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Mennonite community willing to change to get children back

Oct. 17, 2013 at 3:44 PM

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- Members of a Canadian Mennonite community whose children were seized because of harsh physical discipline say they are working to change their ways.

Child and Family Services says it hopes most of the 40 children can be returned to the community in a rural area in Manitoba, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported Thursday. The CBC did not identify the community, give its exact location or name any of the adults or children involved to protect the children's identities.

The Mennonite minister said the community is committed to working with the authorities.

"We do want to do what is proper," he told CBC. "And we also want to be law-abiding."

Authorities seized some of the children in February and the rest in June. Ironically, it was the minister who first brought the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to the community.

Members said that some time ago many of the children began behaving strangely. In an effort to correct that behavior, children were placed with families other than their own and subjected to harsh physical discipline -- allegedly including beatings with straps and torture with cattle prods.

The adults finally concluded that someone in the community was sexually molesting the children. The minister asked the RCMP to investigate.

Police found no evidence of sexual abuse but plenty of evidence of physical abuse. Thirteen adults were arrested.

The child welfare agency has given the community guidelines parents must agree to. They include that children can only be physically disciplined with an open hand and only when they are between the ages of 2 and 12 and that children cannot be punished by being denied food.

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