Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Mennonite Parents Want Kids Back, Willing to Abide by Discipline Rules: Lawyer

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Mennonite Parents Want Kids Back, Willing to Abide by Discipline Rules: Lawyer

Article excerpt

Manitoba Mennonites given discipline rules

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WINNIPEG - Manitoba social workers want parents of an orthodox Mennonite community to promise they will only spank kids on their behinds and not use objects, such as belts, as punishment.

They also want assurances that children will not be injured or left with marks on their bodies.

The parenting rules and discipline guidelines are spelled out in a recent letter from the government's Child and Family Services Department to members of the tiny community, where Mounties made arrests over several weeks this summer.

In July, RCMP said they had arrested a total of 13 people for assault offences, some including allegations that boys and girls were struck with cattle prods, whips and leather straps. The province also apprehended all the children living in the community, about 40 of them, who ranged in age from infants to teenagers.

A court publication ban prevents identification of the children. No trial dates have been set and the allegations have not been proven in court.

Jay Rodgers, a CEO with the department, explained Thursday that the letter starts the process for returning the children to their parents. Staff are to meet Aug. 15 with leaders of the community and, if they agree to the terms set out in the letter, social workers will move on to the parents to get their assurances as well.

"It really is just sort of trying to lay out the agency's worries and the agency's concerns regarding how the kids have been treated," said Rodgers.

The letter says that while Child and Family Services doesn't support spanking, it's not illegal.

It further stipulates that parents must not "pinch, pull hair, sit on, slap faces, pull/pinch ears, burn, withhold food, or have children stand or sit for extended periods of time as punishment/correction."

It says safety concerns are "based on children's disclosures of excessive physical discipline/child abuse."

Winnipeg lawyer Paul Walsh represents 10 of the parents who cared for a total of 18 of the seized children. …

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