Saving them from 'sin of lust:' Mennonite man jailed for child assault

MINNEDOSA, Man. -- A man from an old-order Mennonite community in Manitoba has been sentenced to one year in jail after court heard children were beaten with leather straps and cattle prods to "save" them from the "sin of lust.

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The 59-year-old man was an elder in the community and was sentenced earlier this week for assault and assault with a weapon involving seven children.

Court was told the accused was one of four key leaders in the community who used tools to dole out discipline.

Children were denied food and sleep, slapped, in some cases hit with whips or wood, and given electric shocks with a cattle prod, court documents said.

"It was an obsessive campaign to remove an imagined evil," Crown attorney James Ross wrote as part of a one-year sentencing recommendation that was agreed to by the defence.

Court heard that some community leaders falsely believed that children had become sexually active and would punish the children repeatedly.

The identities of the children are protected under a publication ban and The Canadian Press is not naming any of the accused or the small community where they live.

Another member of the community was sentenced earlier this month to six months in jail. The cases of two other men are still before the courts.

"This case is about domination and abuse," Ross wrote in the sentencing recommendation. "Zealous adults conceived that 'strong punishment' was necessary to save children from the sin of lust."

The abuse occurred between 2011 and 2013. When police and child welfare workers moved into the isolated community, they seized 42 children and more than a dozen adults were charged.

Charges against eight adults were later stayed and they agreed to undergo counselling. All but two children have since been returned to the community.

The man's defence lawyer did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Court was told the abusive discipline is out of line with religious beliefs among old-order Mennonite communities.

"Harsh physical discipline and/or the sexual shaming of children are not part of OOM (old-order Mennonite) culture," Ross wrote.



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