B.C. must act on criminal offences in Bountiful case
Constitutional reference trial lays out evidence of wrongdoing
by Daphne Bramham | Opinion
How is it not sexual exploitation when one of the pillars of a community has sex with a child placed in his care?
What is it other than sex slavery and/or human trafficking when that man had a 15-year-old brought across an international border to a country where she has no immediate family with the intention of having sex and impregnating her?
And how can that unnamed man from the fundamentalist Mormon community of Bountiful, B.C., not have been involved in immigration fraud a few months earlier when he brought a 17-year-old “bride” into Canada?
The girl was clutching a letter from her parents giving her permission to stay with a “friend.” What nobody said was that the friend was the man — more than twice her age — who became her husband the previous day and with only 30 minutes’ notice in a ceremony presided over by a prophet, who himself has been charged in three states with child sex abuse.
These details are presumably true, since the 17-year-old, now 24, testified under oath to their veracity last week in B.C. Supreme Court.
(Through some curious reasoning, leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and their lawyer thought that her testimony in a constitutional reference case would bolster the church’s claim that the guarantee of religious freedom in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows them to practise polygamy.) Little more than a year after this man brought both of his American teen brides to Canada, each of them — wives No. 4 and No. 5 — had a child.
Their church, their fathers, their mothers, their teachers and their community had groomed them to submit to these arranged marriages or face God’s wrath in the after-life.
Still, it’s appalling that this 24-year-old woman, who grew up in the United States and attended a publicly funded school in British Columbia, finds nothing wrong with what happened to her or her sister-wife.
More appalling is that nobody in government did.
What happened to these two girls is part of a long-established pattern that was also documented in the reference case by evidence through birth records, school records and immigration files. And it can all be confirmed with DNA samples collected by RCMP officers several years ago before they recommended that the B.C. attorney-general lay charges.
The best that British Columbia has managed until now was to charge two Bountiful leaders in 2008 with one count each of polygamy — charges that were overturned because the special prosecutor was improperly hired.
That led to the reference case where so much evidence of wrongdoing has been laid bare.
There was testimony about dozens of teen brides crossing the Canada-U.S. border in each direction; testimony about young boys being sent cross-border to work for a pittance at church-controlled companies, contravening immigration rules and minimum-wage laws in all jurisdictions.
There was testimony about water torture of babies, who are spanked, held under a running tap so many times that they’re too exhausted to cry any more.
Witnesses testified how they weren’t taught about sex and didn’t participate in work experience programs — both of which are mandatory at the community’s government-funded schools.
For nearly three decades, British Columbia has dithered, actively ignoring complaints and concerns about criminal offences, while officials in the attorney-general’s ministry fretted over the legitimacy of the polygamy law.
But that issue is in the hands of Chief Justice Robert Bauman.
And while he’s yet to hear the closing arguments, and it will likely be months before Bauman renders his decision, the province must act immediately on the evidence of criminal offences and breaches of labour regulations and school requirements.
There are no excuses left.
This article was found at:
National Post - Canada January 29, 2011
Pressured to wed early and procreate
by Brian Hutchinson | National Post columnist
“Have as many babies as you can,” Jorjina Broadbent recalls being told. “My husband always said that it’s not quality we’re looking for, it’s quantity. How many children we can have before this life is up.”
Multiply and replenish the Earth. She did as instructed. A child of polygamists, raised in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Ms. Broadbent produced 12 children; her husband, also a church member, took a second wife and had some more.
Ms. Broadbent’s daughters felt pressured to wed early and procreate. One daughter was married at 17. “She had four babies, right straight in a row, in four years,” Ms. Broadbent said in a videotaped interview, entered as evidence this month at a B.C. Supreme Court hearing testing the validity of Canada’s anti-polygamy laws.
Ms. Broadbent was born in Utah, and she raised her large family there, but her church has an affiliate community in Bountiful, an isolated community in the B.C. interior. FLDS members in Bountiful also practise polygamy. It’s prohibited in the United States and in Canada, but the specific laws are rarely enforced because of difficulties authorities have finding harm.
People loyal to the church paint a rosy picture of polygamy. Residents of Bountiful describe their community as loving, peaceful and happily insulated. They just want to be left alone.
But lawyers for the B.C. Attorney-General say polygamy must be prosecuted, to protect the moral fabric of Canadian society and to protect women and children from abuse. If the FLDS in Bountiful can practise polygamy under the guise of religious freedom, then other groups will surely come to Canada seeking the same protection.
The B.C. Attorney-General wants to show that harm can and does arise from polygamy. But this isn’t easy. One strategy is finding witnesses such as Ms. Broadbent and having them share with the court disturbing life stories. Another is producing statistics that show anomalous rates of teen pregnancy.
According to an affidavit sworn last week by a director of B.C.’s Vital Statistics Agency, there were 28,740 teen births in the province from 1986 and 2009. That’s 2.7% of all births in B.C. for the period. Meanwhile, there were 833 births by Bountiful women; of those, 85 — or 10.2% — were teen births.
The Bountiful numbers are anomalous, but are they cause for alarm? Not necessarily, according to other documents produced by the B.C. Attorney-General.
An affidavit sworn by BC provincial health officer Perry Kendall demonstrates a “higher-than-provincial-average rate of teen pregnancy” in and around Bountiful; however, Mr. Kendall also noted that this “did not present a serious public health concern because most of the health risks associated with teen pregnancy reflect the impact of a lack of prenatal care, which was not an issue in Bountiful.”
Attached to his affidavit is a 2005 document prepared for a provincial deputy minister of health services. It also downplays the high rate of teen pregnancies at Bountiful. “[Government officials] have been keeping a ‘close eye’ on the community, have conducted multiple investigations, and have never found a child (any person under the age of 19) in that community who … was in need of protection.”
What about Bountiful men, those who married teenaged girls and impregnated them? They are, on average, 8.2 years older than their teen wives, according to statistical evidence filed in court last week. The data indicate that 142 Bountiful fathers have, on average, 5.7 children each. Seven of the 142 men have 14 children each. Another seven fathers have 233 offspring among them; that’s an average of 33 each. Those are shocking statistics, but on their own they cannot lead to allegations of crime.
According to the evidence filed, one Bountiful man has 107 children of his own. And one has 22 wives. No names are mentioned but local media have previously reported that Winston Blackmore, Bountiful’s former bishop, has more than 100 children and more than 20 wives.
Mr. Blackmore split with U.S-based FLDS leaders in 2002, following doctrinal disputes, but he still leads his own fundamentalist faction within Bountiful. Neither he nor members of his flock are participating at the B.C. Supreme Court hearing. The other Bountiful faction is taking part. Led by James Oler, it remains loyal to FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs, an American accused of child sexual assault. Mr. Jeffs is sitting in a Texas jail, waiting for criminal proceedings to begin.
Three of his Bountiful acolytes testified at the polygamy hearing in Vancouver this week. They all spoke in favour of the church and plural marriage. Unlike Ms. Broadbent — who speaks openly about abuses she claims to have suffered as an FLDS member before leaving the church and her husband a few years ago — the three Bountiful women spoke of happiness, mutual respect and personal freedoms, such as choosing career paths, in midwifery, teaching, or accounting. They also described the benefits — and the necessity — of shared child rearing.
“We’re all in one house,” one of the women told the hearing this week. “We hold meetings every night, or we try to. We talk over the day’s events, talk about the children and if there are changes needing to be made.”
As far as she is concerned, these are the only family data that matter: Four sister wives, one husband, 24 children. “I know all of their names,” the woman said, proudly.
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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