4 Jun 2011

Mormon fundamentalist leader must testify in tax case and reveal details of polygamy and child brides in Bountiful

Vancouver Sun  -  Canada    June 8, 2011

Polygamous leader's tax trial set for January

By Daphne Bramham | Vancouver Sun

Polygamous leader Winston Blackmore will testify under oath for the first time about his ‘lifestyle’ during his 12-day trial in federal Tax Court begins Jan. 23, 2012.

Blackmore had asked for an unprecedented ban on the publication and use of any witness testimony or evidence related to polygamy during his tax trial so that none of that information could be used against him in any future criminal trial. His motion was denied by Judge Campbell Miller. Blackmore is not appealing the decision and now has three months to pay the $50,000 in court costs that Miller ordered him to pay.

Polygamy is illegal in Canada, but the law is under review by Chief Justice Robert Bauman of the B.C. Supreme Court, who was asked by the B.C. government to determine if the criminal sanction is constitutional since the Charter of Rights guarantees religious freedom and freedom of expression.

Blackmore’s unprecedented request was denied earlier this month, clearing the way for his trial which is also a precedent-setting case to determine how he and his extended family ought to be taxed.

Blackmore is appealing the reassessment of his personal income tax filings for 2002 to 2006 that concluded he had under-estimated his earnings by $1.5 million and the $147,000 he was assessed in penalties.

At issue is whether Blackmore’s large family (which includes 19 or more wives and more than 130 children), plus his extended family of siblings and their multiple wives and children constitute a "congregation" for tax purposes.

The government of Canada says they don’t. Up until 2002 when he was ex-communicated by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Blackmore was the bishop of the congregation in Bountiful, B.C. Since then, the government says he and his family are not "a constituent part of any religious organization."

In Tax Court, it’s up to the taxpayer to prove that the government’s interpretation is wrong. So, it will be up to Blackmore, his wives and others to prove that they all lived and worked together and share beliefs. And under cross-examination, lawyers for Canada will be able to ask questions about all of that including how many wives Blackmore had during the disputed tax years and where they all lived.

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CBC News - Canada June 3, 2011

Polygamist leader to testify at tax trial

The testimony of polygamist leader Winston Blackmore at his tax trial won't be protected by a publication ban, meaning the public may soon learn much more about the inner workings of the polygamous community of Bountiful, B.C.

Blackmore is facing charges in federal court in Vancouver for allegedly owing up to $1 million in back taxes. At issue is whether his community qualifies as a religious congregation under the law.

Blackmore had specifically asked the court to ban the publication of testimony related to polygamy. His lawyer told the court Blackmore is worried such evidence could be used against him in a potential criminal prosecution.

But Justice Campbell Miller ruled Blackmore himself has given numerous interviews on the subject and also found any criminal proceedings that might arise would be too far in the future to prejudice a jury.

The judge has also declined Blackmore's request that he be immune from criminal prosecution for any evidence he gives in the tax case.

Details about polygamist community expected

CBC lawyer Dan Burnett says once the trial gets underway, it will be the first time Blackmore will be compelled to testify under oath at a trial.

"I expect you're going to hear some information about the practices and approaches and beliefs in the community we haven't heard before," Burnett said.

"There will be no restriction on the public being able to hear and see all the evidence as to the issue in the case, which even though it's a tax case, it's about whether Bountiful is a congregation within the meaning of the Tax Act, and that's going to get into what beliefs they share spiritually and all that."

The trial was set to begin Monday but was postponed while the judge ruled on Blackmore's request for a publication ban. Blackmore could still appeal Friday's decision, and a new date for the start of the trial has yet to be set.

No ruling on polygamy laws

B.C. Crown lawyer Craig Jones has said it's no secret Blackmore is a polygamist, and the tax case will force him to talk about marriages among 12- and 13-year-olds in the community.

Blackmore could still face criminal charges in connection with his marriages, even though two past attempts to prosecute him for polygamy have failed.

The chief justice of the B.C. Supreme Court is expected to rule later this year on the constitutionality of the law banning polygamy following a special months-long hearing in Vancouver that ended in April.

Chief Justice Robert Bauman spent several months hearing testimony and legal arguments about whether the prohibition against multiple marriages is constitutional, and much of the case focused on allegations of abuse in the small religious commune of Bountiful.

If Bauman rules the ban on polygamy is permissible under the Charter or Rights, the B.C. government is likely to renew its prosecution of Blackmore, it has indicated.

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Vancouver Sun  -  June 4, 2011

Tax Court gets interesting when polygamist comes to town

Winston Blackmore denied a sweeping publication ban that would have shielded evidence and testimony from the public eye

By Daphne Bramham

The federal Tax Court is a genteel place, a white-collar court where the only crime being tried is tax evasion.

Unlike provincial courts, no sheriffs in bulletproof vests stand guard. Instead, a single commissionaire sits behind a desk on the sixth floor of an office building at the heart of downtown Vancouver.

He politely asks people to hang up their coats and leave umbrellas and bags in the closet. That done, he reminds them to turn cellphones off.

But high-profile polygamist Winston Blackmore brought some chaos into the calm world this week, along with his tax troubles, of which he has $1.5 million worth for the years 2000 to 2006.

He asked for unprecedented shielding of evidence and testimony. He wanted a publication ban and an order from Judge Campbell Miller that none of it could be used in any future criminal trial involving polygamy.

And if that weren't possible, Blackmore asked that his tax trial be adjourned until after the reference case on the constitutionality of Canada's polygamy law is finally determined or until any future criminal trial (with him as the defendant) was completed.

He didn't get any of it. But if his intent was to delay, that much he got at a price of $50,000 to be paid to the Department of Justice for its costs.

Blackmore's audacious motion attracted journalists and their lawyers as well as lawyers from B.C.'s attorney-general's ministry.

In Courtroom 601, where arcane sections of Canada's thick tax acts are normally debated and parsed, Craig Jones (B.C.'s lead lawyer in the polygamy reference case) raised the spectre of child brides and human trafficking victims.

If Miller were to grant such an unprecedented shield on evidence, Jones argued that Miller could be thwarting prosecutions of those crimes as well if he granted Blackmore's request.

The Tax Court judge made it clear that none of this made him happy. He wasn't happy that the motion was filed two working days before the trial's scheduled start, even though two weeks earlier Blackmore's lawyer David Davies had assured Miller there were no impediments to the trial.

The judge wasn't happy with media lawyers and a lawyer from the B.C. attorney-general's ministry in his court.

It's not that Miller -a legal scholar with a master's degree in law (first class) from Cambridge University -wasn't up to dealing with this unprecedented motion.

Even though several times, the judge expressed surprise at the "paucity of jurisprudence on incriminating evidence from civil suits being used in criminal matters," it took him only one day to craft his crisp, oral decision rendered Friday.

Miller denied every aspect of Blackmore's motion even as he expressed "real concern" that the government could use the Tax Court "as fertile, fact-finding territory" to gather evidence for criminal charges against polygamists or drug dealers.

He said citizens are already disadvantaged in Tax Court because the onus is on them to "demolish" the assumptions the government makes in its tax assessments.

Miller did rule that Blackmore is a "compellable witness" even though Davies didn't ask for that.

The judge said it could provide Blackmore some protection from evidence being used to incriminate him in a future trial.

Further, Miller suggested Davies subpoena witnesses to support Blackmore's contention that he, his family and other residents of Bountiful constitute a "congregation." That way, Miller said, the witnesses can argue in any future criminal trial that their testimony was not freely given.

Although agreeing that Blackmore raised an important issue of selfincrimination in civil courts, Miller objected to his timing and ordered Blackmore to pay $50,000 to the government for extra costs incurred by the trial's delay.

He didn't, however, agree with the government that no trial be set until the bill is paid, even though the government has reason for concern that Blackmore's cheque might not arrive. In April 2010, Blackmore had $5.68 million in debt and only $867,000 in assets, according to an affidavit filed in B.C. Supreme Court. He was pleading penury to support an unsuccessful attempt to have taxpayers fund his participation in the constitutional reference case.

Miller gave Davies until Wednesday to get Blackmore's instructions regarding an appeal of the Friday ruling. If there's no appeal, a trial date will be set.

With all that decided, the Tax Court then returned to normal -at least until Blackmore's trial begins.

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Mormon fundamentalist asks court to prevent evidence in tax trial from being used in criminal cases related to polygamy

Mormon fundamentalist leader asks court to exclude evidence against him in Canadian constitutional case on polygamy

Mormon polygamists seek immunity from future prosecution before giving evidence in Canadian constitutional case

Judge will allow anonymous testimony from Mormon polygamists in Canadian constitutional case on polygamy

Decision in Canadian constitutional case on polygamy months away but evidence renews police investigation

Author who escaped abuse in US polygamy cult explains why Canadian constitutional case is so important in both countries

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.

FLDS lawyer's closing argument in constitutional case on polygamy ignores children's right to religious freedom

Another closing argument in Canadian polygamy case claims religious freedom for adults trumps children's rights

Author gives overview of history of marriage in context of the Canadian constitutional case on polygamy law

Legal expert tells Canadian court polygamy prohibitions and monogamy tradition pre-date Christianity


  1. Polygamist communities sent teens to work long hours for low pay


    EDMONTON — Truman Oler was 17 when he made the long drive to Sundre from his home in Bountiful, B.C., the base of Canada’s controversial polygamous sect, Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints.

    Like dozens of other FLDS teenage boys, Oler left high school after Grade 9 and, at 15, he was working full time for a company owned by Bountiful’s bishop, Winston Blackmore.

