WINNIPEG — Children have been removed from an orthodox Mennonite community in southern Manitoba, where more adults have been charged with assaulting youngsters using items such as cattle prods and leather straps.
Manitoba Family Services would not say Wednesday how many children had been taken into care, or reveal any other details about the case.
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“Child protection professionals are working with the families and children involved in this difficult circumstance, including providing counselling services and supports during their participation in the ongoing RCMP investigation,” the department said in a brief email.
“The child protection staff are also working to ensure culturally sensitive placements for the children.”
They walked into the houses, took the babies out of the cribs while they were sleeping
Few in the close-knit community are saying anything but one man driving a horse-drawn buggy told Global Winnipeg he was “very distressed” at the removal of the children, saying 42 in all were taken.
“The CFS has apprehended all our children that are minors. They walked into the houses, took the babies out of the cribs while they were sleeping.”
Two adults from the tiny orthodox community were charged in March with various counts of assault and assault with a weapon on several boys and girls between July 2011 and January of this year.
This week, two more adults appeared in court to face similar charges involving 12 alleged victims. The allegations are once again that the assaults were repeated and over roughly the same 18-month time frame. They were released pending their next court appearance.
The identities of the alleged victims are shielded by a court-ordered publication ban. The Canadian Press is not naming the accused and the small community where they live.
Leaders from the community had approached the Mennonite Central Committee for parenting advice before any of the charges were laid, committee spokesman Brad Reimer said in an interview earlier this year.
The orthodox Mennonite community is one of many that eschew modern amenities such as electricity and automobiles and adhere to Biblical teachings.
Royden Loewen, chair of the University of Winnipeg’s Mennonite studies program, said earlier this year that many Mennonites believe in traditional corporal punishment for children. But, he added, they follow a rule that says children should not be injured or hit out of anger.
The CFS has apprehended all our children that are minors
The allegations against the accused have not been proven in court.
Defence lawyer Scott Newman, who represents the first two people charged and appeared in court this week with the two latest accused, said Wednesday he is awaiting more disclosure from the Crown.
“It’s such an early stage, there’s not much I can comment on,” he said.
RCMP are not ruling out more charges, saying the investigation is not over.