B.C. attorney general confirms charges laid against top two polygamist leaders
Ad: Vacation? City Trip? Weekend Break? Book Skip-the-line tickets
Oppal said Blackmore is alleged to be married to 20 women, while Oler is accused of committing polygamy by being married to two women.
“This has been a very complex issue,” he told The Canadian Press. “It’s been with us for well over 20 years. The problem has always been the defence of religion has always been raised.”
Last June, Oppal appointed a special prosecutor to look into allegations of criminal abuse at Bountiful, saying renewed public concerns compelled him to act.
About 800 people live in the community in southeastern B.C., where members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints practice multiple marriage.
Blackmore, who is the leader of one of two groups within the community, openly admits to having numerous wives and dozens of children but has said the community abhors sexual abuse of children.
However, Blackmore has refused in previous interviews to discuss allegations that teenaged girls in the community marry older men or that others are sent to polygamous groups in the United States.
Oler is the leader of the other group in the community, which has long been divided.
The issue of polygamy in British Columbia came up again last year after more than 450 children were apprehended by child-welfare authorities from a sister polygamous community in Texas.
At least one of the girls in that case was from Bountiful, refocusing the spotlight on a community that has existed in relative obscurity in B.C.’s Kootenays, not far from the U.S. border.