    Blackmore, who eventually had more than 20 wives, sent Oler to Alberta to work in his post and pole mill in Sundre, a small town southwest of Red Deer near the foothills. That was the late 1990s. The Sundre site, first owned by J.R. Blackmore and Sons and later by Oler Bros. Contracting, was still operating in Sundre until the spring of 2009.

    Documents obtained by The Journal show the FLDS company did business with dozens of Alberta companies by the time it folded. Court documents also raised questions about working conditions and pay in the FLDS company.

    Oler, like his fellow FLDS workers, believed if he obeyed the rules, paid his tithes and followed the bishop’s teachings, he might be assigned a wife, a place to build a home, perhaps another wife. That was the promise.

    Oler was determined to be faithful. “I just never looked for a way out,” he recalled in a recent interview with The Journal.

    At first, the crew worked day and night shifts making fence posts for a large local mill. Later, Blackmore and Sons got into logging on contract and workers cut timber and de-limbed trees.

    For a while, the young men drove the six hours back to Bountiful twice a month to attend church meetings and see family, recalled Truman, whose father had six wives and 47 children. Truman Oler was 13th of the 15 children by his mother, Memory Oler.

    While the plight of teenage brides has garnered much attention in the story of Bountiful, there is another dark side to the polygamous sect — the young men and women used as cheap labour for FLDS companies whose futures were totally dependent on a bishop’s decisions.

    Dozens of these young people came to the Sundre area to work for Blackmore and Sons, and later Oler Bros., businesses that helped support the polygamous community back in British Columbia.

    The story of the young people in Alberta, as Oler’s account reveals, is one of low pay, long hours and isolation. Occasionally, a young man would be kicked out for breaking the rules; some would leave on their own. Known as “lost boys,” they were left to cope with no family support, no financial support and little education.

    Experts who gave evidence last winter in a B.C. court reference on the legality of polygamy noted that surplus young men are often sent away to work to reduce the competition for young wives desired by the older men — as well as provide cheap labour.

    A judgment is expected soon in the B.C. court reference that will determine the legality of polygamy under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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  2. Canada's polygamy laws upheld by B.C. Supreme Court

    CBC News November 23, 2011

    B.C. Supreme Court has upheld Canada's polygamy laws, but says minors who end up in polygamous marriages should be exempt from prosecution.

    In a 335-page decision released on Wednesday, Chief Justice Robert Bauman ruled in favour of the section of the Criminal Code outlawing polygamous unions. [ read the full decision at:
    http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/SC/11/15/2011BCSC1588.htm ]

    In his ruling, Bauman said while the law does infringe on religious freedom, it is justified given the harm polygamy causes to children, women and society.

    “I have concluded that this case is essentially about harm,” Bauman wrote in the decision that was handed down Wednesday morning in Vancouver.

    “More specifically, Parliament’s reasoned apprehension of harm arising out of the practice of polygamy. This includes harm to women, to children, to society and to the institution of monogamous marriage.”

    But he suggested the law shouldn’t be used to criminalize minors who find themselves married into polygamous unions.

    The decision follows 42 days of legal arguments from a wide variety of groups interested in the constitutionality of Section 293 of the Criminal Code.

    The ruling was welcomed by B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond in Victoria, who called the decision a "landmark" ruling that sends a clear message upholding the laws.

    "As Chief Justice Robert Bauman recognized, this case is about two competing visions — one of personal harm versus state intrusion. As he clearly found, there is profound harm associated with polygamy, particularly for women and children," said Bond.

    Bond said she was pleased with the result, but would not say if B.C. intends to launch a third attempt to prosecute polygamists in the religious community of Bountiful.

    The ruling was also welcomed by Brian Samuels, the lawyer for the group Stop Polygamy in Canada.

    "I think it's a well reasoned and comprehensive decision," said Samuels.

    Likewise, Canada's polyamorists — people with multiple partners outside a religious context — said they were relieved because Bauman said the law shouldn't apply to them unless they decide to formalize their unions.

    "The formality of marriage is really not a big issue in the polyamorous community," said John Ince, the spokesman for the Canadian Polyamoury Advocacy Association.

    But George MacIntosh, the lawyer appointed by the court to argue against the law, said the decision unfairly criminalizes the actions of consenting adults and he may appeal the decision.

    "Three consenting adults who are causing no harm ought not to be committing a crime. The judge found that people in that circumstance are committing a crime if there was some celebration of the marriage, and we don't think that the section says that," said MacIntosh. ...

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  3. Bountiful leader denies polygamous community brainwashes, harms

    by DIRK MEISSNER, The Canadian Press November 23, 2011

    Bountiful, B.C.— Winston Blackmore says he has a load of drywall to unload from his truck and doesn’t have a lot of time to discuss court rulings – even if they essentially find his lifestyle damaging to women and children and could result in criminal charges.

    Mr. Blackmore said Wednesday successive B.C. governments have been persecuting his religious community of Bountiful in southeastern B.C. for decades and he wishes to be left alone rather than having to defend himself.

    He leaned against the stage of his recently-built community hall, wearing a black J.R. Blackmore and Sons baseball cap, boots, blue jeans and black leather jacket. But his blue eyes flashed, his relaxed demeanour quickly turned rigid, and his arms jutted outwards as he tried to swallow a B.C. Supreme Court ruling that found Canada’s 121-year-old polygamy law is valid.

    “I am who I am. We are who we are,” said Mr. Blackmore, 55. “And, you know, in 1985 it was a criminal act to commit adultery in Canada and somehow or other somebody got that changed. But an adulterer, somebody who committed adultery before 1985, is just as big a criminal as I am.”

    He said he always expected the polygamy case to end up before the Supreme Court of Canada, but despite his best efforts to shrug off Wednesday’s B.C. Supreme Court decision, Mr. Blackmore was clearly rankled about what he considers an attack on his community’s way of life.

    “This isn’t just a religious right, it’s our right to freely associate,” said Mr. Blackmore. “It’s the right for adults to freely associate. And so, to say, nothing good ever came out of polygamy, beyond ... for people who are associating adults, I don’t think that’s correct.”

    Chief Justice of the B.C. Supreme Court Robert Bauman ruled the harms polygamy inflicts on women and children outweigh any claims to religious freedom.

    Mr. Blackmore said he’s just trying to raise his family the best way he knows and is adamant women are not brainwashed in Bountiful to accept polygamy. If any child is harmed, the police will investigate, he said.

    Mr. Blackmore, who once said he had at least a dozen wives and 100 children, would only call his family large on Wednesday, dismissing as stupid questions about an updated child count, other than to say he now has more grandchildren.

    “It’s plenty large enough,” said Mr. Blackmore about his family.

    He said he didn’t know about the status of an on-going RCMP investigation into allegations of child abuse in Bountiful.

    “They haven’t talked to me.”

    Mr. Blackmore said he’s heard about some situations in Bountiful – but not the people under his guidance – involved with underage marriages and moving young girls from Bountiful to be married in the United States.

    He said he believes people over 18 should be allowed to be in more than one marriage, but not people under 18.

    “None of my children are brainwashed,” Mr. Blackmore said. “They think for themselves. That’s the way they were raised – and I wasn’t [brainwashed] either.” ....

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  4. Winston Blackmore, Bountiful at centre of federal tax court fight

    By Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun columnist January 23, 2012

    Bountiful is not a religious commune and, at best, one of its leaders Winston Blackmore is nothing more than patriarch of a large, polygamous family. That's what Justice Department lawyers will try to prove over the next three weeks in Federal Tax Court. In 2008, Canada Revenue Agency reassessed five years of Blackmore's personal income tax filings and determined that he under-estimated his earnings by $1.5 million.

    This is the first time the Federal Tax Court has heard a challenge to Section 143 of the Tax Act, which describes terms such as congregation, community and even what a religion is. Blackmore and his lawyer argue that the fundamentalist Mormon group that he belongs fits all of the criteria and because of that, Blackmore ought to share the tax burden of his personal and corporate earnings with others in the community.

    But Justice Department lawyer Lynn Burch said in her opening statement that Blackmore and Bountiful fail on every count. They don't all live and work together. There's no doctrinal prohibition on members owning property in their own right. And the members do not devote all of their work and efforts to the common good. Far from being a congregation as defined by the act, Burch said, "As best the appellant [Blackmore] is represents a splinter group of a splinter group.

    "He is twice removed the from episcopal legitimacy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [the mainstream Mormon church] . . . his group is not a constituent part of any organized religion."

    Blackmore and about 400 residents of Bountiful, B.C. -- most of whom are his family members -- broke with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or FLDS in 2002. The FLDS itself is a breakaway sect that is not even recognized by mainstream Mormons.

    Burch characterized what Blackmore is attempting to do is transfer his tax liabilities to a 'deemed' trust and spread that burden among the other community members "in some cases without their knowledge or their consent."

    She went on to say that if a religious leader is "described as a shepherd, the role of a good shepherd is to shear the sheep, not skin it."

    Blackmore - the first witness - acknowledged that even though he'd paid certified accountants to do his personal and corporate tax filings, he knew nothing about Section 143 until after he was reassessed and he hired Vancouver lawyer David Davies to act for him at the appeal.

    As Davies said in his opening statement, "It is not a situation where Mr. Blackmore planned his way into Section 143. It's his way of life."

    Blackmore, who continues his testimony this afternoon, noted that he was subpoenaed to the trial even though he brought the action. Because of that subpoena, anything Blackmore says in the tax court cannot be used against him in a criminal court. And, that protection may well prove important since the last week lawyer Peter Wilson was appointed special prosecutor by the B.C. Attorney general. Wilson will determine whether any criminal charges - other than polygamy - should be laid in Bountiful. Among charges he has been asked to consider are sexual exploitation, sexual abuse of a minor, procuring and human trafficking.

