Winston Blackmore, the leader of a polygamous community in southeastern British Columbia who has admitted to having multiple wives, is suing the provincial government for violating his rights when he was charged last year.
Mr. Blackmore and James Oler, both leaders of separate factions in Bountiful, B.C., were arrested in January 2009 and each charged with practising polygamy, two decades after police first starting looking into the community near the United States border.Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham discusses the case against Blackmore (June 30, 2009). Bramham is the author of The Secret Lives of Saints: Child Brides and Lost Boys in a Polygamous Mormon Sect
The charges were thrown out last fall after the men’s lawyers successfully argued in court that the decision of a previous special prosecutor not to lay charges was final.
“The [attorney general] acted in a manner that was high handed, arbitrary, reckless, abusive, improper and inconsistent with the honour of the Crown and the administration of justice,” says a statement of claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Before the pair were arrested, two separate legal experts, including a special prosecutor, recommended against charges, instead recommending authorities first ask the court to determine whether such a case could withstand a challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In 2008, then-attorney general Wally Oppal appointed another special prosecutor, Terry Robertson, who ultimately decided to charge the men.
“The [attorney general] intended to create an illusion that the decision to prosecute was that of the special prosecutor,” says the statement of claim.
“In fact, the [attorney general] only accepted Mr. Robertson’s decision because it reflected the result he personally sought.”
Mr. Blackmore, who was charged along with his rival James Oler, claimed that the charges violated his rights to freedom of religion.
In his lawsuit, Mr. Blackmore is asking for his legal fees, disbursements and expenses as well as travel costs and accommodation expenses. He also wants unspecified general, aggravated, punitive and special damages.
• Bountiful’s relationship to the FLDS polygamous cult
• Polygamist Bountiful, B.C. thrives, despite the law
• Canada says will not appeal Bountiful polygamy case
• Polygamous sects of the Mormon Church