Members of the fringe ultra-Orthodox Lev Tahor sect have started wearing the yellow Star of David, like the ones the Nazis used to identify Jews, as a symbol of what they see as their persecution by authorities, according to Canadian media reports. Academics and Jewish groups have slammed the move.

In November, about 250 of the sect's members fled to Ontario from Quebec ahead of a court order to seize 14 children from them. Officials said they had evidence of physical beatings, underage marriage, forcible confinement and neglect.

An Ontario court upheld the order, which exempted a 17-year-old girl but not her baby.

Members fled Canada last week to avoid the order, and nine of them are now back in the country. Six children in the group were placed in the custody of child-welfare authorities upon their return.

Academics and Jewish organizations have slammed the use of the yellow stars as “offensive” and “inappropriate,” The Observer reported.

“They are not being persecuted and brought to death,” Alain Goldschlager, director of the Holocaust Literature Research Institute at Western University, was cited as saying.

B’nai Brith Canada said using such imagery is “unacceptable.”

“In a nutshell, it's offensive,” said Anita Bromberg, national director of legal affairs for B’nai Brith. "If they've got concerns about the way they're being treated, then they should raise it. But to use such imagery is unacceptable," she said.

"It so understates what the horrors of the Holocaust were, where kids were dragged out of their parents' arms and killed in front of them. Here, authorities -- you can have a dispute about what they're doing -- but the child-welfare officials have a job to do and that's to make sure the kids are well cared for... That's not Nazi behaviour by any means."

The sect, known as the "Jewish Taliban" for their dress and anti-Zionist attitude, is led by Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, who served two years in jail for conspiracy to commit kidnapping. He brought the community to Canada from Monsey, New York, after receiving refugee status there on the claim that he faced persecution back in Israel.