VANCOUVER, Canada — Canada will not appeal a court ruling tossing out criminal charges against two men in polygamous religious sects, authorities in British Columbia said Thursday.
Provincial Attorney General Michael de Jong said that westernmost British Columbia will instead ask its provincial Supreme Court whether Canada’s law against polygamy is constitutional.
“We believe polygamy is against the law, and it should be against the law,” de Jong told reporters.
But before measures can be taken to prevent it, he said, courts have to answer the question: “Is polygamy a crime in Canada?”
Last month a judge with the court quashed charges against Winston Blackmore and James Oler. That ruling, however, dealt only with the bureaucratic issue of how the prosecutor was appointed.
Blackmore and Oler are leaders of two separate factions of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a breakaway sect of the mainstream Mormon Church, which renounced polygamy more than a century ago.
The RCMP have launched numerous investigations into Bountiful since 1990, but prosecutors have repeatedly shied away from laying charges until former B.C. attorney general Wally Oppal proceeded with polygamy charges against Blackmore and Oler despite earlier legal opinions that the polygamy issue should be referred to the court as a test case.
Last month, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein ruled Oppal did not have the jurisdiction to appoint a second special prosecutor to consider charges against the men, after the first special prosecutor recommended against charges.
The process left a perception of political interference, the judge wrote.
“The Attorney General upset the critical balance that. . . should be kept between political independence and accountability,” said the written judgment.
De Jong said he supported his predecessor’s decision to proceed with criminal charges, but now believes the reference case route will determine more quickly if polygamy can be successfully prosecuted as a crime in Canada.