26 Oct 2010

Province should pay legal defence on polygamy charges: B.C. sect leader

CBC News - Canada April 23, 2009

The leader of a religious sect in Bountiful, B.C., who allegedly has 19 wives wants the provincial government to pay for his legal defence on polygamy charges.

Winston Blackmore, the leader of the breakaway sect of fundamentalist Mormons living in the southeastern Interior of B.C., says the landmark case affects more than just him.

"I'm a Canadian and enjoy the Canadian Charter of Rights. And as far as staging a constitutional fight that I have to bear the burden of, I don't think that's fair," said Blackmore on Wednesday in Cranbrook.

Earlier in January, Blackmore called his arrest religious persecution, and suggested political grandstanding ahead of the May 12 provincial election is behind the decision to lay charges.

Blackmore and rival sect leader James Oler, also from Bountiful, are the first Canadians charged with polygamy in decades.

Both men appeared in court in Cranbrook on Wednesday, but progress of the case has been impeded because Blackmore is arguing he can't afford a proper legal defence.

Blackmore's lawyer said in court that he plans to file a Rowbotham application, a review process to determine if Blackmore is eligible for defence funding under the Charter of Rights.

B.C.'s attorney general has already said no once to Blackmore's funding request. Oler is reported to be receiving financial assistance from U.S. supporters for his legal defence.

The case moves to Vancouver next month when the two men are expected to enter a plea.

Blackmore and Oler were charged in January with one count each of breaching Section 293 of the Criminal Code, which bans polygamy, by entering into a conjugal relationship with more than one individual at a time.

Blackmore, is accused of having 19 wives. Oler is accused of having three wives. Both men face a maximum of five years in prison if convicted.

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