Old Order leader sentenced for ‘child torture’

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Brandon, Manitoba—The 57-year-old leader of an Old Order Mennonite community was recently sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison after pleading guilty to sexual assault and confirming guilty pleas to six counts of assault with a weapon and one count of assault for the extended and repeated abuse of six children, according to a Sept. 8, 2016, report in the Winnipeg Free Press. The children were aged four to 12 years old at the time, and one young man was 21 to 22 years old. The child abuse was described as harsh discipline, the newspaper reported, but Justice John Menzies called it torture and an effort for the offender to strengthen his hold on the community. “Instead of being a place of comfort and refuge, your community became a place of dread and torture for so many of your children,” Menzies said as he delivered the sentence. A publication ban protects the identity of the victims and the community. The offender also cannot be named. The crimes spanned 2010 to 2013 and led to Manitoba’s Child and Family Services removing children from their homes after a number of adults were charged with assaulting them. (See the Canadian Mennonite report.Visiting the community back in 2013 were several resource persons from Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Canada, including Rick Cober Bauman, executive director of MCC Ontario, and Ron Janzen, executive director of MCC Manitoba. Peter Rempel, former MCC Manitoba executive director, assisted the community during this crisis. The Old Order group had moved from Ontario after experiencing strained relations with the Old Order community there.—Dick Benner

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