    Davies led Blackmore through his five years of tax filings and the difference between what Blackmore claimed and what the tax collectors say he owes. In 2001, for example, he claimed $26,500 in employment income and $5,000 in business income. Revenue Canada says what he should have claimed was $527,751. The penalty it assessed for that year alone was $63,999.

    Over the course of the trial, both sides will call experts to explain what Blackmore's group really is. The government also plans to call former members of the community.


  5. B.C. polygamous 'minister' strains to list wives in Tax Court fight

    By Andy Ivens, Postmedia News January 24, 2012 Vancouver Sun

    VANCOUVER — B.C. polygamist leader Winston Blackmore paused for a moment during his testimony in court on Tuesday trying to remember which of his 20 plural wives was No. 14.

    "Let me think about that for a minute," he asked Judge Diane Campbell of the Tax Court of Canada. After more than a minute of silent counting, his head bobbing for each wife, Blackmore had the answer. "Shirley Black," he announced.

    The leader of a polygamous group of families in Bountiful, B.C., is fighting an audit by Canada Revenue Agency that found he failed to report more than $1.5 million in income in the years 2000 to 2004 and 2006. Along with GST and any penalties and interest imposed, that figure could rise substantially if the government wins its case against him.

    It is the first time in history an individual is challenging the CRA on a section of the federal Tax Act that defines what constitutes a religion and a congregation. The government says his group is not a congregation under the act. Blackmore claims he is minister to approximately 400 followers in Bountiful and that they constitute a congregation, which should provide them an enormous break on taxes. Blackmore is the main shareholder of J.R. Blackmore and Sons (JRB), a large logging and forest products company with many holdings in southeastern B.C. and Idaho.

    But on his tax forms for the six years in question, he claims his and the other three directors' incomes were spread out over the entire congregation because they live communally and share their wealth, in accordance with their beliefs. The four directors claimed they supported their large families on incomes of between $15,000 and $45,000 in one year of the years that was audited. Blackmore said his huge family was able to get by on that because so much of the food they ate was provided by the farm they shared in common with the other families.

    In 2002, Blackmore was excommunicated from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), leaving Bountiful a community divided roughly in half. The FLDS split from the mainstream Mormon church in 1890 over the issue of polygamy. It is not recognized by the mainstream Mormon church.

    Lawyer Lynn Burch of the federal Justice Department, cross-examined Blackmore on Tuesday on his living arrangements with his various wives and their more than 60 children. Burch asked Blackmore to list all 20 "plural wives," after his first wife Jane Blackmore, whom he legally married in 1975 and with whom they have seven children. Their marriage was recognized by the provincial government, but the next 20 are not.

    Jane, a midwife, left Winston and Bountiful in 2002 and bought a house in Cranbrook, B.C. They are now divorced. Blackmore said he did not actually live with any of his wives or children, but lives in "an apartment" in his late father's "old house." There is a separate apartment in the upstairs potion of the house in which one of his wives lives with her children on a rotating basis. Three of the most senior wives decide among themselves which of them is allowed to live in the upstairs apartment, although Winston said he has the last word. His other wives live in various houses sprinkled around Bountiful.

    Since a schism divided the community in 2002, with half the community following Blackmore and the other half following James Oler, Blackmore said his group has been "in limbo." He called a meeting with all 20 wives at the time of the split and told the group he didn't want any of them to stay with him against her will. "Eight or nine left," he said, including Jane in that group. ...


  6. Polygamist contradicts himself in tax court

    by TERRI THEODORE, Globe and Mail January 25, 2012

    VANCOUVER— The Canadian Press

    Polygamous leader Winston Blackmore acknowledges he may not be a prophet, but he’s a little less clear about whether or not he’s the leader of a church in southeast B.C. Mr. Blackmore is trying to make a case in the Tax Court of Canada for special status for his community in Bountiful, B.C. Under heated cross-examination Wednesday by federal lawyer Lynn Burch, Mr. Blackmore at first refused to answer whether or not he thought himself a prophet.

    “Answer the question Mr. Blackmore. It’s a yes or no,” Judge Diane Campbell said. “No,” he replied. “You don’t have a church?” Ms. Burch asked. “I have a church congregation, so I have a church,” he answered.

    But his testimony contrasts an interview Mr. Blackmore had with CNN’s Larry King, particularly when he insisted twice he didn’t have a church. “I don’t have a church, for one thing. I am just one of a lot of people who believe in the basic, simple fundamentals of our LDS faith and who are trying to live that way with our families,” he told Mr. King in a December 2006 interview.

    “Are you denying these statements?” Ms. Burch asked, as she read a transcript of the King interview. “No, I’m not,” he said.

    In court Tuesday, Mr. Blackmore admitted to having 21 wives and at least 67 children. But on Wednesday, the name of another woman came up, and he had to clarify that she, too, was a wife, boosting the count to 22 wives. In earlier testimony, Mr. Blackmore said children as young as 12 in his community were working on logging loaders and skidders, earning well below the minimum wage. Mr. Blackmore said the boys from the community did all kinds of summer jobs for his company J.R. Blackmore and Sons Ltd., including rounding up cattle, bundling fence posts and working at the company’s logging operation.

    He said the children were kept away from anything dangerous, such as using a logging skidder on steep slopes. The skidder is a heavy tracker used to pull cut trees out of the forest in a process called skidding. The parents of the children often designated where the children would go, Mr. Blackmore said. “They were worried about risk, we all were.”

    He agreed that the company got the tax deduction it was entitled to for hiring the children, and they were issued T-4 slips for the money they earned, but he didn’t know if they filed tax returns. Mr. Blackmore couldn’t recall how much the children – all boys – were paid, but agreed when asked by Ms. Burch that it was probably less than a couple of dollars an hour. He said the children were issued cheques, and he would cash them, giving them money from a store operation that J.R. Blackmore also owned.

    “I didn’t have pockets full of cash,” he replied, when Ms. Burch asked him to explain why he would cash the boys’ cheques. Every summer, about 30 to 40 boys would work at various operations of the company, Mr. Blackmore said, adding it was difficult to find something for all the boys to do. “The mothers took charge of the girls. They wanted us to do something with the boys.”

    Mr. Blackmore said WorkSafe BC officials told the company in a meeting that anyone younger than 12 could not be put to work. “We tried to honour it,” he said.



  7. Will the taxwomen bring down the polygamist?

    By Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun January 27, 2012

    Winston Blackmore may have finally met his match: the taxwomen.

    It's money - not polygamy, not a constitutional challenge to religious freedom and not criminal charges - that's landed Canada's best known polygamist in federal tax court testifying under oath and facing a pair of formidable, demanding and, at times, impatient women, Judge Diane Campbell and Justice Department lawyer Lynn Burch. And it's so much money that it's possible the government could bankrupt Blackmore and financially ruin two of his brothers (Kevin and Guy) as well as the companies that the three of them operate.

    The government claims he underestimated his income by $1.5 million over five years ending in 2006. Before his appeal, Blackmore and his company had been assessed back taxes, penalties and interest payments amounting to $4.3 million. If he loses the appeal, it's not clear how much more might be added in penalties, interest and court costs. Blackmore claims his group of about 500 fundamentalist Mormons in Bountiful fit the definition of "religious congregation" under the Income Tax Act. The government says, at best, it's a breakaway sect of a breakaway sect (the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). At worst, it's one big, polygamous family looking for a tax break.

    Although he's a preacher, Blackmore was often scarcely audible, especially when the buskers started up outside The Bay across the street from the court. "Speak up," Campbell frequently urged him. She couldn't hear him. Journalists couldn't hear him. But Blackmore probably wants that. At times as Blackmore quoted from scriptures or tried to explain his beliefs, the judge - a lawyer from Prince Edward Island with a master of laws degree from Harvard - might have wondered why me? But, as one journalist mused, this may be her only tax case that will keep people amused over dinner.

    For three straight days, Burch poked away at Blackmore's credibility and reliability, producing page after page of documents whether it was in a sworn affidavit from another court or a transcript of an inter-view on CNN with Larry King proving where he had contradicted himself. As each day went by, his black suit became more rumpled. So did his answers and his demeanour. Burch interrupted him if he tried to go off on a tangent. She badgered him when he tried to skate away from the simple question: Do you consider yourself a prophet?

    continued in next comment


  8. continued from previous comment:

    Burch asked and re-asked that one. Finally, with raised voice, Campbell ordered: "Answer the question, please. It's a simple yes or no." "No," he finally said. Did he want to take over the FLDS from jailed prophet Warren Jeffs? Did he want to start his own church? No. "You don't have a church," Burch asserted. "I have the priesthood work. I have a church congregation, so I have a church." "But the only followers are your family and you don't want any others?" "I have plenty."

    It was a flash of the defiant outlaw previously only seen on TV interviews and in documentaries rather than the small-town businessman/minister who showed up in court. What about tithes? He collects cash and keeps no record. " ... because it's nobody else's business?" Burch asked. "Everyone [in the community] knows what the money is used for," Blackmore replied. "That's not my question. You believe it's nobody else's business." "That is my belief," he said. "It is nobody's business."

    Once, Blackmore was ordered to raise $25,000 to prepare for "the worst" in response to the FLDS prophet's prophesy that the world was going to end - one of "maybe more than 15" such prophesies that Blackmore recalled. To get the money, Blackmore said he obtained an unsecured loan from the bank. Except for the all the tax money at stake, Blackmore was probably wishing for those days when he was still back at home in Bountiful with his 21 wives. He'd been asked to name them and he'd struggled. It wasn't possible to recall the years those 21 marriages took place, Blackmore told Campbell with a rueful smirk. The judge didn't return his smile.

