Quebec police search homes of haredi Orthodox sect

(JTA) — Quebec police searched two homes belonging to the fringe haredi Orthodox sect Lev Tahor.

The raids took place Wednesday evening in Chatham, Ontario, where some 40 families of the sect fled in November from near Montreal out of fear that their children would be seized by child welfare authorities.

The raid comes days before an Ontario judge is set to decide whether 14 children ages several months old to 16 years old, can remain with their parents in Chatham, or be placed in foster care in Quebec where there is an outstanding order by child welfare services. The hearing is set for Feb. 3.

Police reportedly were searching for computers and other electronics during the raid, according to the Montreal Gazette.

Sect members told the Canadian media that they made the move due to a dispute with education authorities in Quebec over the curriculum they were being required to teach the children, who are home schooled, including subjects such as evolution.

The sect, led by Israeli Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, reportedly uses violence and mind control. Most of its members are Israeli-born with children born in Canada.