Decision on Lev Tahor child custody appeal coming next week

An Ontario Superior Court judge is expected to issue a decision next week in a custody case involving 14 children from an ultra-orthodox Jewish sect.

Justice Lynda Templeton ruled against a Lev Tahor's request today for an adjournment in an appeal hearing in Chatham, Ont.

Templeton says the case is turning into a "procedural nightmare'' and notes the court must move forward "cautiously and as quickly as possible'' to determine whether the children should be reunited with their parents.

The group is appealing an Ontario judge's ruling that upheld a Quebec court order forcing 14 Lev Tahor children into foster care.

The Lev Tahor families at the centre of the custody battle fled the country ahead of their initial appeal hearing date last month.

Justice Templeton then ordered the emergency apprehension of all the children.

Six were discovered in Trinidad and Tobago and two were taken into custody at the Calgary airport. Six others remain in Guatemala, where they are reportedly seeking refugee status.

The Lev Tahor community continues to deny all allegations of forced marriages, child brides and mistreatment.

The original Quebec ruling came after the community of about 200 people left their homes in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts in the middle of the night and moved to Chatham, Ont., just days after a child welfare agency started a court case against a couple of the families.

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