refugee status in Canada in 2003, after claiming he would be persecuted in Israel were he to return, since he is against the establishment of the state of Israel.
Two weeks after beginning the investigation, SQ Investigator Stéphane Chartrand met with DYP worker Suzanne Tye, who told him she removed a girl from the community after meeting her in the hospital. The girl complained that she didn’t want to return, because she was promised to a man for marriage. She seemed scared, Tye said, and members of the community were constantly hanging around the hospital to ensure that she didn’t speak to authorities.
The document also makes reference to a December 2012 incident in which a 17-year-old girl was taken from the community by ambulance to the Children’s Hospital in Montreal. The girl told nursing staff she was physically beaten by her brother, sexually assaulted by her father and married at the age of 15 to a man who was 30. However, investigators were not able to speak with her when they arrived, because she was not coherent.
In co-operation with Interpol, the complaints of several former members of the sect and family members in Israel were passed on to the SQ. Names, and their relations to members of the community have been redacted from the document.
One family member said he visited the community to see a male relative in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts. He had married a woman when she was 14 years old and they had children together.
Another family member who visited the community heard leaders explain to members when they should hit children.
Both family members said they noticed children were not all living with their parents.
A former member said children are often removed from their families, and while some adapt well, others are constantly crying. He said that one of the community’s leaders, Mayer Rosner, took all his sources of revenue, saying he wasn’t capable to mange his own finances. The man had trouble in the community because his mother had refused to wear the black cloak that would cover most of her body. The man said he was beaten, and he witnessed several other beatings.
A third member said he was forced to take pills with every meal, and when he disobeyed, he was beaten by hand and with sticks, belts, crowbars and whips.
Another former member, Adam Brudzevski, told police in Quebec that he was forced to beat children with a belt in the community’s synagogue. He was also forced to create false documents for the ministry of education. He said the rabbi tells members of the community to see doctors and tell them specific symptoms in order to receive drugs. They were told to ask for specific drugs by name, he told police.
In August 2013, members of the DYP began visiting the community to try to improve the situation for the children living there. They met with several children, but they were not getting much co-operation. When DYP workers arrived on Nov. 18 to issue notices for two families to appear in court the next day, they found out the community had fled the previous evening in three buses, and the sum of $9,650 was paid in cash to the bus drivers when they arrived in Ste-Agathe, interviews with the drivers revealed.
The families missed several other court dates, and on Nov. 27, 14 children were ordered onto foster care. A youth court judge also issued an order to appear for all 120 of the children in the community. None has returned to Quebec since last November.
The child-protection probe began with a clash over Lev Tahor’s home-schooling regime. It was found that children were living in unsanitary conditions and some could speak or write in neither French nor English, part of Quebec’s mandatory curriculum.If they left without their children, fine; they don't deserve to have any with the alarmingly abusive customs they forced upon them. What I want to know now is whether Israeli and Canadian authorities are going to press Guatemala to cooperate by shutting down Helbrans and his thugs for good, and save the children from such a sickening situation. This charade has gone on for far too long, and those Canadian authorities who allowed the gang to make their getaways so easily should be ashamed of themselves for acting irresponsibly.
But when police accompanied child welfare officials to the community in August 2013 — and were forced to wait over an hour to get access to the homes — they developed suspicions that all was not right within the sect. Among other things, they saw a man going house-to-house carrying a paper bag, according to the court documents.
“When police were finally able to enter the houses, the women and men right away presented their identity papers, either passports, immigration papers or health insurance cards,” the documents note.
Interviews with members revealed in the police document paint a disturbing portrait of life in the community. One unidentified person told police he was forcibly separated from his family upon their arrival there.
“He was placed with an unknown family ... he had nothing to eat; he had to beg,” the ITO states. The same person told of an incident in which a Lev Tahor member was ordered to hit a woman in the face because she refused Rabbi Helbrans’ orders to wear a long black gown resembling a burqa. The person told police all income had to be handed over to Lev Tahor’s leadership, and those who stepped out of line were forced to take psychiatric medication.
Brudzewsky also outlined a registration system whereby each family was allotted an amount of food each week from the general store, which they could obtain with coupons rather than their own funds, the documents state.
There were forced prayers on Saturday, the Jewish holy day, during which Lev Tahor members were required to pray for six hours in the morning followed by one hour of meditation. There were more prayers again in the afternoon and evening.
“Adam (Brudzewsky) indicated that during the prayers at the synagogue in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, people were locked in the building ... the doors were locked with a key so that no one was able to leave,” police wrote in the documents.
Despite the police investigation and the scrutiny of child-welfare authorities in Quebec and Chatham-Kent, most of the Lev Tahor community successfully fled to Guatemala in the spring. Some children remain in foster care in Ontario, but the Lev Tahor families that stayed behind in Chatham appear to have left on Aug. 27, said Stephen Doig, executive director of Chatham-Kent Children’s Services.
The police have been alerted, but Doig said Wednesday the missing families have not been located.