    Oh sorry, Blackmore said the next day. There were really 22 wives. He'd forgotten one. As for children, 47 were born between 2000 and 2006. Were there others? Probably, he said. Burch suggested 20 more. Blackmore allowed that that was "probably fair." Burch spared both the judge and Blackmore the excruciating spectacle of him trying to name them.

    Blackmore's testimony provided myriad details about his lifestyle - both large and small. Unaffiliated fundamentalist Mormon men from Alberta, Utah and Missouri meet up with Blackmore's group at least once a year to talk about their beliefs and scope out marriage partners for their children. Blackmore's family dining room is in a separate, 3,000-square-foot building that seats 175 to 200. The kitchen is equipped with industrial-sized fridges, stoves and ovens where, each day, the wives bake 15 to 20 loaves of bread.

    Four of his wives are nurses and none was an accountant or a lawyer, which he might be wishing for now. Blackmore's wives (with their children) live in groups of two or three in houses in and around Bountiful including a house across the border in Por-thill, Idaho. He once had at least 15 credit cards in his name; only two that he used, the others were given to family members. He owned a four-seater plane and bought a box for Kootenay Ice hockey games before the new stadium in Cranbrook was even built. But the most bizarre detail? While he had 22 wives and 67 children, Winston Blackmore's home was a two-bedroom apartment that he shared with his mother. The tax trial is scheduled to continue for another two weeks.


  9. Winston Blackmore federal tax case hinges on church issue

    By Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun January 31, 2012

    VANCOUVER - What is a church? It's the key issue before the Federal Tax Court in the trial to determine whether Winston Blackmore and his family - fundamentalist Mormon polygamists - qualify to be taxed as a group and not as individuals.

    At stake for Blackmore is a personal reassessment of $1.5 million and $4.3 million in unpaid taxes, fines and interests for both him and his companies.

    On Tuesday, an expert witness hired by Blackmore suggested that within the Mormon tradition, it's not as easy as it might appear or as Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney might like it.

    "There has been continual dispute about who is the head of the LDS church," John Walsh, an independent scholar and member of the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Tuesday.

    Asked whether it's fair to say that from to say that there has been no consensus since Joseph Smith's death in 1844 until the present, Walsh replied: "Yes."

    Rather than a single church, Walsh uses the term "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" as an umbrella to describe everything from the mainstream LDS church in Salt Lake City to the Community of Christ (which was formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was founded by Smith's son) to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (whose president Warren Jeffs is in jail for sexual misconduct with minors) and a raft of others.

    Walsh says within Mormon tradition, leaders are chosen by consensus from among a group of men who have priesthood authority. That authority is conferred on them by other priesthood members who trace their legitimacy back to Smith.

    He noted that it took several years before Smith's successor Brigham Young was affirmed.

    (In earlier testimony, Blackmore traced his "priesthood lineage" back to John Taylor, the third president of the mainstream LDS church. Taylor was succeeded by Wilford Woodruff, who issued a manifesto in 1890 ending the practice of polygamy.)

    The continued practice of polygamy is one of the key differences between the mainstream LDS and fundamentalist Mormons, Walsh said. But it isn't the only one.

    Some fundamentalists believe Smith's law of consecration means that they should attempt to live communally, while the mainstream church has chosen to interpreted that to mean that members pay 10 per cent of their gross income for the common good.

    Another key issue in Blackmore's trial is whether his income and property was "consecrated" to the church - i.e. shared with others in the community - even though it is held in his name.

    Walsh was not allowed to give his opinion on that.

    Judge Diane Campbell qualified him as an expert only on general Mormon doctrine and only after government lawyers spent most of a day trying to have him disqualified, arguing that he was not only being paid $250 a day to testify but because his previous writings expressed enthusiasm for polygamy and that his degrees were from institutions that did not have the best reputations.

    The trial continues and is now expected to take four weeks instead of the initial estimate of three weeks.

  10. Religious beliefs keep money flowing into church company

    By Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun February 1, 2012

    Ken Oler has two wives and 21 children. Until 2002, he worked for "the church company." For 17 years, he earned $1,600 a month supervising the logging, trucking and road-building operations.
    Of course, the family got child tax credits and his wife, Alice Blackmore, earned a teaching salary from Bountiful elementary-secondary school that averaged about $800 a month.

    After every paycheque, Oler went to the bank and took out the cash equivalent to 10 per cent of the family's total income. Oler would then hand it over to the bishop of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) who would record it in the church record.
    The bishop was Winston Blackmore. Blackmore was also his boss and the 40-per-cent owner of J.R. Blackmore & Sons - the "church company."

    Oler could have earned more working somewhere else. But, he said, "It was a company that provided work for [people in] the community and helped do what was needed to provide infra-structure for the community." The Olers made ends meet by bartering labour for food and helping others in the community tend the 15-acre communal garden. They never saved.

    "In this community, we knew they were going to be there for us so there was not real need to build up a banking account." Any extra money Oler had, he gave to Blackmore to redistribute. He never asked for an accounting of where it was spent. Oler said he could see the "really tangible results."

    The Olers lived on church-owned property. He "consecrated" his labour and helped build the school, roads and the community's water system. But in 2002, Oler quit working for Blackmore, who had been excommunicated and replaced by Jim Oler, Ken's brother.

    "I don't know if I sided with my brother," Oler said Tues-day. "I maintained my beliefs as a Mormon. What keeps me doing what I'm doing are my beliefs as a Mormon." Oler, two of his sons and another brother started Oler Brothers Contracting, taking with them a contract that Ken had negotiated for "the church company."

    He also ended up with three pieces of equipment that were worth less than the money Blackmore's company owed on them. Three years later when the forestry industry fell on hard times, so did Oler and his company. Both were bankrupt and Oler had no real assets. The house he'd built was on land owned by the FLDS's United Effort Plan trust.

    He did it all because of his beliefs, which include polygamy, consecrating money, property and labour to the community, and tithing. But about six months ago, Oler left the FLDS and he and his three daughters moved to Alberta where he and two sons found work. The rest of his family stayed behind in Bountiful.

    "I was certainly not in agreement with some of the things that have gone on and some of the situations ... people [including FLDS president Warren Jeffs] have gone to prisons for some of those things [child sexual abuse] and I didn't believe in some of the church's philosophies, so I decided to leave."

    Oler testified Tuesday in Federal Tax Court about his life and beliefs on Blackmore's behalf. Blackmore is appealing a $1.5-million reassessment of his personal income for a five-year period between 2000 and 2006 and the $4.3 million worth of back taxes, penalties and interest owed personally and by his companies.

    And to avoid the back taxes and the interest that has continued to mount since the reassessment, Blackmore must prove that his group (comprised of about half of Bountiful's 1,000 residents) qualify under the federal Income Tax Act as a religious congregation.



  11. Blackmore locked up property records, his sister and ex-bookkeeper testifies

    by Wendy Stueck, Globe and Mail February 02, 2012

    Polygamous community leader Winston Blackmore kept some business records out of sight and inaccessible, his sister and former bookkeeper told a tax hearing Thursday.

    Mr. Blackmore “had a locked cabinet where he kept things he didn’t want anybody to look at,” Marlene Palmer, 53, said in response to questions from Crown lawyer David Everett.

    Those included documents relating to property, she said, adding that “I didn’t get into that drawer.”

    Ms. Palmer testified in Federal Tax Court in Vancouver, where Mr. Blackmore is appealing tax reassessments by the Canada Revenue Agency that concluded Mr. Blackmore understated his earnings by $1.5-million between 2000 and 2006.

    Mr. Blackmore and his lawyers are arguing that Bountiful is a congregation and that Mr. Blackmore’s tax burden should be shared with other members of the community. The Crown, however, maintains that Bountiful does not fit the definition of a congregation and doesn’t deserve special tax status.

    Much of the testimony to date in the case has focused on whether Bountiful residents work outside the community and whether they were able to own their own property or vehicles or maintain individual bank accounts.

    Federal lawyers maintain that tax laws relating to congregations are designed for communities have no belongings of their own and work for a common purpose.

    Ms. Palmer testified she worked for J.R. Blackmore and Sons, the business most closely associated with Bountiful – a community in southeastern British Columbia that’s home to members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

    The FLDS holds polygamy as a tenet of their faith. Ms. Palmer said she married at 17 despite wanting to go to school and said she left the FLDS after her son was kicked out of the community as a teenager.

    Her son was ejected from the community for having premarital sex, she said.

    A 2002 rift that resulted in some people in Bountiful following Mr. Blackmore and others staying loyal to James Oler, the leader favoured by FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, also played a role in her decision, she said.

    “After my son was kicked out, I questioned what God was and what religion should be,” said Ms. Palmer, who grew up in Bountiful but no longer lives there. “So I didn’t go to Winston’s church.”

    The split tore families apart and she lost touch with some relatives, she said, adding that some women would tell her they were not supposed to speak with her because she was not “righteous.”

    Ms. Palmer, who said she has since obtained certification as a counsellor and licensed practical nurse, said she tried not to discuss her religious doubts with others

    “I am not a Winston-ite, I am not a Warren-ite – I am just me,” she recalled saying. “I love the people in the community – both sides – because it split my family right down the middle.”

    Ms. Palmer said she and others were expected to tithe, or provide 10 per cent of their income to church leaders – Mr. Blackmore at the time in question Mr. Blackmore – but that they weren’t told how the money was spent.

    Ms. Palmer also described practicing “famine” – an exercise in which families would try to get by on half of their regular budget and give the rest to the Mr. Blackmore.

    The routine went on for a few years running in the 1990s before people got discouraged and the practice was discontinued, Ms. Palmer said, adding that it was “about done” by 2000.

    Asked why she thought there were three such sessions in a row, Ms. Palmer said she thought it had to do with raising money for related FLDS communities in the United States.

