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Community 'distressed' dozens of kids apprehended by CFS

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BRANDON -- A member of an Old Order Mennonite community in Manitoba that had dozens of children apprehended by Child and Family Services last week says his community is "very distressed."

"CFS has apprehended all our children that are minors," a man driving a horse and buggy near the community told a Global Winnipeg reporter Wednesday. The man did not give the reporter his name.

"They walked into the houses, took the babies out of the cribs while they were sleeping. Took nursing babies."

As the Brandon Sun first reported, the community recently had all but one of its children apprehended by CFS and police have charged four adult residents with multiple counts of assault and assault with a weapon.

The Brandon Sun exchanged information with Global Winnipeg yesterday, after the television news team travelled to the community to follow the Sun’s story.

Two men, described as one of the community leaders and his son, first appeared in court in March. At that time, it was alleged that at least seven children, aged seven to 14, were assaulted in the community. With two other individuals charged, the number of children said to have been assaulted has reached 13.

Collectively, it’s alleged the assaults were committed between July 1, 2011, and Jan. 31, 2013.

Each of the four adults is accused of assaulting more than one child and of using weapons which included a leather strap and a cattle prod multiple times.

For example, court records indicate one child had three separate assailants and was assaulted with three different weapons — a strap, whip and cattle prod.

This account is based on court documents and may change if there are further arrests.

The Brandon Sun is not naming the accused or the small community due to a publication ban put in place Tuesday to protect the identity of the victims.

The man who spoke to Global Winnipeg yesterday said CFS took 42 children from the community last week. A community member told the Sun there are usually about 70 people, including 54 children, living in about 10 homes there.

In a statement issued to the Sun on Wednesday, a CFS spokesperson confirmed by email that child protection officials had removed children from the community. However, the statement did not include the number of children apprehended.

"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," a CFS spokesperson wrote.

"The child protection staff are also working to ensure culturally sensitive placements for the children. The Child and Family Services Act prevents the release of any other details in this situation."

Old Order Mennonites typically have a lifestyle that rejects certain technologies, and that appears to be the case here.

A community resident recently told the Sun they avoid the use of electricity and there isn’t Internet access. Residents don’t generally use phones, although they have a landline phone for emergencies.

Their mode of transportation in and around the community is typically horse and buggy.

And, in general, the community keeps to itself.

- with files from Ian Hitchen and Global Winnipeg

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