Recently released police documents reveal allegations of sex abuse, confinement, and beatings connected in the ultra-orthodox Jewish sect Lev Tahor in Ontario and Quebec, Canada.
The documents contain information used to obtain search warrants executed in January on properties belonging to Lev Tahor families in Ontario and Quebec, according to Toronto Star reporting posted on the web site failedmessiah.com. The allegations portray a community where women and children live in a tightly controlled environment under strictly enforced rules.
Testimony at a Quebec hearing that resulted in an order for the removal of 14 children alleged a pattern of psychological abuse and control, inadequate physical and dental hygiene, and substandard education, according to the Star. Members of the group fled Quebec before the order could be executed. An Ontario court reviewed the Quebec order and upheld it for 13 of the 14 children.
The documents allege that a 17-year-old pregnant girl, taken to a hospital by ambulance in December 2012, had been sexually abused by her father and beaten by her brother, and she had been married off at age 15. When she arrived at the hospital, she was incapable of interviews, though her injuries were photographed, according to the Star report.
Other documents allege that “disobedient” girls as young as 13 and 14 were confined in basements of homes, according to the Star. One 14-year-old girl interviewed by social workers said she did not want to return to the community because she feared being forced into marriage. In another police document, a man reports witnessing a sect member ordered to hit a woman in the face because she refused to wear a burqa-like covering as dictated by Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, Lev Tahor’s leader.
There are allegations that children were brought to Canada from other countries for the purpose of future marriages, and allegations of forced medication, and removal of children from homes where parents were deemed to not be properly following religious guidelines. Rabbi Helbrans denies forced removals and says children were placed elsewhere when a family asked for help. In a video posted Friday morning, Helbrans accuses authorities of waging a campaign of “genocide” against Lev Tahor.