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Lev Tahor case adjourned until January 10

Lev Tahor member Uriel Goldman stands outside the Chatham courthouse on December 23, 2013. Photo Greg Holden

Lev Tahor member Uriel Goldman stands outside the Chatham courthouse on December 23, 2013. Photo Greg Holden

By Greg Holden

Legal arguments were heard today in a Chatham court on the fate of 14 children of the Lev Tahor sect that recently moved to Chatham. Proceedings were adjourned until January 10 to allow time for legal representation to be retained by the children and in one case a person who is both a parent and a child in the application by Chatham-Kent Children’s Services (CKCS).

Also at issue was the right for news media to view court documents. CKSC wanted to keep the documents out of the eyes of the public, arguing the documents were highly sensitive. The Honourable Justice Stephen J. Fuerth ruled in agreement with lawyer Iain MacKinnon, who was representing six news media organizations (not the CKReview), that court documents should be released to the media. Fuerth gave instruction through the court that limits news coverage to events in the case and bans publicizing the names of any children, parents or members of their family. MacKinnon told the CKReview, “The CAS lost their application to prevent media from access to court records.”

Representing the families was Christopher Knowles, a family protection lawyer from Windsor. Knowles sought to have children in the case have legal representation and the CKCS countered that the application should go ahead. Fuerth ruled that minor parents, (parents under 18) should be represented. The problem of finding legal representation so quickly was raised, to which Fuerth replied that due to the seriousness of the case there would be no problem finding counsel on short notice from London or Toronto. Knowles agreed.

Gary Conn, deputy police chief, was in the court and told the CKReview that the police had not conducted an investigation of their own into Lev Tahor and were acting on the request of the CKCS.

Outside the court, Uriel Goldman said the Lev Tahor prohibits sexual relations outside of marriage and breaking the law. He adamantly rejected that girls under 16 are married while openly speaking about arranged marriages and that he is  married to the same woman his family arranged him to be with more than 20 years ago. Accusations that families were rushed out in the dark of night from Quebec were explained as the best time to travel when kids would sleep. Accounts of a harrowing exit were dismissed as the words of a sole neighbour with a grudge. Goldman is a very accomplished speaker, with well-versed replies. Two Lev Tahor men accompanied Goldman, however it was quite clear they were not to speak with the media.

At stake is the immediate future of 14 children. Allegations of abuse have rocked this small community of people. Unlike most people facing losing their children, they spoke patiently to the media. At one point Goldman described talking to mayor Randy Hope and how helpful he was. He also described many residents who would engage members of Lev Tahor on the street in a welcoming way.