Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Abuse of rural children alleged

Mennonite town centre of allegations

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BRANDON -- RCMP in western Manitoba are investigating allegations that numerous children who live at a Mennonite community were physically abused over an 18-month span.

It's alleged the victims were assaulted multiple times -- and the assaults involved weapons including a leather strap, whip, cattle prod and board.

Two men have been charged and are identified as a leader of the community and his son.

It appears the alleged assaults might have been carried out as a form of discipline.

The incidents are alleged to have been committed at the Old Order Mennonite Community in the RM of Westbourne near Gladstone -- about 150 kilometres from Winnipeg -- between July 2011 and Jan. 31 of this year.

In general, Old Order Mennonites have a lifestyle that rejects certain technologies.

They don't use computers or the Internet, for example, and don't believe in having their photos taken. Some Old Order Mennonites live without telephones and electricity and use horses to pull farm machinery.

According to court documents, it's alleged at least seven children, aged seven to 14 years, were assaulted multiple times by both men at the community.

The two men were arrested in the community on Tuesday and appeared in court Wednesday and were granted bail with the consent of a Crown attorney.

Two men, aged 54 and 29, face numerous counts of assault and assault with a weapon. One man's charges include a count of assault causing bodily harm.

As part of their bail order, the men are to live in the RM of South Cypress and can't be within 10 kilometres of the RM of Westbourne.

They also can't have contact with anyone under the age of 18 years without a court order or permission from Child and Family Services. In addition, they can't possess weapons.

The allegations against the accused haven't been proven in court. The matter is still under investigation.

ihitchen@brandonsun.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 16, 2013 A9

History

Updated on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 10:37 AM CDT: Removes names of suspects to avoid identifying victims.

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