CRANBROOK, B.C. — A Mormon splinter group has invited British Columbia’s Attorney-General and his counterpart from Idaho, among others, to attend what it is calling a polygamy summit next week.
Polygamy has been practised openly for more than 60 years in the fundamentalist Mormon community in Bountiful, B.C. The summit is to be in nearby Creston on Tuesday.
Last summer, B.C. Attorney-General Geoff Plant announced the start of an RCMP investigation into allegations of child abuse, forcible marriage and sexual exploitation. No charges have been filed in the community in southeastern British Columbia.
The Idaho legislature recently formed an interim committee to investigate rumours of Mexican “baby” brides being sold to men in southern Idaho and allegations of border crossings by young brides for the community in Bountiful.
On its website, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has also invited a representative of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and Audrey Vance of a group called Altering Destiny Through Education to attend the meeting on Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Plant said the invitation has been passed on to Solicitor-General Rich Coleman, but he won’t be attending because a provincial election campaign formally starts on that day.
Ms. Vance, whose group has been critical of the fundamentalist Mormon community, said she might attend.
“I’m considering my options,” she said. “I’d hate to go and support something that’s illegal so I’m still thinking about it.”
Winston Blackmore, the self-proclaimed bishop of Bountiful, declined to discuss the summit in an interview with the Cranbrook Daily Townsman.
But in an e-mail to the newspaper, he indicated the community of 1,000 feels it has been victimized by biased media coverage, which is one of the reasons for the summit.
On the church’s website, Mr. Blackmore denies having 30 wives and fathering a hundred children.
Teachers’ federation spokeswoman Nancy Knickerbocker said her organization did not receive an invitation to the meeting and hadn’t heard about it.
“Even if we had, it would be problematic whether we would attend because of the legal issues,” she said.
The federation has called for an investigation of a private school located at Bountiful, Ms. Knickerbocker said, out of concern for educational standards at the facility and allegations that teachers at the school teach racial superiority.
Attendance at the meeting on Tuesday is limited to 400 people.
A news report has said more than 200 people signed up to attend within days of the meeting being announced on the Bountiful website.