Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Community's children apprehended by province

Four Old Order Mennonite members accused of assaulting youths

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An Old Order Mennonite community in Manitoba has reportedly had all but one of their children apprehended by Child and Family Services amidst allegations of child abuse.

In addition, the number of adults charged has now grown to four from two as the police investigation continues.

Initially, two men from the community were charged, but two more members -- a man and a woman -- also now face assault charges.

The Free Press 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.

During the man and woman's brief appearance in Brandon provincial court on Tuesday, defence lawyer Scott Newman indicated that CFS had apprehended all the children from the community except one 17-year-old.

"There's no children in the community," Newman reported.

A community member has indicated that 54 children usually live there.

The four adult community members face multiple counts of assault and assault with a weapon.

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 years, were assaulted on the community.

With two other individuals charged, the number of children said to have been assaulted has reached 13.

An update on the children's age range wasn't immediately available on Tuesday.

Collectively, it's alleged that 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 multiple times that included a leather strap and a cattle prod.

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

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

One source indicated that the alleged assaults were committed as some form of discipline, but that hasn't been confirmed.

Crown attorney Grant Hughes indicated in court that the investigation isn't expected to be complete until July 30.

The first two men to be arrested were released on bail, as were the man and woman who appeared in court on Tuesday.

Five community members watched Tuesday's proceedings from the gallery.

One man said that he couldn't comment on the case, but shared a brief description of the community.

Usually about 70 people, including 54 children, live in about 10 homes there.

The community also includes machine, furniture, harness and wagon shops.

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

The community resident said they avoid the use of electricity and there isn't Internet access.

Residents don't generally use phones, although they have a land-line 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.

The resident also confirmed that all the community's children except for one were apprehended by CFS.

However, a provincial government spokesman couldn't confirm that account by deadline.

-- Brandon Sun

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 19, 2013 A6

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