Vancouver lawyer Peter Wilson has been named as the new special prosecutor to look into potential criminal offences in Bountiful, British Columbia.
Bountiful, in southeastern B.C., is home to members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), a breakaway Mormon sect that holds polygamy as a tenet of its faith.
Police have looked into allegations of criminal activity in the community several times over the past two decades but potential polygamy charges have foundered on questions of whether such charges would stand up to a constitutional challenge.
Mr. Wilson’s mandate does not include polygamy charges. Rather, he will be considering potential offences relating to sexual offences against minors, including sexual assault, sexual interference and parents or guardians procuring sexual activity.
Details about activity involving minors — including young girls from Bountiful being whisked across the border to the United States to marry much older men, including FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, now jailed for sex crimes — were discussed last year in a B.C. Supreme Court reference on polygamy. In that proceeding, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Bauman ruled that Canada’s ban against polygamy should be upheld.
The constitutional case heard allegations that dozens of girls as young as 12 were spirited across the U.S. border to marry men decades older than them, while several American girls were moved to Bountiful.
Those revelations prompted the RCMP to launch a renewed investigation focusing specifically on the movement of children over the border. The Mounties have confirmed their investigation isn’t looking into multiple marriage.