The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse releases its comments on youth protection interventions regarding children of the Lev Tahor community
Montréal, July 9, 2015 — The youth protection interventions regarding children of the Lev Tahor community were marked by a lack of consultation and coordination of all concerned agencies, including the Director of Youth Protection (DYP), school officials, social services and the police.
"Clearly, youth protection interventions regarding the children of this community did not fully respect the principle of the child's best interests, a principle at the heart of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and of the Youth protection Act (YPA), as well as in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In Québec, we must ensure full respect of every child’s interest, regardless of his or her family, religious or community background," said today the President of the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse, Jacques Frémont.
“It appears that other considerations affected the interventions, taking more time, and losing track of the best interest of these children. Freedom of religion cannot – in any circumstances – be used as a pretext for abuse and neglect. It is therefore essential that, from now on, all organizations intervening in this type of environment better understand public interests involved and favour, in all cases, the protection of children's rights," said Mr. Frémont, during a news conference in Montréal, where the results of a study by an independent expert and the analysis of the Commission were made public.
The former minister responsible for Social Services and Youth Protection had asked the Commission, in spring 2014, to conduct a study (under Article 23f of the YPA) regarding the intervention of the DYP and its partners in this case. Members of the Lev Tahor community established in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts suddenly left Québec for Ontario after the DYP retained reports regarding 134 children in August 2013.
“Considering the circumstances, certain actions were questionable,” said Camil Picard, Vice President of the Commission, responsible for the youth mandate. The DYP and school officials dealt with community leaders instead of the parents. Moreover 17 months passed between the time the DYP was seized of the Lev Tahor file and the massive operation that led him to retain reports for 134 children. The DYP had agreed with the Sûreté du Québec’s request to delay visiting the families while police investigated criminal allegations.
The means and methods used by school officials to remind community leaders of the law requiring children attend school and to rectify the situation were clearly insufficient as they gave them a 15-month period to comply.
The Commission’s recommendations have already been referred to the Minister responsible for Youth Protection Lucie Charlebois and to the Education and Public Security Ministers. The Commission recommended:
That the ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (MSSS) develop a guide on best clinical and administrative practices regarding youth protection interventions concerning children who are members of a sect or a closed community;
That the MSSS distribute this guide widely and ensure that all those who are required to report under the YPA are properly trained;
To ensure there is better coordination between the DYP and the Youth Division of the Québec Court when the situation of a large number of children is brought before the court at the same time;
That the appropriate government departments take the necessary means to ensure that judgments issued in Québec can be enforced in another province and;
That the Entente multisectorielle relative aux enfants victimes d’abus sexuels, de mauvais traitements physiques ou d’une absence de soins menaçant leur santé physique (Multisectoral agreement on child victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse or neglect that threatens their physical health) be reviewed to ensure that it meets the needs of the DYP when dealing with children who are members of a sect or a closed community.
The documents are available (in French only) on the Commission’s Website:
Position de la Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse au sujet de l’intervention du Directeur de la protection de la jeunesse et de ses partenaires auprès de la communauté Lev Tahor (PDF, 335 Ko)
Étude sur l’intervention du Directeur de la protection de la jeunesse et de ses partenaires auprès de la communauté Lev Tahor et dans des milieux potentiellement sectaires (PDF, 751 Ko)
The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (Human Rights and Youth Commission) ensures the promotion and respect of the principles set out in the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. It also ensures that the interests of children are protected and that their rights recognized in the Youth Protection Act are respected and promoted. In addition, the Commission oversees compliance with the Act respecting Equal Access to Employment in Public Bodies.
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