    The hearing before Judge Diane Campbell resumes Monday.


  12. B.C. polygamous leader 'not Al Capone,' tax trial told

    The Canadian Press May 4, 2012

    A federal government lawyer has dismissed suggestions that the Canada Revenue Agency is out to get polygamous leader Winston Blackmore in the same way that U.S authorities closed in on 1920s Chicago gangster Al Capone.

    In her final arguments Thursday in Blackmore's tax case, Lynn Burch told a Federal Tax Court that the religious leader's taxes weren't re-assessed because he faced polygamy charges, but because he's a taxpayer.

    "It would be inappropriate to consider that the taxman is the hammer coming in behind the [B.C.] attorney general. There's simply no evidence of that," Burch said, referring to the failed polygamy prosecution.

    "Mr. Blackmore is not Al Capone. Any suggestion of overlap between the activities of the attorney general and the Minister of National Revenue is not only unfounded, but quite inappropriate."

    Frustrated American prosecutors couldn't convict Capone — the leader of a prohibition-era crime gang — on criminal charges and instead a judge convicted him on tax evasion charges.

    Blackmore and James Oler were charged with practising polygamy in 2009, but the allegations were thrown out.

    The men each lead divided factions of a sect known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the southeast B.C. community of Bountiful.

    The dropped charges prompted the provincial government to launch a constitutional-reference trial on the issue of multiple marriages where a judge later upheld the law forbidding polygamy.

    In this case, the federal government alleges Blackmore owes $1.5 million in taxes over five years starting in 2000. His personal income tax during that time rarely went past $30,000.

    Blackmore disputed the claim in court saying his community of over 400 residents should have special tax status, similar to those of Hutterite colonies.

    But Burch told Federal Tax Court Judge Diane Campbell that Blackmore's community fails to meet every criterion that allows some religious communities to be taxed as a group. Burch told the judge Blackmore didn't meet the elements that give such religious groups tax status which included working and living together as a group and not owning any property.

    Instead, she said Blackmore used his company, J.R. Blackmore and Sons, to pay for the personal and living expenses of his family.

    "Mr. Blackmore continued on his merry way using company funds for family purposes, albeit a much larger family than we normally see in the courts," she said.

    Blackmore told the trial in earlier testimony that he had 21 wives and fathered 47 children during the tax period in question. A day after he gave that testimony he admitted he forgot one of his wives, and boosted the spouse count to 22.

    He was testifying under subpoena as a compelled witness making his testimony inadmissible in any later criminal trial.

    The RCMP has been investigating the practices of polygamous marriage in the community for decades, and late last year said they were investigating the community again, but this time over the issue of teen brides being sent over the U.S. border to marry older men.

    The trial, which started in January, was to last just three weeks. Instead it has been completed in stops and starts over four months.

    Final arguments are expected to be complete on Friday. There's no word on when the judge might give her ruling.


  13. Polygamous leaders family shouldn't have special tax status: lawyer

    The Canadian Press Winnipeg Free Press May 4, 2012

    VANCOUVER - It's now up to a federal tax judge to decide whether the leader of the polygamous community of Bountiful, B.C., is the head of a religious group that deserves special tax status, or whether he's simply the head of an unconventional and very large family without any such protection.

    The federal government has taken Winston Blackmore to court, claiming he underestimated his earnings by $1.5 million over a five-year period between 2000 and 2006.

    But in his final submission before the case is handed over to the judge for a ruling, Blackmore's lawyer, David Davies, to the Federal Tax Court Friday that Bountiful is a closed society and deserves the same special tax status afforded to other communities, like Hutterite colonies.

    Davies said the proof of that closed society comes in the actions of the community in everything from educating their own children to bride swapping.

    "As for the allegations about trafficking in brides, first of all in a closed society, it's apparent that this has to be done, because to draw within one's own ranks continually results in, obviously, consanguinity issues and the Hutterites apparently do the same."

    The Canadian Oxford dictionary defines consanguinity as a relationship with a common ancestor or blood relation.

    Blackmore wants special tax status under a section of the Income Tax Act that allows religious communities such as Hutterites to claim tax as a group.

    Davies said federal government lawyers are holding up the Hutterite colony has the "gold standard" for fitting into Section 143 of the act.

    "Yet the Bountiful community is pilloried for many of the same actions."

    The Hutterites work as a community, devote their time and effort to the single community, are given clothing, food and shelter, but they own nothing, he told the court.

    "This sounds remarkably like the just, wants and needs doctrine that governed the cash distribution within the community of Bountiful, that did not permit latitude for any personal savings."

    Lynn Burch, the lawyer for the federal government, said in her closing argument that Blackmore's organization is nothing more than a big, polygamous family which isn't worthy of the special status.

    Burch said Blackmore hasn't been able to prove his community belongs to any church — one of the mandatory elements allowing him to claim income as a group.

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    She said the leader of the southeast B.C. community can't claim he's a Mormon because that religion disavowed polygamy many years ago.

    "The appellant is a polygamist, he's admitted to having 22 wives," she pointed out to the court.

    Blackmore also admitted at the trial to having 47 children between 2000 and 2006.

    He testified on his own behalf during the trial, but under subpoena so his testimony couldn't be used in a criminal trial.

    Blackmore was excommunicated from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS, in 2002, dividing the community in half.

    About 400 of the 1,000-person congregation decided to follow Blackmore, the others stayed with James Oler, who was deemed the new leader by the head of the FLDS in the United States.
    Burch said there is no evidence that Blackmore has been part of any structured organization since then.

    "The appellant is twice removed from (religious) authority," she said.

    In 2009, both Blackmore and Oler were charged with practising polygamy, but the charges were later dropped.

    The controversy set off a constitutional reference case where a B.C. Supreme Court judge determined that the laws against plural marriage were legal.

    Blackmore told the court the money his company made, J.R. Blackmore and Sons, was used for the community.

    Burch said there's never been evidence that his community would fit the tax qualification.

    "Call it a community," she said, "But frankly it's an extended family."

    The trial lasted five weeks, but spanned four months. Federal Court Judge Diane Campbell said she would have a decision sometime in the fall.


  15. Bountiful remains a festering problem

    By Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun July 23, 2012

    Still no action on Bountiful polygamists.

    That headline could have been run almost every year for the past 60 years. That's how long the fundamentalist Mormon leaders in the southeastern British Columbia community have been legal outliers, ignoring the law that criminalizes having more than one wife.

    The headline has been written more than a few times over the last 20 years when the fundamentalist Mormon community has frequently been in the media.

    Why is there no sense of urgency to protect the children and women in this particular fundamentalist Mormon community?
    For most of the last decade, I've been trying to figure that out. Twice, it seemed the indifference to the harms they suffer was ending.

    Once was in 2009 when the leaders of the two different factions were charged. Those charges were later dropped. A judge subsequently ruled that the charges were invalid because they'd been recommended by an improperly appointed special prosecutor who was hired only after the government's own lawyers refused to go ahead with the case.

    Then there was the decision of B.C.'s attorney-general to test the constitutionality of the law by referring it to B.C. Supreme Court.

    Finally, in 2010, it seemed the provincial government was getting serious after years of doing nothing about the allegations of sexual and physical abuse within the closed community and ignoring the RCMP's charge recommendations.

    As the constitutional reference case was winding down in February 2011, B.C. government lawyers submitted startling evidence.

    It described how men from Bountiful illegally smuggled their under-aged daughters into the United States to be given in religious ceremonies to much older men as so-called "celestial" or plural wives.

    That evidence had already been used in Texas to convict a number of men, who were members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

    Yet here, other government lawyers in the criminal justice branch didn't think it was enough to merit charges of human smuggling, procuring or sexual exploitation.

    So, still no action. In November 2011, Chief Justice Robert Bauman of B.C.'s Supreme Court concluded that Canada's criminal sanction against the practice of having multiple wives was valid.

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    After three months of hearing evidence, Bauman determined that polygamy's harms justify infringing the Charter of Rights guarantees of religious freedom and the rights to liberty and free association.

    The harms Bauman described echoed everything that had been reported in The Sun and other media. Child brides. Teen mothers. Forced labour. Truncated education. Poverty. Neglect. Poor physical and mental health.

    Nearly two months later in January, Attorney-General Shirley Bond approved the appointment of special prosecutor Peter Wilson. His mandate for reviewing charges didn't include the charge of polygamy.

    Nearly two months after his appointment, Wilson's mandate was expanded to include polygamy after it was decided that Bauman's ruling would not be appealed.

    Then, nothing. A spokesman for Bond says there's nothing to report. I was told to talk to the special prosecutor if I wanted an update.

    I called Wilson's office and was told by an assistant that Wilson doesn't speak to the media. Only after I insisted did she reluctantly agree to take down my name, phone number and a request for information about where the Bountiful investigation stands.

    I have no idea whether he got my message.

    So, I'm back to wondering: Why the lack of urgency?

    Polygamy is the root cause of the harms. But when it comes to crime, it's the least significant when you consider the evidence provided to Bauman by the government's own lawyers about crimes such as sexual exploitation, illegal transporting of children across international borders and even forced labour and neglect.

    The federal government's record has been better.

    It has long enforced the policy of excluding polygamists who apply to immigrate.

    That, however, has never captured fundamentalist Mormons who don't need visas and have, with impunity, been cross-fertilizing the illegal com-munities in Utah, Arizona, Idaho and Texas with child brides and young men traded back and forth.

    Contrary to the policy, however, immigration officials have on several occasions granted exemptions on humanitarian grounds to stop the deportation of child brides in Bountiful and their children.

    Revenue Canada, on the other hand, has spent years investigating the financial doings in the community in an attempt to hold Bountiful's former bishop, Winston Blackmore, and his followers to financial account.

