The number of people charged over alleged assaults against children at a Manitoba Mennonite community has grown to 13.

Children were taken from the community by welfare officials last month after four adults — three men and a woman — were charged with multiple counts of assault, including assault with a weapon.

Court documents allege the assaults took place between July 2011 and Jan. 31, 2013, and involved the use of cattle prods and straps.

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Documents show the youngest alleged victim is less than a year old, and the oldest is 17.

“This is unusual. The size of the community and the number of people charged certainly is a challenge in this type of investigation,” said RCMP Cpl. Miles Hiebert.

Hiebert said the investigation is ongoing, and police are not ready to release many details about the types of charges that have been laid against some of the individuals.

“We work with the evidence that is provided to us. We continue to take statements and collect information, and we’ll work there until this comes to a conclusion.”

A court-ordered publication ban means neither the Mennonite community nor the people charged can be named, in order to protect the identity of the alleged victims.

Paul Walsh, a lawyer who represents five families whose 18 children were taken from the community, said he thinks close to 40 children in total were removed. That represents all of the community's children but one.

He said the families he represents are now in turmoil.

“They are distraught, upset and beside themselves with grief that all of a sudden all of their children — not selected ones — but all of their children have been apprehended and are in care,” said Walsh.

He added it was an unprecedented move by the government.

"I've never encountered a situation — and I don't think there has been one — when all the children [are taken]," he said.

"We are talking about, in the case of my families, all the children are nine years old and younger. Three of the children are two and under and are being breast fed. How can they be in need of protection?"

No one in the five families that he represents are facing charges but the children have all been removed for their safety, child welfare officials have stated.

"They've been taken without access … taken away and kept away from their own parents for a month without any visits and without any contact," Walsh said.

"I have never encountered a situation where a group of similar adherents have had each and every last one of their children, no matter of what age, apprehended. That's never happened in Manitoba before and I don't know where else it has ever happened in Canada.

"I think that they should be dealt with individually and if there are protection issues for some, that aren't protection issues for others, they should be individualized rather than apprehended as a group.

"They feel that they have been horribly treated as a group rather than as individuals."

Lost court bid to return children

Walsh lost a bid this week to get the children back home to the families he represents.

He argued in court Wednesday they should be returned to their parents because the visitation order, imposed after the children were seized, was too vague. It doesn't say how often the parents can see them.

Since the children were taken, only one set of parents has seen their kids, he said.

"Some [of the adults are doing] better than others, but all of them not particularly well. They're devastated," said Walsh.

The court order stated that access in a supervised manner was to be determined "and my argument was that the phrase 'to be determined' doesn't give frequency or timing of visits," Walsh said.

The judge threw out Walsh's application, saying more visits will be arranged.

The next hearing in the case is set for Aug. 7.

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  • Sam Mullet

    FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2011 file photo, Sam Mullet leans on the mailbox at his home in Bergholz, Ohio. The FBI and local sheriff's deputies arrested seven men, including Mullet, reputed leader of a breakaway Amish sect, on federal hate crime charges early Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011. A grand jury indicted 11 individuals for their alleged involvement in a spree of beard cuttings on Dec. 20, 2011. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

  • Mugshots

    FILE - This file combo made from photos provided by the Jefferson County Sheriffs Department shows, from left, Levi Miller, Johnny Mullet, and Lester Mullet, of Bergholz, Ohio. These three men and two others suspected of forcefully cutting the beards of fellow Amish were arraigned Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011, and released on $50,000 bonds posted by the leader of their breakaway group. (AP Photo/Jefferson County Sheriffs Department, File)

  • Lester Mullet

    This photo provided by the Jefferson County Sheriffs Department shows Lester Mullet of Bergholz, Ohio. Mullet and three other men believed to be members of a breakaway Amish group were arrested Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011 for allegedly going into the home an elderly Amish man and cutting his hair and beard. (AP Photo/Jefferson County Sheriffs Department)

  • Levi Miller

    This photo provided by the Jefferson County Sheriffs Department shows Levi Miller of Bergholz, Ohio. Miller and three other men believed to be members of a breakaway Amish group were arrested Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011 for allegedly going into the home an elderly Amish man and cutting his hair and beard. (AP Photo/Jefferson County Sheriffs Department)

  • Johnny Mullet

    This photo provided by the Jefferson County Sheriffs Department shows Johnny Mullet of Bergholz, Ohio. Mullet and two other men believed to be members of a breakaway Amish group were arrested Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011 for allegedly going into the home an elderly Amish man and cutting his hair and beard. (AP Photo/Jefferson County Sheriffs Department)

  • Fred Abdella

    Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdella sits at his desk in Steubenville, Ohio on Monday, Oct. 10, 2011. Abdella disputes the claim by Sam Mullet, the leader of a breakaway Amish group, who said that an attack on fellow Amish in which a man's beard was cut off was a religious issue stemming from long-standing resentment of his group's treatment. Sam Mullet, 66, said the goal was to send a message to Amish in Holmes County that they should be ashamed of themselves for the way they were treating Mullet and his community. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

  • Members of the Amish community leave the U.S. Federal Courthouse Thursday, April 19, 2012, in Cleveland. Sixteen men and women have pleaded not guilty in beard- and hair-cutting attacks against fellow Amish in Ohio. The latest indictment added new allegations that the suspects tried to hide or destroy evidence, including a disposable camera, shears and a bag of hair from the victims. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

  • Members of the Amish community leave the U.S. Federal Courthouse Thursday, April 19, 2012, in Cleveland. Sixteen men and women have pleaded not guilty in beard- and hair-cutting attacks against fellow Amish in Ohio. The latest indictment added new allegations that the suspects tried to hide or destroy evidence, including a disposable camera, shears and a bag of hair from the victims. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

  • Arlene Miller checks for her mail in front of her home on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011 in Carrolton, Ohio. Miller, 46, who is Amish, tells the Associated Press, her husband had his beard cut by members of a breakaway Amish group. Several men came to their door and attacked her husband, who fled when he called his sons for help. (AP Photo/Andrew Welsh-Huggins)

  • Jeffery Stone

    Jeffery Stone, mayor of Bergholz, Ohio. sits on the front stoop of his home in Bergholz on Monday, Oct. 10, 2011. Stone said that he and the town have not have any problems with the group of breakaway Amish living at the edge of his community. Sam Mullet, the leader of a breakaway Amish group said an attack on fellow Amish in which a man's beard was cut off was a religious issue stemming from long-standing resentment of his group's treatment. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

  • Sam Mullet

    Amish children play baseball during recess outside their school in Bergholz, Ohio home on Monday. Oct. 10, 2011. Sam Mullet , the leader of the breakaway Amish group, said an attack on fellow Amish in which a man's beard was cut off was a religious issue stemming from long-standing resentment of his group's treatment. Mullet, 66, said the goal was to send a message to Amish in Holmes County that they should be ashamed of themselves for the way they were treating Mullet and his community. ( AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

  • Sam Mullet

    In this photo provided to an Ohio district court late in August, Samuel Mullet allegedly cuts off the beard of his follower, Raymond Hershberger in October last year.