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.