WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) — Children have been removed from an orthodox Mennonite community in Canada where adults have been charged with assaulting youngsters using items such as cattle prods and leather straps.
Manitoba Family Services would not say Wednesday how many children had been taken into its care and would not reveal any other details about the case. The department said child protection professionals were working with the families as police investigate.
Few in the close-knit community are saying anything, but one man driving a horse-drawn buggy told a local television station that 42 children were taken and he was "very distressed." The orthodox Mennonite community eschews modern amenities such as electricity and automobiles.
Two adults from the tiny, highly traditional community were charged in March with various counts of assault and assault with a weapon on several boys and girls between July 2011 and January of this year.
This week, two more adults appeared in court to face similar charges involving 12 alleged victims over roughly the same time frame.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are not ruling out more charges, saying the investigation is not over.
The identities of the alleged victims are shielded by a court-ordered publication ban.
Royden Loewen, chair of the University of Winnipeg's Mennonite studies program, said earlier this year that many Mennonites believe in traditional corporal punishment for children but follow a rule that says children should not be injured or hit out of anger.
Defense lawyer Scott Newman said Wednesday he is awaiting more disclosure from the prosecution. "It's such an early stage, there's not much I can comment on," he said.