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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Ontario judge orders Lev Tahor infant released to mother from foster care

CHATHAM, Ont. - An Ontario judge has ordered an infant with an ultra-orthodox Jewish sect to be released from foster care and placed in the care of the baby's 17-year-old mother.

Justice Paul Kowalyshyn ordered Chatham-Kent Children's Services to release the Lev Tahor child, who with the mother was taken into custody in Calgary after fleeing Ontario ahead of a child custody appeal hearing.

Kowalyshyn banned the infant's father from seeing the child until further notice and told the mother there would be "very specific terms of supervision," though details were not released.

A custody hearing for another six children placed in foster care after being stopped in Trinidad and Tobago and then sent back to Canada will take place next week.

A Superior Court judge ruled earlier this month that 13 children who are part of the group do not have to be sent back to Quebec, where much of the community fled late last year amid a child protection case.

Certain families in the community face unproven allegations of mistreatment, and child marriages.

Spokesmen for Lev Tahor have acknowledge the children are given a religious education, but have denied allegations of abuse and underage marriage.

Lev Tahor, a community of about 200 people, left their homes in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., in the middle of the night, after a child welfare agency started a child protection case against a couple of the families.

They settled in Chatham, but the families at the centre of the court case fled the country ahead of an appeal hearing.

Some were stopped in Trinidad and Tobago and were sent back to Canada and a 17-year-old mother and her baby were found in Calgary, but six of the children and two parents successfully fled to Guatemala.

(, The Canadian Press)

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