The Ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect, Lev Tahor, fled Quebec back in 2013 because the province was trying to get them to allow their children a balanced education where they learned more than Yiddish and the Talmud. They went to Ontario for awhile, but then eventually fled mostly to Guatemala.
They were about to have their children taken away for not only violating their rights to a useful education but also real physical and mental abuse. We're talking about pee filled beds, forced taking of prescription drugs, forced under age marriages and extreme corporal abuse.
Well, a report was just released, concluding that child welfare agencies did a lousy job of protecting the well-being of the children.
The Montreal Gazette writes:
Camil Picard, the vice-president of youth issues for the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse, said the delays in this case were “incomprehensible,” considering the fact it took 17 months for youth protection officials to move to seize the children after the problem was first identified.You can read about the extreme foot dragging over at CTV, LaPresse and Radio Canada. It's awful.
It also took school board officials 15 months to take action to get proper schooling for the children in the community. The children were receiving a strictly religious education, and spoke neither English nor French. Picard said children have the right to receive a proper education, and if they don’t get that, youth officials must intervene.
“In this situation, it’s clear that the (parties) systematically failed in their role to protect the children, including health services, the education department and youth protection,” Picard said.
Here's something I find a little nauseating though. It has to do with how certain, mostly English (Rest of Canada) news agencies report about religion, in particular. I'm sorry to report that I've seen it time and time again - a sort of freakish deference to religion exhibited by the anglo media.
The French stories I read all contain a reference by the commission's president, Jacques Frémont alluding to why the agencies may have been really soft on this cult. So soft and cautious, so as not to offend religious sensibilities that the very lives of the children were put into peril.
CTV is the only story I found in English to carry Fremont's comments on religion:
Jacques Frémont, the commission’s president, said Thursday it appears “other considerations,” not the best interests of the children who were the subject of the hearings, played a role in the way the youth protection, school officials, social services and even the police handled the interventions with the community.What were these other considerations?
Some of the issues the report highlighted include that youth protection and school officials spoke to community leaders instead of the parents, and school officials gave community leaders 15-months to comply to the law requiring children attend school. Lev Tahor children were homeschooled.This statement was missing from the Gazette and the CBC report, while always present in some form in the French sources I read. I wasn't the only one to notice this:
“Freedom of religion cannot – in any circumstances – be used as a pretext for abuse and neglect. It is therefore essential that, from now on, all organizations intervening in this type of environment better understand public interests involved and favour, in all cases, the protection of children's rights," he said.
This article leaves out a key statement from the report:How very curious, indeed! I wonder why the CBC and Gazette both missed this?
« La liberté de religion ne peut en aucun cas constituer un prétexte pour la maltraitance ou la négligence. »
In English: "Freedom of religion can never constitute a pretext to abuse or neglect."
Why this omission?