The Vancouver Sun - January 25, 2011
Data supports hard truth about brides in Bountiful
Why isn't this information being used now to prosecute the men who sexually exploited and impregnated children?
BY DAPHNE BRAMHAM, VANCOUVER SUN
It is no secret that there are child brides and teen mothers in the polygamous community of Bountiful, B.C., and that many of them are illegal immigrants from the United States.
Now, there are hard numbers to support the anecdotal evidence.
The numbers come from the B.C. Vital Statistics Agency and were filed as an affidavit last week in B.C. Supreme Court, where Chief Justice Robert Bauman is hearing a constitutional reference case to determine whether Canada's polygamy law is valid.
Some of the statistics are surprising; others a bit shocking.
They comprise data from 1986 to 2009 -- beginning in 1986 to mirror some of the information previously presented in an affidavit by Perry Kendall, B.C.'s chief medical health officer, and ending in 2009 because the 2010 information was not complete.
The number of births alone is surprising -- 833 born to 215 mothers in 13 years in a community whose population is commonly estimated at around 1,000.
And that number may still be low, since the agency only counted births associated with the 14 most common surnames in Bountiful. Not counted were babies with 11 other surnames listed on the registries of Bountiful's two elementary schools.
The most disturbing fact is that 85 mothers -- a third of the total -- were 18 or younger. That's seven times the provincial rate of teen moms.
Two of the teens had three children each by the time they were 18; 16 had two children each. That means one in 10 babies was born to a teenager. That's a rate more than double the local average and nearly four times the provincial average of 2.7 per cent.
And it's no secret that in Bountiful (as in most polygamous societies), the powerful older men have the most wives and the most children. The statistics support that.
The age gap between the 215 mothers and the 142 fathers is slightly more than eight years. That's nearly double the regional average and an anomaly in B.C., where the average is 4.6 years.
(Even though the legal age of sexual consent was raised to 16 from 14 in 2008, it bears noting that it's a criminal offence for someone in a position of trust or authority to have sexual relations with anyone under the age of 18.)
Of the fathers, 32 had only one child. But one -- Winston Blackmore -- had 107.
Blackmore, now 54, is spiritual leader to about half the community. His former wife, Ruth Lane, testified that by spring 2010 Blackmore had 136 children and that several of his wives were under 18.
(In 2009, Blackmore and FLDS bishop James Oler were charged with one count each of polygamy. Those charges were stayed.)
It also bears noting that the legal age of marriage in B.C. is 18. Not that it matters. As Chief Justice Robert Bauman has repeatedly been told, most fundamentalist Mormon marriages are "spiritual" or "celestial" unions arranged by the prophet or his designate.
As Bauman has also heard, women and girls are routinely moved between the fundamentalist Mormon communities for arranged marriages.
The birth statistics bear that out -- 45 per cent of Bountiful's mothers are foreign-born, compared with 29.3 per cent in the rest of Canada and only 11 per cent in nearby Creston and Cranbrook.
This article was found at:
CBC News - The Canadian Press January 27, 2011
Polygamous town had many teen moms, court told
More than one in 10 children born in the polygamous community of Bountiful, B.C., until recently has been born to a teenage mother, according to statistics filed with a B.C. court.
Contradictory accounts from academics, former residents and plural wives have painted a blurry picture of life inside the community in southeastern B.C. that is at the centre of a landmark court case.
After two months of testimony, the judge who will weigh in on whether Canada's ban on multiple marriage violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has heard wildly divergent views on whether polygamy inherently leads to child brides, teenage pregnancies and low school enrolment.
But provincial government statistics suggest those trends are all present in Bountiful, a community of about 1,000 residents who follow the teachings of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS. Unlike the Mormon church, which renounced polygamy more than a century ago, the FLDS still practices multiple marriage.
Bruce Klette of the province's Vital Statistics Agency examined birth records from Bountiful children between 1986 and 2009 and compared them to statistics from the entire province.
"Specific statistical anomalies can be seen in these data," Klette wrote in an affidavit filed with the court.
Klette identified 833 births to 215 mothers and 142 fathers.
Slightly more than 10 per cent of those children — a total of 85 — were born to girls under 18, compared to the provincial figure of 2.7 per cent. More than a quarter of the community's teen moms had at least two children before they turned 18.
The ages of mothers and fathers were, on average, eight years apart, compared to 4.6 years in the rest of B.C.
The community's 142 fathers had an average of 5.7 children each, and 27 of them sired eight or more.
And about 45 per cent of mothers were born outside of Canada — most in Utah — compared with 30 per cent of foreign births for the province as a whole.
Teen marriage stopped
The provincial and federal governments have alleged young girls are trafficked between Bountiful and polygamous communities in the U.S. to marry.
Klette's figures don't include marriage statistics, but the province has argued that, because the FLDS strictly prohibits pre-marital sex, the court should assume each teenage mother is also a teenage wife.
The FLDS announced in 2008 that it would no longer sanction teenage marriage, and Klette's research found no teen births in 2008 or 2009.
Critics of polygamy have also alleged children in such communities — and Bountiful in particular — don't have sufficient access to education and aren't encouraged to finish high school.
There are two schools in the community, each run by one of two divided factions within Bountiful. Children connected to the U.S.-based FLDS attend Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School and those who follow Winston Blackmore's breakaway group attend Mormon Hills School. Each school receives government funding.
Three women from the community testified anonymously earlier this week, and each said they graduated from Bountiful Elementary-Secondary and subsequently attended college or university to study education, accounting or midwifery.
However, the province's head inspector for independent schools, Edward Vanderboom, wrote in an affidavit that the school hasn't been certified to grant official high school diplomas since 1994. Mormon Hills was recently certified to issue diplomas beginning this school year.
Vanderboom found enrolment in higher grades has been steadily declining at both schools.
At Bountiful Elementary-Secondary, there have been a total of 59 students in Grade 10 classes since the 2003-04 school year, but only 11 in Grade 12.
There has been a similar trend at Mormon Hills. Since the 2003-04 school year, a total of 44 students have been enrolled in a Grade 10 class, while only eight have attended Grade 12.
And since 2003, only 25 students from the two schools have attained either a graduation certificate or the adult equivalent by upgrading their classes elsewhere.
Bountiful Elementary-Secondary applied in 2007 to issue high school diplomas, but was denied after inspectors identified several problems with the school's curriculum.
"It would not be correct for BESS to assert that students 'graduate' from BESS if that term is meant to imply that students meet educational requirements set by the minister for graduation," wrote Vanderboom.
"In fact, its Grade 11-12 educational program was found in 2007 to not meet the requirements."
A 2007 review included with Vanderboom's affidavit says the school's course outlines weren't available, making it impossible to determine whether the school was meeting provincial standards.
The school's religion courses for Grades 10-12 were too similar to grant students separate high school credits for each year, and several elective courses, such as forestry, didn't meet the required number of teaching hours, the report says.
The school hasn't reapplied since.
This article was found at:
Stop Polygamy in Canada website has notes taken by observers in the courtroom as well as links to most of the affidavits and research the court is considering in this case.
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