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Old Order Mennonites in talks to recover children

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The former executive director of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Manitoba say adults from an Old Order Mennonite group whose children were seized when assault charges were laid against 13 adults in the community love their children and are open to learning new methods of discipline.

Peter Rempel welcomed the group when they moved to rural Manitoba from southern Ontario just over six years ago, and built a relationship with them in his role at MCC Manitoba. The community – which cannot be named because of a court-imposed publication ban – reached out to Rempel, who is now retired, for help when RCMP began investigating the use of corporal punishment in some of the homes.

“The Mennonites love their children [and] operate on a community basis to a degree which most mainstream folks, including government agencies, have difficulty understanding,” Rempel told ChristianWeek. “They have committed to forgo inappropriate physical force in disciplining and are ready to learn other methods.”

Officials from Manitoba Child and Family Services (CFS) seized dozens of children from the community amidst allegations of child abuse at the beginning of June. The Winnipeg Free Press reported that four adults have been charged. Each is accused of assaulting more than one child, and of using weapons multiple times that included a leather strap and a cattle prod.

CFS and members of the community where the children were seized have formed a restoration team in an effort to build a relationship with one another.

Rempel has asked Mennonite psychologists, social workers, and counsellors to provide direct services to the community.

“Our common goal is to help the [Old Order Mennonites] and CFS to come to an understanding on parenting and disciplining so that the families can be reunited,” Rempel said.

—Aaron Epp is senior correspondent for ChristianWeek newspaper, where this article first appeared.

Read an update on the situation, published in the Mennonite World Review Jan. 20, 2014:
“Some Manitoba Old Order Children Return to their Homes”

Updated Jan. 13, 2014: link added

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