Lev Tahor children summoned back to Quebec

by O.Georges on February 7, 2014 - 5:30pm

The Lev Tahor community is an orthodox Jewish cult that has settle in Quebec a generation ago and that lives closed from outside society. Some of their common practices and beliefs teaches their women not to ever take off their socks, home school their children and marry only inside the community. Lately, after concerns from the neighbors and several visits from child services, the Lev Tahor made editorial headlines several times this year for reports of psychological and physical abuse, health and hygiene problems, violence against children and education that is substandard for Canada. During the investigation made by the SPVM, the whole community left Quebec ‘’in a hurry’’ to move to rural Ontario. They claim to have already planned to move anyway but some reports indicate the travelling to have been made overnight in a rush, as if they were escaping something. Recently, Ontario court ruled that the children from the community will be returned to Quebec where they will be placed in the hands of child services. It is very difficult for officials to successfully make reports of child abuse or psychological abuse in this situation as most members of the cult only speak Yiddish and see everyone they don’t know as a threat. Along with the Charter of Value in Quebec, this topic is at the center of a heated argument on the matters of reasonable accommodations and cultural acceptance in Quebec, a secular society that has Catholicism still rooted in its patrimony and culture. The Lev Tahor claim their right to exercise their beliefs freely without intervention from the government as it is stated in the Canadian constitution, whereas some would argue they need to adapt some of their life habits to Canadian cultural standards. The community uses cultural relativism as an argument to be left alone in the matter; that they have the right to do as their culture indicates and that we have no right to claim that our way of seeing things is better. On the other side of this moral argument, the government values sanctity of human life and security, fearing for the wellbeing and the future of the children in the cult.

While I am a firm supporter of moral and cultural relativism, I would have to side with the government on this issue. Moral relativism would dictate that the values or moral standards of the majority are always right and in this situation the cult does not represent majority. Freedom of belief is an important clause in the constitution and everyone should be able to exercise their religion freely but the government still needs to establish standards that apply to everyone to have a functional society. Reports of child abuse or psychological and physical abuse should always be investigated the same way, regardless of someone’s culture or religion. The children’s education is particularly concerning in this matter as they are homeschooled and only learn to speak Yiddish. Educational laws in Quebec exist for a very good reason, so that everyone can have a functional place in society when they grow older. While not meeting educational standards for Canada and speaking only Yiddish, it will be impossible for any of those individuals to function outside of the cult.