Members of a fugitive ultra-Orthodox Jewish cult in Canada are forced to take psychotropic drugs, and many of the girls have severe fungus on their feet, evidently from being forced to wear stockings, tights and shoes at all times, Quebec court papers made public on Thursday revealed.
The Montreal Gazette reported that the court papers contain testimony from social workers and nurses who examined members of the Lev Tahor (Pure Heart) cult, run by the Israel-born Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans. He and his followers left Israel in 1990. There are now an estimated 200 people - including more than 130 children - in the cult, which has essentially been keeping one step ahead of the law of late, reportedly leaving their compound in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec in the middle of the night last November and heading for Chatham-Kent, Ontario.
The unsealed papers, from a November youth court hearing over whether to remove 14 Lev Tahor children to foster care, included a social worker's testimony that children were taken from their parents care for weeks or months at a time as punishment for breaking Lev Tahor's extreme rules.
A girl who at 14 was compelled to marry a cult member in his 30s told social workers that the rabbi ordered her to take anti-psychotic drugs, even though doctors said she didn't need them and prescribed her different medication.
At the November hearing in St. Jerome, Quebec, youth court Judge Pierre Hamel ordered the 14 children in question removed to foster care for at least 30 days. However, the children had already left for Ontario with their families and the others in the cult.
An Ontario court is expected on February 3 to decide if that province's officials have the authority to carry out the Quebec judge's order.
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