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The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus
Christ of Later Day Saints (FLDS)

Events in the Canadian branch
from 200
9-JAN to SEP

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Background:

A battle has been brewing in Bountiful, British Columbia for decades over polygamy. This is a town of about 1,000 persons, almost all of whom are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints (FLDS), a fundamentalist offshoot from the much larger group, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).

Its male members are under extreme pressure to follow the teachings of the FLDS, including the need to marry three or more women. They are taught that this is the only way that a man can attain the highest of three levels of heaven after death, and be eligible to ascent to the level of a god. Women are similarly pressured to conform, because they are taught that only their husbands can invite them into this highest level.

The Criminal Code of Canada bans polygamy. The FLDS' Mormon beliefs, traceable back to their founder Joseph Smith in the early 19th century, calls for men to be married to multiple wives in celestial marriages.

After almost two decades of investigations, the first arrests were finally made during 2009-JAN.

bullet

2009-JAN-08: Two FLDS leaders arrested: The leaders of the two FLDS factions in Bountiful, BC., Winston Blackmore, 55, and James Oler, 44, were arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Each was charged with one count of polygamy. The police asked the justice of the peace to impose conditions for their release, including a prohibition on performing additional celestial marriages.

Attorney General Wally Oppal said: "We've always felt that there has been exploitation. The question is whether under our laws we were in a position to proceed, and we have concluded that we are."

When asked his opinion whether the criminal code prohibition of polygamy may be declared unconstitutional, he said: "That's not really our concern, our concern is: Is the law being violated, are there people being exploited? If some court decides otherwise, we would obviously have to live with that." 1


bullet

2009-JAN-08: Kelly McParland wrote in the National Post:

"There is really no reason the process should have taken this long. We believe this nationís judges are intelligent enough to realize that the state has the right to insist on a definition of marriage that does not permit the accumulation of harems under Christian guise. But even if a lower-court judge decides otherwise, the decision may be appealed ó on up to the Supreme Court of Canada in necessary, after which the Notwithstanding clause is always a possibility.'

"The legal process that awaits the leaders of Bountiful may well be a long one. All the more reason that it should have been started several years ago." 2

bullet

2009-JAN-09: Blackmore makes statement: He read a statement to the media at the community school in Bountiful. Blackmore complained that the Crown has ignored his basic right under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms -- Canada's constitution -- to enjoy religious freedom. He said:

"This is not about polygamy. To us, this is about religious persecution. ... It is therefore no surprise to us that this spectacular grandstanding event has happened in the face of an up and coming provincial election.
The Canadian Press commented:
"A handful of teenaged girls, some of whom would bear no distinction from any other teenaged girl in the surrounding community of Creston, gathered in the room as Blackmore spoke to a small group of reporters. Also in the audience were a few women in the long skirts that have come to define the community to outsiders. ..."

"Blackmore said the law was written 'specifically against the Mormons'. But 'Canada also has a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that guarantees every person the right to live their religion, and I guess now, every person except those of us who are fundamentalist believing and practising Mormons' he said."

"Regardless of the outcome of the case, it will most likely end up in front of the country's highest court because of the charter issue."

" 'I hope this government has calculated all the risks,' Blackmore said. 'Time will tell'."

"Blackmore said his own arrest has taken a serious toll on his family but 'my family will be just fine'. He said he will continue to do what he's always done, raising his children and living his life. 'I am what I am, we are what we are,' he said." 3

bullet2009-JAN-10: Comments by Bruce Hutchinson of the National Post: He described the results from a survey of Canadian opinion on polygamy by Reginald Bibby in 2005:

bulletOnly 4% approved of multiple marriage partners.

bulletOnly 20% were "willing to accept polygamy."

bullet

2009-SEP-23: Case against Blackmore and Oler thrown out of court: B.C. Supreme Court judge Sunni Stromberg-Stein ruled that the B.C. Attorney General did not have the authority to appoint a new special prosecutor to try Blackmore and Oler after the first special prosecutors recommended against laying charges. The defendants had petitioned the court complaining that the Attorney General had gone "special prosecutor shopping" until he found someone who would go ahead with the charges.

Blackmore said: "This has been a long, hard year for us. It's been stressful for my family, stressful on me. I'm relieved and happy and am going to carry on with my life."

Attorney General Mike de Jong said the provincial government will consider an appeal. He said: "The first order of business will be to read the decision in its entirety, which I haven't done yet. Obviously, I will talk to officials within the ministry and a decision will be made around a possible appeal." 5

The story continues....

References used:

  1. James Keller, "Bountiful polygamist leaders charged," Canadian Press, 2009-JAN-08, at: http://www.thewhig.com/
  2. Kelly McParland, "National Post editorial board: What took so long in Bountiful?,"
    2009-JAN-08, at: http://network.nationalpost.com
  3. "Polygamous sect leader calls charges persecution Issue is political, not criminal, says Blackmore," Canadian Press, 2009-JAN-09, at: http://www.thewhig.com/
  4. Brian Hutchinson, "Polygamy charges test law, tolerance," National Post, 2009-JAN-10, at: http://www.nationalpost.com/
  5. "Polygamy charges in Bountiful, B.C., thrown out," CBC News, 2009-SEP-23, at: http://www.cbc.ca/

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Copyright © 2009 & 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2009-JAN-10
Latest update: 2010-DEC-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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