Religion News Blog — A special prosecutor looking into potential crimes linked to the community of Bountiful, British Columbia, now has the mandate to weigh polygamy charges after the Canadian province decided a recent court ruling is strong enough to make them stick.
Bountiful is the Canadian branch of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) — the polygamous sect of Mormonism whose leader, Warren Jeffs, was jailed for life last year for sexually assaulting two underage followers he took as brides in what his church deemed “spiritual marriages.”
Last November Supreme Court of B.C. Chief Justice Robert Bauman in a landmark decision ruled that Canada’s ban of polygamy does not violate the country’s Charter of Rights. The ruling cites harms to women, children and society that result from the practice.
“I asked our team to take a very thorough look at the ruling – because we wanted to make sure we felt we had enough strength in that ruling to proceed with potential polygamy charges,” Attorney General Shirley Bond said on Monday in Victoria.
“I’m very pleased to say today that our team believes that in and of itself the ruling was strong enough that we can move forward potentially with polygamy charges.”
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In January Vancouver lawyer Peter Wilson was named as the new special prosecutor to look into potential criminal offences in Bountiful.
At the time he was appointed, Mr. Wilson’s mandate did not include polygamy, but focused on potential offences against minors, including sexual assault, sexual interference, and parents or guardians procuring sexual activity.
Details about activity involving minors – including young girls from Bountiful being whisked across the border to the United States to marry much older men, including FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, now jailed for sex crimes – were discussed last year in the case that led to the ruling.
Successive B.C. governments have weighed polygamy prosecutions for decades, but charges didn’t proceed, largely over concerns that they would not stand up to a constitutional challenge.
In November, 2011, Officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police force visited Texas to gather information about underage Canadian girls believed to have been victimized by Warren Jeffs.
Since the end of January Bountiful sect leader Winston Blackmore has been in Canada’s Federal Court, fighting the taxman who says he owes as much as $4.3 million in unpaid personal income taxes, business income and GST.