B. C. Supreme Court To hear Case On Legality of Polygamy

Bountiful, British Columbia, is a small town in Southeastern B. C. near the U. S. border. Since the 1990s, Provincial Police and Prosecutors have investigaged a small commune of fundamental Mormons for polygamy, which is outlawed in Canada. They never formally charged anyone with polygamy, even though Bountiful residents openly admit to the practice of multiple marriages. Prosecutors were reluctant to pursue charges for fear the polygamy laws would be struck down as a violation of the Charter of of Rights and Freedoms. The issue in the case is whether multiple marriages are protected as a religious practice or not.

In 2009, police arrested two of the commune’s leaders: Winston Blackmore and James Oler on one count each of polygamy. Blackmore had 19 wives and 100 children according to police. Oler had 3 wives. The court dismissed charges against the 2 men because of faults in how the province appointed the prosecutors. The government then referred the case to the British Columbia Supreme Court. The Hearing will begin Monday, 22 November, 2010. The hearing is expected to last through January 2011. No matter how the hearing concludes, an appeal to the Canadian Supreme Court is predicted.

If the Court decides polygamy is a protected religious practice, the ramifications will go way beyond Bountiful. Pension plans could be adversely affected if forced to pay spuosal and survivors benefits. Immigration law will be affected, opening up entry eligibility for several spouses and their children and other relatives.

Winston Blackmore, the religious leader of the polygamous community of Bountiful, B.C., shares a laugh with six of his daughters and some of his grandchildren, in this April 21, 2008 photo. (Jonathan Hayward / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Winston Blackmore, the religious leader of the polygamous community of Bountiful, B.C., shares a laugh with six of his daughters and some of his grandchildren, in this April 21, 2008 photo. (Jonathan Hayward / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
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2 thoughts on “B. C. Supreme Court To hear Case On Legality of Polygamy

  1. Folks, let’s not get all lathered up. This case is about whether people are thrown in jail for acting married, not about whether the law treats them as married. Pension benefits aren’t even on the radar.

  2. Jancis M. Andrews.

    - Edit

    The real issue in BC Supreme Court is not the so-called “religious right” of men to practise polygamy, and use women as chattels and sexual collectibles. The real issue is whether the Supreme Court will uphold sections 15 and 28 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that guarantee women equality with men. Polygamy stems from the dark ages when women had no rights, and there is ample evidence that the practice, still extant in Third World countries, harms women and children and reduces women to second-class citizenship. But Canada is NOT a Third World country and there is no place here for concubines and harems. The year is 2010 AD, not 2010 BC.

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