UPDATE: Canada: Canadian polygamist leader arrested
The FLDS practice polygamy in arranged marriages, a tradition tied to the early theology of the Mormon church. Mormons renounced polygamy in 1890 as a condition of Utah's statehood.
Last June, British Columbia Attorney General Wally Oppal appointed a special prosecutor to look into allegations of criminal abuse at Bountiful, despite two earlier legal opinions that said it would be difficult to proceed with criminal charges for polygamy itself.
Blackmore openly admits to having numerous wives and dozens of children but has said the community abhors sexual abuse of children.
According to a court document filed in nearby Creston, Winston Blackmore is facing a charge of practicing polygamy. Officials at the Mormon Hills School in the community, where Blackmore is the superintendent, said he was arrested Wednesday.
8 January 2009
Vancouver Sun, January 7, 2009
By: Daphne Bramham
Polygamous leader Winston Blackmore, 52, has been charged with “practising polygamy” on May 1, 2005, according to provincial court files. Practising polygamy is illegal under Section 293 (1) (a) of the Criminal Code. Blackmore is a fundamentalist Mormon and has never denied having more than one wife. He has repeatedly asserted that his right to practise polygamy is protected by the religious guarantees under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Blackmore has had 26 wives and more than 100 children. He was the bishop of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints until he was ousted by Warren Jeffs, the church’s prophet. Blackmore now leads a breakaway group in the southeastern corner of B.C. and is the head of the Mormon Hills School Society, which runs a government-funded, independent school.
James Marion Oler, 44, is the Canadian bishop of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He ascended to that position after FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs excommunicated Winston Blackmore in 2002. A mechanic by trade, Oler was an unlikely choice for bishop even though his father was once Bountiful’s patriarch. However, he is said to be extremely loyal to Jeffs.
Among Oler’s many siblings are Debbie Palmer, who was the first person to raise the alarm about what was happening in Bountiful in the early 1990s, and Jane Blackmore, who was Winston Blackmore’s first and only legal wife.
Unlike the gregarious Blackmore, Oler is rarely seen in public and has never spoken to a journalist. Although he is believed to have five wives, only two — Renae Oler and Amelia Steed — are named in the indictment.
THE POLITICIAN: Attorney-General Wally Oppal
B.C. Attorney-General Wally Oppal has taken a personal interest in Bountiful since he was appointed in 2005. He has called the situation there “intolerable” and unacceptable to “right-thinking Canadians.”
Lawyers in his ministry thought otherwise after RCMP recommended charges in 2006. So, Oppal went outside the bureaucracy not once, but three times, before he found a prosecutor willing to take a case to court.
Oppal disagreed with the conclusions of both Richard Peck and Leonard Doust, who recommended that the polygamy law be referred to the B.C. Court of Appeal to determine whether it was constitutional and didn’t infringe on the guarantee of religious freedom.
THE PROSECUTOR: Terry Robertson
Terrence Robertson is a respected Vancouver criminal lawyer who has taken several Charter of Rights cases to the Supreme Court of Canada. He has acted as a special prosecutor for the B.C. government in the past. He has also been a policy adviser on issues including drafting of extensive amendments to the School Act, the establishment of public school teaching as a self-governing profession, and the drafting of the Teaching Profession Act.
1843 — Officially recorded date of Mormonism’s founder Joseph Smith having a revelation about celestial or polygamous marriages.
1888 — Charles O. Card, who is wanted for polygamy in the United States, goes with two others to prime minister Sir John A. Macdonald asking for special dispensation to bring their plural wives and other families to Canada. Macdonald says no and the next year brings in legislation outlawing polygamy.
1890 — Wilford Woodruff, the head of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, renounces the practise of polygamy.
1946 — Winston Blackmore’s uncle, Harold Blackmore, breaks away from the mainstream Mormon church over the issue of polygamy. He buys property outside Creston, B.C. and establishes the community that will come to be called Bountiful. Blackmore is affiliated with other polygamists — fundamentalist Mormons — living along the Utah-Arizona border in a community called Short Creek.
Spring 1961 — Winston Blackmore’s father, Ray, takes control of Bountiful away from Harold.
October 1991 — RCMP conclude a 13-month investigation and recommend charges be laid against Winston Blackmore and Dalmon Oler for practising polygamy.
June 1992— Attorney-general Colin Gabelman decides not to lay charges after getting legal opinions that the polygamy section of the Criminal Code would not withstand a Charter challenge.
2002 — Winston Blackmore is excommunicated by Warren Jeffs, who succeeded his father, Rulon, as the prophet of the FLDS. Jim Oler is appointed bishop.
Spring 2004 — Debbie Palmer, who was the complainant in the late 1990s, along with several others files a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.
June 14 — After receiving a letter from someone in Bountiful alleging abuse, B.C. attorney-general Geoff Plant asks RCMP to investigate,
April 2005 — Winston Blackmore holds a polygamy summit in Creston. At the summit, he says that his son married a 14-year-old. He also admits that he has married “several under-aged girls.”
Summer 2005 — Wally Oppal is appointed attorney-general of British Columbia and describes the situation in Bountiful as “intolerable.”
FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs is indicted by an Arizona grand jury along with seven others on various charges of sexual conduct with minors.
Aug. 16 — Justice Minister Irwin Cotler reaffirms his opinion that the polygamy law is constitutional, but asks justice officials to see if there are any amendments that might be made to strengthen it.
May 5, 2006 — FBI puts Warren Jeffs on its 10 Most Wanted list.
Aug. 25, — Warren Jeffs is arrested outside Las Vegas on a routine traffic stop.
Dec. 8, — Winston Blackmore goes on CNN with Larry King and admits to being a polygamist and having ‘married’ several girls who were 16 and one who was 15.
Aug. 1, 2007 — Special prosecutor Richard Peck recommends to Oppal that rather than laying charges, the province should refer the polygamy law to the B.C. Court of Appeal to determine whether it is constitutionally sound. Oppal disagrees.
Sept. 7 — Oppal appoints another special prosecutor, Leonard Doust to review the evidence RCMP collected and review Peck’s decision.
Sept. 25 — FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs is convicted on two counts as an accomplice to rape of a 14-year-old girl, whom he had forced to marry her 19-year-old first cousin.
April 7, 2008 — Doust reports to Oppal that he agrees with Peck and recommends a court reference. Oppal is still not convinced.
June 2, 2008 — Oppal appoints Terry Robertson as special prosecutor, who subsequently asks RCMP to do more investigating.
Jan. 6, 2009 — RCMP Sgt. Terry Jacklin swears information about James Oler and Blackmore, charging each with one count of practising polygamy.
Jan. 7, 2009 — Blackmore and Oler are arrested and taken to Cranbrook, where they are charged and released with conditions. Their first court appearance is set for Jan. 21 in Creston Provincial Court.