    Earlier this year, Blackmore appealed the government's nearly $2-million reassessment of his taxes. A decision in that case has yet to be released.

    Yet there's still no action to protect children.



  17. School in B.C. polygamous community closes, students now home-schooled

    By James Keller, The Canadian Press Calgary Herald November 4, 2012

    VANCOUVER - A school in Bountiful, B.C., with links to jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs has abruptly closed its doors, with most of its students now relying on home-schooling in a community that has long been accused of using classrooms to indoctrinate children rather than educate them.

    Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School shut down without explanation in September, the province's Education Ministry confirms, and nearly all of its former students are being home-schooled. The school, which received provincial funding for some grade levels, had an enrolment of 265 students last year.

    Bountiful is a small commune of about 1,000 people in southwestern B.C., not far from the U.S. border. Residents follow a fundamentalist form of Mormonism, which, unlike the mainstream Mormon church, condones polygamy as a tenant of the faith.

    Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School was one of two schools in the community, which itself is split into two divided factions.

    The school was controlled by the faction that remains connected to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or FLDS, and its jailed leader Warren Jeffs.

    The FLDS side of the community is considered more extreme and isolated than the faction led by Winston Blackmore, who split with the church a decade ago.

    Blackmore's school, Mormon Hills School, remains open with an enrolment this year of 178 students, according to the Education Ministry. Unlike Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School, Mormon Hills receives the highest level of government funding available to an independent school and is certified to grant high school diplomas.

    Education in the community came under scrutiny during a high-profile trial in late 2010 and early 2011 that examined Canada's polygamy law. The trial heard evidence of declining enrolment at both schools, particularly at higher grade levels. Statistics presented in court indicated few students finished Grade 12 and even fewer received high school diplomas.

    The trial also heard testimony from former Bountiful residents, who recalled being taught religion for several hours each day at the FLDS-run school, where boys were told to treat girls as "dangerous snakes."

    When reached by phone, the school's former principal, Guy Oler, declined to comment on the closure or how it might affect children in his community.

    The Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School Society, which ran the school, informed the provincial government in September that it wouldn't be open this year, said Education Ministry spokesman Scott Sutherland.

    He said the society didn't provide an explanation, nor was it required to do so. The ministry and the local school district immediately began meeting with Bountiful school administrators and parents to ensure they knew they were required to register the children elsewhere.

    "It came as a bit of a surprise to the ministry," Sutherland said in an interview.

    Sutherland said most of the students are now enrolled in a local home-schooling program known as Homelinks, which connects parents and children with certified teachers who work with families to craft an educational program for each student. Professional teachers evaluate students' work, but most of the instruction still occurs at home.

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    Several dozen children are technically registered at local schools, but nearly all of them are home-schooled. In those cases, it is entirely up to parents to teach and grade their children. They have access to resources, such as curriculum documents and computers, from the school, but are not required to use them.

    Nine former Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School students are enrolled in a separate government-run online learning program, Sutherland said.

    In all cases, students can obtain a high school diploma — known as a Dogwood diploma — if they take and pass provincial exams, but that is not required.

    When asked whether the ministry is concerned about the quality of education the Bountiful students will receive at home, Sutherland didn't directly address the issue.

    "Every complaint that has ever arisen regarding the schools (in Bountiful) has been followed up on," he said.

    "The ministry is satisfied that these kids will continue to receive an education and they are registered in education programs."

    The local school district's superintendent, Jeff Jones, said his staff are still working with parents as they transition into the district's various home-schooling options. There have been several community meetings, including one that Jones attended personally.

    "Right now, we're experiencing opportunities to develop relationships, and I think that's worked very well," Jones said in an interview.

    "The families, they seem to be very committed to working with our professionals. I would say, overall, I'm very pleased with the way the community is working with us."

    The Homelinks program includes weekly activities designed to bring its home-schooled students together as a community. Jones said initially the Bountiful students will participate in their own activities, separate from other Homelinks students, but he hopes they will eventually be integrated.

    Jones also preferred to steer clear of the controversy that hangs over Bountiful.

    "In education, we have to come to learn the context of any community we're working with. In our school district, and we have a variety of different communities," he said.

    "We welcome all students. Our mandate is to educate the students who come to us to be educated."

    Bountiful has been the subject of numerous police investigation since the early 1990s amid allegations of polygamy, sexual abuse and human trafficking.

    In 2009, community leaders Winston Blackmore and James Oler were each charged with one count of practising polygamy. Those charges were later thrown out after a judge ruled the B.C. government violated the men's rights.

    The collapse of that prosecution prompted the government to launch a constitutional reference case, which ended last year with a judge upholding the anti-polygamy law as constitutional.

    The RCMP currently have yet another investigation into Bountiful. A special prosecutor has been appointed to review any evidence the RCMP collects and consider charges that could include human trafficking, child exploitation and polygamy.


  19. Bountifuls dysfunction symbolized by school's closure

    With no classes to attend, children likely to be further indoctrinated into fundamentalist group led by imprisoned pedophile Warren Jeffs

    By Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun November 6, 2012

    It's a symptom of how disconnected the B.C. government is from the reality of the intensely secretive community of Bountiful that an Education Ministry spokesman described the closure of Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School as "abrupt" and "a surprise."

    In early September, after hearing reports it was closed and computers from the government-funded, independent school given away, I called the ministry to ask about the closure.

    The same ministry spokesman assured me that the school would open in mid-September as it always does.

    Spokesman Scott Sutherland, however, did say that after a spring inspection at the school, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leaders had decided to no longer take the $1.1 million the school is eligible for as a fully accredited independent school.

    For taxpayers, it may seem a bargain that they no longer pay for a school that has failed to produce more than a handful of high school graduates in its 27-year history.

    It may even seem a bonus that there's an extra $1 million to spend on schools where children aren't constantly told that obedience is paramount, that girls are "dangerous snakes" (a reference to the biblical Eve) and that girls' highest, best and virtually only use is to become mothers and wives.

    But the school's closure is only a bargain in the narrowest of economic terms.

    As long as the school received funding, it was subject to oversight that included routine inspections and external evaluations.

    Over the years, educational insufficiencies have been identified, among them a Grade 11 science test that asked such ridiculous questions as: How many goldfish are in the aquarium? And: Give suggestions for next year's school motto.

    Others included gender bias. Only a few years ago, boys' required work-experience program offered diverse activities from dairy work to mechanics, while girls' choices were limited to helping with children, cooking and sewing.

    The majority of the 265 students from last year (and others who should have started kindergarten) will now be home-schooled by parents who themselves have little more than basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills.

    Even the tenuous control from the Education Ministry is gone, since home-schooling parents are not required to use the provincial curriculum or any other resources that are available to them.

    The school's closure virtually condemns these children to an education that will likely consist of little beyond the bizarre, racist and sexist doctrines and end-of-world revelations emanating from the FLDS prophet and convicted pedophile Warren Jeffs, who is serving a life term in a Texas jail.

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    Over the past year, Jeffs's edicts have included banning even married couples from having sexual relations, outlawing all but the most essential physical contact between parents and children, forbidding play and banishing toys, games and sports.

    With no school to attend, children are left with little else to do but work or be further indoctrinated through endless replaying of Jeffs's taped sermons.

    They are even more vulnerable than before to manipulation by the church's extremist leaders. Additionally, with even the fleeting hope of a basic education eroded, there are now close to 300 children whose futures are further hobbled should they choose to leave or if they're forced to leave as an increasing number of men and boys have been since January.

    Among the banished are six fathers whose 40 children and seven wives have been "reassigned" to men deemed more obedient to Jeffs's diktats. Those six fathers will be back in Provincial Court in Creston on Wednesday fighting to gain access to their children.

    Ripping families apart. Reassigning women and children as if they have no more worth than furniture. Denying children their basic right to a safe and secure home, education and choices about everything from what they want to be to who they want to marry.

    These are all part of the longstanding dysfunction that has set apart this entire community since its founding in 1946. It afflicts both the 500 or so followers of Jeffs and the 500 or so others who stuck with former FLDS bishop Winston Blackmore, who himself has impregnated nine under-age girls.

    Despite frequent complaints over the years about the crimes committed within Bountiful, from polygamy to sexual exploitation to human trafficking and misdemeanours such as poor education inflicted on the religious loyalists, the community has flourished.

    Little more than a year ago, following a lengthy hearing into the constitutionality of Canada's anti-polygamy law, the chief justice of B.C.'s Supreme Court determined polygamy is at the root of the evil in Bountiful. He determined that its inherent harms override all of the other guarantees in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    Yet, the government has done nothing about polygamy. And it remains as deaf and dumb to all of its evils as it has been for nearly 70 years.


  21. REVIEW: A Cruel Arithmetic

    New memoir looks back on BC's historic polygamy case

    by Jeremy Hainsworth / Extra! Vancouver November 30, 2012

    Dozens of lawyers introduced themselves to BC Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman at the start of the polygamy reference case on Nov 22, 2010, but only BC government lawyer Craig Jones remained standing.

    Jones would spend the next few hours outlining polygamy's "cruel arithmetic" — why the government believed the law criminalizing the practice of multiple spouses was justifiable and constitutional.

    The case grew from the controversy surrounding the southeastern BC polygamous community of Bountiful, a hamlet divided between two factions of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS).

    The community of about 1,000 residents had been investigated repeatedly during the past two decades but avoided prosecution until its leaders were charged with polygamy in January 2009.

    Winston Blackmore was accused of having at least 19 wives, and Jim Oler at least three.

    FLDS members practice polygamy in arranged marriages, a tradition tied to the early theology of the Mormon Church. The main branch of the church renounced polygamy in 1890, but several fundamentalist groups seceded in order to continue the practice.

