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Religious Tolerance logo

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

Events in the Canadian branch
from 200
9-OCT & 2010-NOV-22

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A battle has been brewing in Bountiful, British Columbia [BC] for decades over polygamy, which is practiced by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) -- a fundamentalist Christian offshoot from the main Mormon denomination, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). The latter group practiced polygamy until 1890 when they reported having received a revelation from God to at least temporarily suspend the practice.

After almost two decades of investigations, the first arrests were finally made during 2009-JAN, but were thrown out of court in 2009-SEP.

2009-OCT: Reference case filed:

Mike de Jong, the Attorney General of BC, decided to not appeal the decision by the B.C. Supreme Court to throw out the case against Winston Blackmore, and James Oler -- the leaders of two factions within the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) in Bountiful, BC. Instead, de Jong filed a constitutional reference case in the B.C. Supreme Court. This would have the court review the situation in Bountiful and render a judgment on the legal status of polygamy in Canada.

De Jong said:

"British Columbians and Canadians deserve and want to know whether valid laws are in place that prohibit polygamous relationships, particularly when those relationships involve minors. I am asking the court for its direction so the justice system, in B.C. and in Canada, can address the serious social harms that can result from the practice of polygamy." 1

His reference asked the court to rule on two questions:

  1. Is the Criminal Code's polygamy section consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms -- Canada's Constitution?

  2. What behaviors would be necessary by members of a family in order to be tried under the anti-polygamy clause in the Criminal Code of Canada? Does the law require that the polygamous conjugal union involve a minor or that it occurs in a context of dependence, exploitation, abuse of authority, a gross imbalance of power, or undue influence? 2

2009 - DEC: Amicus appointed:

Chief Justice Robert Bauman of the B.C. Supreme Court appointed Vancouver lawyer George Macintosh as the "amicus" (friend of the court) to argue that the polygamy law is unconstitutional. "The amicus -- whose bills will be paid by the B.C. government -- along with interveners such as the FLDS and the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association -- will go up against the combined forces of the attorneys general of B.C. and Canada" as well as other interveners including the two leaders of the FLDS who were earlier charged. 2

He was later denied funding, and decided to boycott the reference hearings.

horizontal rule

2010-MAR-26: Blackmore appeals for funds:

Defendant Winston Blackmore asked the government for hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to participate in a court review of Canada's anti-polygamy law. He threatened to not take part in the court case if his request isn't granted. Police believe that he has 19 wives and more than 100 children. His lawyer, Joe Arvay, told a court hearing in Vancouver: This reference is essentially going to put Mr. Blackmore and his congregation on trial. The role that Mr. Blackmore will play in this case is a role that only he can play. The most important evidence you're going to hear in this case is what happens in Bountiful."

More than a dozen groups have been included on both sides in the reference including civil liberties groups, women's rights advocates, and children's rights advocates. 3

Passions are high concerning the reference. In response to a Canada Press article:

  • "sakel1" wrote:

    "Winston Blackmore should receive the DEATH PENALTY, not a judicial review with Canadian taxpayers' money to finance his [...] adventures.

    Close down Bountiful and arrest Blackmore and the other child abusers.

    How can the government ever allow [...] the right to produce 100 children? For which purpose? ...?

    Then the Canadian government is complicit in perpetuating ... in that community. CLOSE DOWN BOUNTIFUL now! The children need our help. And you might offer them FAMILY PLANNING -- much needed for this ...'s family reproductive "rights" -- which should be taken away immediately to save his brood."

    (We edited this posting because sakel1 could probably be tried for libel and we prefer to not be involved.)

  • "Dr. Twitch" wrote:

    I hope Winston Blackmore SMASHES these idiot neocons !!! 3

Blackmore's request was refused, and he decided to boycott the hearing before the B.C. Supreme Court. He had no legal obligation to attend, but his presence would have supplied the court with a much improved insight into the nature of polygamy in Bountiful.

horizontal rule

2010-NOV-22: Reference case begins at B.C. Supreme Court:

The case began on this data and is expected to last until the end of 2011-JAN. Although the case before the court will deal with the criminal code prohibition of polygamy, the court's focus will be on Bountiful BC and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

In his opening arguments, government lawyer Craig Jones said that polygamy in Bountiful BC has resulted in child brides, trafficked girls, teenage pregnancies, oppressed women, the sexualization of children, marriages between girls and much older men, boys and men driven from the community.He said:

"The harms documented at Bountiful are the perfectly predictable — indeed the inevitable —consequences of a polygamous society. ... Bountiful did not create polygamy. Polygamy created Bountiful. ... The challengers urge the court to make Canada the only Western nation to legalize polygamy. The international consensus is away from polygamous practices, it’s turning its back on polygamy."

More than 30 witnesses are expected to testify, including "... academic experts, current and former residents of Bountiful, and people who live in ... polyamorous relationships outside of a specific religion. 4

Chief Justice Robert Bauman denied a request by the CBC to broadcast the proceedings on over their television network and the Internet. He said:

"This application raises the fundamental issues touching on the extent of the public’s right to a truly open court. That is, the public’s ability to access without attending. ... They should be debated in a calm and orderly fashion ... This application does not permit a calm and deliberate review of these issues. It is brought on the eve of this proceeding." 4

The story continues....

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Dapnne Bramhm, " B.C. Supreme Court opens debate on polygamy," Vancouver Sun, 2010-NOV-20, at:
  2. "Bountiful timeline," Vancouver Sun, 2010-NOV-19, at:
  3. "Blackmore seeks funds for polygamy hearing," Canada Press, 2010-MAR-26, at:
  4. James Keller, "The town polygamy built: B.C. says Bountiful shows need to ban multiple wives," The Toronto Star, 2010-NOV-22, at:

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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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