Decade-old polygamy warnings not acted upon
CRESTON, B.C. — B.C. legislators were warned about the “serious” situation at a polygamous commune more than a decade ago, but so far have not acted on the recommendations of a top secret report obtained by the Sun. The multi-page document was compiled by the Committee on Polygamous Issues, a group comprised of former members of the polygamous community of Bountiful and other interested parties, in the early 1990s and then given to the provincial government.
In it, the report stated: “The situation in the Bountiful group is becoming increasingly serious.”
One reason for concern was a rapidly growing population — at the time there were only about 400 members in the commune but that number has risen to almost 1,000.
The report expressed other concerns including the increasing move by sect members to become even more insulated and isolated from the outside world and patterns of abuse which were becoming more entrenched because social services were not used.
An additional fear at the time was that, according to group teachings, God directs the leaders, and by extension, the lives of all members of the sect.
“It is questionable,” the report said, “whether children raised in the group are ever capable of exercising any freedom of choice.
“Obviously the lack of real choice is particularly poignant when it involves a teenage girl who has known nothing beyond life in the group (and is) placed in marriage with a man several decades her senior who already has a number of wives and children.”
While the people of Bountiful, about 520 km southwest of Calgary, vehemently deny arranged marriages take place, a recently announced provincial investigation will look into the claim.
The special task force, comprised of Mounties, a Crown prosecutor and a social worker, will also look into allegations of sexual abuse on the commune.
The report listed several recommendations in 1992 and called for an inter-ministerial approach to deal with the problem.
Recommendations not acted upon include settling the legal status of polygamy once and for all.
[Keyword: Winston Blackmore]
Aug. 1, 2004