    Blackmore has long claimed religious persecution and protested what he sees as the denial of his constitutional right to religious freedom.

    The criminal charges against him and Oler never proceeded due to controversy surrounding the number of special prosecutors needed to arrive at their approval. A judge agreed that the government had gone “prosecutor shopping” and threw the charges out. Undeterred, the government tried a new tack, requesting a constitutional reference, essentially putting the polygamy law itself on trial.

    In the testimony that followed, in a trial setting unprecedented in Canadian history, Bauman heard about polygamy, polyamory, polyandry, polygyny and gay marriage, among a host of other issues.

    Bauman's ruling a year later said Canada's Section 293 criminal ban against polygamy should be upheld because it only minimally impairs religious rights while potentially protecting women and children from abuse.

    However, he defended polyamorous relationships, calling them consensual and not harmful, and said polyamorists should be allowed to have multiple relationships as long as they don't get married.

    Now, Jones has written A Cruel Arithmetic: Inside the Case Against Polygamy, a memoir of the case that produced one of the world's most thorough investigations of polygamy.

    "This book is about polygamy and a fundamental clash of rights; the right of a society to declare it to be criminal behaviour versus the rights of individuals to be free to arrange their most intimate personal affairs according to their conscience," Jones writes.

    The cruel arithmetic (a phrase drawn from Vancouver Sun writer Daphne Bramham), according to Jones, is the excess of unmarried men and the overall gender imbalance that results as those unmarried men are expelled while more women are imported for marriage.

    Bountiful, he writes, “was a small but important window on polygamy in practice, and it provided a demographic backdrop against which the individual evidence would emerge — of child brides, lost boys and human trafficking."

    continued in next comment...

  22. In the foreword, journalist Andrew Coyne asks if polygamy is not just another step forward.

    “Not so long ago, same-sex marriage had seemed strange, even threatening; now it was the law. Was not multiple marriage simply another step along the road to greater tolerance?"

    Jones answers him in the afterword 352 pages later. "We can and should say that, going forward, all polygamous marriages that come to the attention of authorities will be subject to prosecution," Jones writes.

    "With respect to subsisting or historical polygamous marriage, prosecution would only occur if it appeared that there were elements of exploitation, abuse, or a gross imbalance of power," he continues. "This would permit the majority of existing polygamous marriages, and the families they supported, to continue, and run their course without government interference.

    "I see little to be gained in tearing apart existing and functioning households,” he adds, “most of which include children of the wives involved, except where they are founded on exploitation or abuse."

    On the topic of same-sex marriage, Jones concedes, "The modern embrace of gays and lesbians appears to have had nothing but positive effects."

    He also quotes reference witness John Witte Jr, director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University in Georgia, as saying children and partners in same-sex marriages are flourishing, as are the communities that embrace them.”

    "We've come to the conclusion in a number of different churches and in a number of different states and in a number of different cultural communities, that same-sex parties need to be treated the same way as other-sex parties when it comes to union.”

    Jones also praises the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association's (CPAA) lawyer John Ince, calling him "adept" at presenting his clients' viewpoint in the reference case.

    Jones summarizes the CPAA position as supporting "the idea that there could be some law to prohibit polygamy, but that it could not include the secular, egalitarian multipartner relationships that their membership idealized."

    Ince argued before Bauman that the ban on the formalization of polyamorous relationships violated freedom of expression in as much as "the public celebration of a polyamorous relationship affirms the value and legitimacy of the union. It is also an expression of love and commitment."

    Bauman disagreed. But he still differentiated between polygamy and polyamory in his ruling.

    "For fundamentalist Mormons, polygamy is a fundamental spiritual principle through which they fulfill God’s plan,” Bauman said. "For polyamorists, the ability to live in a family with the people they love is essential."

    Bauman said the consensual and sex-positive nature of relationships are important tenets of polyamory. He also found that many polyamorists live mainstream lives fully integrated with their communities.

    Ince welcomed Bauman's decision as a relief to polyamorists whose lives and relationships were validated and found not to be illegal.

    In the end, Bauman would hear and consider what he called "the most comprehensive judicial record on the subject ever produced," Jones says.

    Jones' book, when read in tandem with Bramham's history of the FLDS in Canada, The Secret Lives of Saints, and Bauman's comprehensive ruling, provides an excellent overview of the context and law on polygamy in Canada.

    A Cruel Arithmetic:
    Inside the Case Against Polygamy
    Craig Jones
    Irwin Law Inc


  23. Bountiful leader’s ‘indifference’ to tax laws to cost him $150,000

    by WENDY STUECK, Vancouver — The Globe and Mail August 28, 2013

    A federal tax court judge has rejected appeals of tax assessments by Winston Blackmore, a leader in the polygamous enclave of Bountiful, B.C., concluding the community does not meet the requirements of a congregation set out in the Income Tax Act.

    In her August 21 decision, Justice Diane Campbell found Mr. Blackmore and Bountiful – home to members of a polygamous sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) – do not fit provisions in the act that were designed to accommodate communal organizations such as Hutterite colonies.

    Judge Campbell dismissed tax appeals for six taxation years between 2000 and 2006 – 2005 was not included – that found Mr. Blackmore had understated his income by $1.8-million.

    The judge also levied “gross negligence” penalties of nearly $150,000 in relation to four of the taxation years, citing “astronomical” differences between reported and actual income.

    “The Appellant ought to have known that ignoring the astronomical magnitude of the differences between the reported income/benefits and the amount of benefits assessed, ranging from 884 per cent to 1,326 per cent, over a number of years, would attract some type of tax consequences,” Judge Campbell wrote in her decision.

    “This is the type of ‘cavalier attitude’ discussed in DeCosta. It is behaviour reflective of an indifference as to whether there is or is not compliance with the law. The Appellant headed a community and a company that had business activities in a number of locations in British Columbia, Alberta and the United States. However, even if he had no such business experience and background, I would still conclude that, due to the staggering amounts of unreported income and benefits, he was grossly negligent in ignoring these amounts over a number of years. Therefore, I must conclude that the Appellant’s actions exceed simple carelessness and that he willfully misrepresented the true state of the Company’s activities so that gross negligence penalties are justified.”

    continued below

  24. The decision follows hearings that were held between January and May of last year and that cast a spotlight on the business and personal affairs of the residents of Bountiful, which has been a thorny problem for B.C. lawmakers and police for decades.

    In a landmark 2011 ruling, B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman found that Canada's criminal prohibition against polygamy should be upheld because the practice results in harm to women, children and society.

    During last year’s hearing, Mr. Blackmore was questioned about his wives, their living arrangements and his business interests.

    Under the tax act, a congregation must meet four requirements, including that members live and work together and not own property individually.

    The judge found Bountiful did not meet those requirements on several counts, including members who worked outside the community and owned cars and used credit cards.

    Over the past few decades, B.C. has made several attempts to tackle allegedly illegal activity in Bountiful, with limited success. Polygamy charges against two leaders, including Mr. Blackmore, were quashed on technical grounds in 2009.

    In the most recent initiative, B.C. appointed a special prosecutor for Bountiful last year. In July, the province announced that the special prosecutor, Peter Wilson, had received and was reviewing an RCMP investigation into Bountiful.

    As part of any charge assessment, Mr. Wilson is considering – if the evidence supports it – “the possible prosecution of sexual exploitation and other alleged offences against minors by individuals associated with the community of Bountiful, from the early 1980s to the present,” the province said in July.

    The community is located in southeastern B.C.


  25. When a polygamist cheats

    The Canada Revenue Agency succeeds where the police and province failed against Winston Blackmore

    by Ken MacQueen, Macleans September 5, 2013

    These are trying times for Winston Blackmore, the once all-powerful bishop of Bountiful, B.C., and for his 120-plus children, his 21—no, make that 22—“celestial” wives (a fellow can be forgiven for losing count) and the remaining 400 or so members of his diminished flock. In a court ruling released last week, the Canada Revenue Agency succeeded in doing what the combined forces of the RCMP, special prosecutors and successive attorneys general of British Columbia have so far failed to do over many decades—it held Blackmore to account.

    For years the courts and the Charter of Rights and Freedom have been his shield and sword, protecting him and others in the sect from criminal convictions for their practice of polygamy and from disturbing allegations of forced underage marriage of girls and sexual exploitation of minors. Prosecutors have said polygamy charges might not survive a freedom-of-religion challenge, and the girls and women of Bountiful have been loath to co-operate with police. But successive court cases have exacted a cost, both financial and in the unwelcome attention focused on the lives and Byzantine business dealings of Blackmore and his secretive flock.

    In a Tax Court of Canada ruling, Justice Diane Campbell rejected Blackmore’s claims that the fundamentalist Mormon community of Bountiful, or at least the portion recognizing his leadership, constitutes a communal religious organization eligible for tax exemption. The ruling rejects the 57-year-old Blackmore’s appeals for six taxation years beginning in 2000, leaving him with a bill for taxes owed on $1.8 million in undeclared income, a penalty of almost $150,000 for hiding an “astronomical” amount of income and a still undetermined sum of court costs.

