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.
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
Winston Blackmore, Canada’s best known polygamist, foresees a year of doom for those that deliberately break up families or interfere with a person’s freedom.
The B.C. Supreme Court is expected in 2010 to be grappling with the controversial issue of polygamy in response to a constitutional reference from the B.C. government on whether Criminal Code provisions prohibiting polygamy are consistent with the guarantee of freedom of religion provided in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The case is expected to reverberate across the country, with its impact felt by various religious and immigrant groups who accept polygamy as a way of life.
In a posting on his blog just before Christmas, Mr. Blackmore – a religious leader who police say has 25 wives – says he is reluctant to continue his custom of year-ahead predictions. “I have learned how to live just one day at a time,” he states in a blog on his website .
But after citing some aphorisms that he attributes to Jesus Christ, he changed his mind. “Maybe I will make one prediction,” he says.
“Here goes. This coming year will not be a good one for all you officers, presidents, bishops, counsellors, trustees, spokespersons, or any other responsible persons that deliberately break up families, interfere with the free agency of men, women and children, and cause an attack or assist in an attack, religious or otherwise upon any person or his family,” he states.
“This year will be the beginning of your end, and in the end you will be single, lonely, desolate and damned,” Mr. Blackmore predicts.
Mr. Blackmore is the leader of a closely knit religious sect of several hundred in southeast B.C. that split from a community of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints members.
He was charged with polygamy earlier this year, but the court quashed the charges on procedural grounds, deciding that the government had unfairly gone “prosecutor shopping” to find someone to prosecute Mr. Blackmore after two independent prosecutors had advised against it.
• The Globe and Mail articles on Winston Blackmore
• More about Bountiful, Blackmore’s polygamous community
• Interview With Polygamist Winston Blackmore
Criminal polygamy charges
against B.C. religious leaders Winston Blackmore and Jim Oler
have been thrown out.
Former attorney-general Wally Oppal did not have authority to appoint a second special prosecutor to the decades-long case after the first one declined to proceed, Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein ruled. [Read more...]
says charges of polygamy
against him have not undermined his authority to offer advice on moral issues.
The Globe and Mail
earlier this week reported
that Mr. Blackmore was offering online advice to women in abusive relationships.
Nancy Mereska, who has campaigned against polygamy
, was startled by Mr. Blackmore offering moral advice. All polygamous relationships are abusive, she said in an interview with The Globe and Mail [Read more...]
The B.C., Canada, government is sending $100 to every man, woman and child in the province as part of a climate-change program.
As a result, prominent polygamist Winston Blackmore and his family could receive more than $10,000 this month from the B.C. government in so-called dividend cheques. [Read more...]
Winston Blackmore, who openly admits to having numerous wives and dozens of children, said parents at Bountiful protect their children from abuse.
But he declined to discuss allegations that older men in his community marry teenaged girls – a violation of statutory rape laws – while other girls are sent to sister polygamous groups in the United States to marry older men there. [Read more...]
After a lengthy police probe into Canada’s only polygamous community, British Columbia Attorney-General Wally Oppal has appointed a special prosecutor to rule on whether criminal charges should be laid against leaders at Bountiful, a secretive sect near the U.S. border. [Read more...]