VICTORIA (CP) – Canadians view a polygamous town in southeastern B.C. as offensive and abhorrent to community values, B.C.’s attorney general said Tuesday.
Wally Oppal said he has stacks of letters from people from across Canada concerned about the town of Bountiful, where allegations of sex crimes against women and children have surfaced, but have never resulted in a conviction. Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and Oppal will meet Thursday in Vancouver to discuss polygamy, and possible ways of improving tactics to investigate the community, said Oppal.
Oppal, a former judge who was elected last May, said he is prepared to prosecute if some members of the Bountiful community are willing to testify.
“It’s something that incenses a lot of Canadians,” he said. “The ideas that we are condoning this type of activity is something that’s a matter of concern to Canadians. I’m concerned about it as well.”
The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, headquartered in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona, teaches that plural marriage is essential if its members are to be glorified in heaven.
In 1947, four families from the church settled near Creston, B.C., founding the community of Bountiful, where about 1,000 members now live.
Oppal said the sex crimes issue is of deep concern to him and the RCMP, which has been conducting an ongoing investigation in Bountiful.
“We need people who will come in and testify that there is evidence of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, sexual assaults,” Oppal said. “Those are the matters of greater concern to me than the polygamy case and the polygamy issue.”
Oppal said Canadians are concerned about the well-being of the women and children in Bountiful.
“I got letters from one whole block in North Vancouver, everybody in the block wrote to me,” he said. “It’s something that incenses a lot of Canadians.”
“This is offensive,” said Oppal. “It’s offensive to women. It’s offensive to children. People find that to be abhorrent to our values.”
Utah has used its civil courts to seize property and charge people with welfare fraud but nobody in Bountiful collects welfare, he said.
“He (Shurtleff) wants to apprise me of certain things,” said Oppal. “They’ve done things down there that may be helpful to us.”
Several Canadian women’s organizations will meet with Shurtleff in the hope of gaining some insight into dealing with polygamy.
The Canadian Federation of University Women held two polygamy roundtable discussions this year, including one last October with about a dozen Bountiful women who defended their way of life.