    This wasn’t your typical tax case. “These appeals introduced unique and novel legal and factual issues,” Campbell wrote with judicial understatement. Campbell acquainted herself with the intricacies of Mormonism, Episcopal polity and such terms as priesthood work, she wrote. She ultimately concluded that members of Bountiful, the sect’s name for Lister and other scattered communities, in southeastern B.C., “are not members of any religious organization but are a group of independent Mormon fundamentalists.”

    continued below

  26. Blackmore, who’s used to having his orders followed, was visibly uncomfortable with the probing questions of the judge and lead federal lawyer—both assertive women. He reluctantly gave details of his family life: that he had 21 wives, revised to 22 when he admitted forgetting one, and that he fathered 47 children during the taxation years in question. He skirted his total number of children, said to exceed 120. “It would be hard to make an accurate list,” he said. “It would take some time to do that.” He described how his family is clustered in several homes, with some in other communities. “We don’t have any facilities big enough for everyone in the community to live under the same roof.” Meals are prepared in a commercial-sized kitchen. Baking, butchering, food and bulk milk storage are handled with industrial equipment and facilities. Meals are taken in a dining room seating 150-200 people. He presides over a Sunday religious service lasting 90 minutes. “I try not to go beyond that,” he said. He’s the arbiter of religious, marital and business affairs, and painted himself as a “liberal” and benevolent leader.

    He described the split in 2002 that cut Bountiful into rival camps, with half of the 1,000-plus members following James Oler, who Blackmore said had strayed from the “foundation principles” of Mormonism. “We’re trying to figure out where we all are with the major upheaval in our faith,” he said.

    His business affairs are equally complicated, from trucking to farming to logging and fence-post making, much of it run under J.R. Blackmore & Sons, a company he directed. The businesses are so scattered through Alberta, Idaho and several small B.C. centres that Blackmore and one of his brothers shared command of a four-passenger Cessna to track their operations. Children and young males worked for low wages, with much of their pay turned over to Blackmore, prompting a federal lawyer to say: “The role of a good shepherd is to shear the sheep, not skin it.”

    Those high-flying days seem to be over. Blackmore cried poor in 2010 in a failed attempt to get government funding to participate in a B.C. Supreme Court reference on Canada’s polygamy law. He listed in an affidavit liabilities of $5.65 million and assets of less than $900,000. (The reference upheld the ban on polygamy, though it said the ban infringes on some sections of the Charter.)

    Now Bountiful waits for the other shoe to drop. The province appointed special prosecutor Peter Wilson almost 20 months ago to look at filing criminal charges for alleged sexual offences against minors. If charges are filed, Blackmore and Bountiful will face a test of faith and another costly legal battle. First, though, the cash-strapped Blackmore must serve two masters: the Canada Revenue Agency and the Lord. As Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon faith, wrote of a revelation from God: “Behold, it is my will that you shall pay all your debts.”


  27. Bountiful leader Winston Blackmore appeals tax court ruling, claims his charter rights violated


    VANCOUVER — British Columbia polygamous community leader Winston Blackmore is appealing a decision by a Federal Tax Court that he underreported his income by $1.8 million.

    Documents filed in the Federal Court of Appeal say the trial judge didn't properly interpret a section of the Income Tax Act that relates to filing taxes as a congregation.

    In the original case, Blackmore argued his polygamous group should be able to use the same tax law that Hutterites use, spreading earnings among members for tax purposes.

    But Judge Diane Campbell said in her ruling last August that Blackmore's community in Bountiful, B.C., didn't meet any of the criteria for such a tax break.

    "The appellant ought to have known that ignoring the astronomical magnitude of the differences between the reported income/benefits and the amount of benefits assessed ... would attract some type of tax consequences," Campbell said in her ruling.

    Blackmore claimed income from of $172,000 for the years 2000 to 2004 and 2006. He said his yearly income fluctuated between $20,000 and $40,000.

    But Canada Revenue Agency added hundreds of thousands of dollars a year of income and shareholder benefits from Blackmore's company J.R. Blackmore & Sons Ltd.

    The brief notice of appeal filed said the judge didn't properly apply a section of the Income Tax Act as "it accords with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the values to which it gives expression."

    In her earlier ruling, Campbell said Bountiful was too dispersed and fragmented to qualify as one of the specific types of communities that Parliament envisioned, such as Hutterite communities.

    Blackmore, who told the court he had 21 wives and 47 children, had his income reassessed and he was also hit with a penalty of nearly $150,000 in the August ruling.

    Blackmore's lawyer David Davies wouldn't comment on the appeal and Blackmore didn't return a request for an interview.


  28. Canada’s notorious polygamist leader admits under oath to marrying child brides

    Isn’t it finally time prosecutors did something about it?

    By Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun columnist March 14, 2014

    Ten of fundamentalist Mormon leader Winston Blackmore’s 22 wives were underage when he married them; three were only 15.

    The former Canadian bishop of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints admitted to it under oath, according to the transcript of his Feb. 28 deposition in Salt Lake City for a civil case involving church property.

    Blackmore readily admitted to having married one 15-year-old, whom he repeatedly described as being “just about 16.” He was 42 at the time.

    But Blackmore insisted:

    “I never touched anybody before they were 16 . . . .

    “I never had any conjugal relationship. I mean I held a hand, but I would not touch anybody before they were (16)”

    When asked whether any of his other 22 wives had been 18 or younger, Blackmore snapped: “Are you the media? I mean do I have to display my personal family life here? I mean they were in the 1990 era, earlier than 1990. It would be two or three of them.”

    Far from being only two or three, lawyer Alan Mortensen read off the names of nine other women who Blackmore admitted were 18 or younger when he married them in religious ceremonies in the United States and Canada. Blackmore said all but two of the marriages involving child brides were performed by then-FLDS prophet Rulon Jeffs. (Jeffs was succeeded by his son, Warren, who is serving a life sentence in Texas for sexually assaulting two of his 12-year-old “brides.”)

    Blackmore was clearly taken off-guard by the questioning.

    He had appeared without a lawyer and had gone voluntarily as a witness in a civil case involving church property held in the United Effort Plan trust.

    Blackmore was the bishop responsible for the congregations in Bountiful, B.C. as well as the Alberta communities of Rosemary and Cardston — as well as being a trustee for the United Effort Plan — from the mid-1980s until Warren Jeffs kicked him out of the FLDS in 2002.

    Since then, Blackmore has continued as the spiritual leader to about 500 people in those communities.

    Because the deposition was voluntary and done under oath, Blackmore’s statements are not only public, they could be used by criminal prosecutors in both Utah and British Columbia.

    Blackmore was asked by Mortensen whether he had petitioned Utah’s juvenile court for permission to marry any of the girls who were under the age of 18.

    “No,” Blackmore replied.

    “And you understand, don’t you, under the laws of Utah that if you had gone to a clerk to obtain a marriage licence, you would have been denied one?” Mortensen asked, referring to that state’s anti-polygamy law.

    “There was never any intention to go and I did not understand that, no,” replied Blackmore.

    “You were legally married to Jane Blackmore at the time?”


    After confirming that Blackmore never obtained marriage licences, never presented the underage girls to court or government officials for permission to marry, never obtained the written consent of their parents and never verified the girls’ ages before marrying them, Mortensen suggested to Blackmore the marriages were “without the sanction or protection” of either the state of Utah or the province of British Columbia where the consent of a Supreme Court judge is required for the marriage of a child under the age of 16 and consent of both parents is required for those under 19.

    “The province of British Columbia, I had no concern about them,” Blackmore replied. “And I know nothing about your rules.”

    In addition to admitting to having married underage girls, Blackmore acknowledged that as the FLDS bishop he also performed plural marriages involving girls under the age of 19.

    continued below

  29. But after Warren Jeffs forced him out of the FLDS in 2002, Blackmore said he has refused to perform any plural marriages involving girls under 18.

    “I encourage someone if they want to be someone’s plural wife ­— and they do, there’s lots of people that do — they get (to be) 18, they get their parents and then they come talk ... They come and talk to me if they want to have me approve it,” Blackmore said.

    Blackmore’s lack of concern about British Columbia is well-founded.

    In 1992, the B.C. attorney general refused to lay charges of polygamy or sexual exploitation against Blackmore and another church elder, Dalmon Oler, because of concerns that Canada’s anti-polygamy law might be found to be unconstitutional.

    It wasn’t until January 2009 that Blackmore and then-FLDS bishop James Oler (Dalmon’s son) were each charged with one count of polygamy. Those charges were subsequently dropped after Blackmore’s lawyer successfully argued that the special prosecutor who recommended the charges had been improperly hired.

    In 2010, the provincial government launched a constitutional reference case in the B.C. Supreme Court to determine whether the federal law was valid. The law was upheld in a decision released in November 2011.

    Another special prosecutor, Peter Wilson, was hired in January 2012. Wilson is still considering whether any charges ought to be laid against Blackmore and others in Bountiful, having only recently received more files from the RCMP, whose investigation continues.

    It’s not clear whether Wilson is aware of Blackmore’s deposition. Wilson is away from his office until March 24 and could not be reached.

    However, officials at both the Ministry of Children and Family Development and the Attorney General’s Ministry have seen the transcript.

    It’s likely that if Blackmore had a lawyer with him, the lawyer would have advised him not to answer the questions on the grounds that it might incriminate him.

    It’s a protection that his lawyers sought when he was in Federal Tax Court in 2012, where he unsuccessfully tried to appeal Revenue Canada’s decision that he had defrauded the government of $1.8 million in taxes.

    Yet, during the Utah deposition, Blackmore answered all the questions. Perhaps he was emboldened by a December decision in the case involving Kody Brown and his wives — who star in the reality show Sister Wives — which struck down sections of Utah’s polygamy law.

    Perhaps Blackmore still harbours the desire to become the FLDS prophet.

    But for whatever reason, Blackmore’s testimony comes practically gift-wrapped and handed to prosecutors in British Columbia and Utah. Finally, maybe they will need to take action against this polygamist.

    Polygamist chronology in British Columbia

    1946 — Winston Blackmore’s uncle, Harold Blackmore, buys property outside Creston and establishes the community that will come to be called Bountiful.

    1961 — Winston Blackmore’s father, Ray, takes control of Bountiful away from Harold.

    1984 — After Ray Blackmore’s death, Winston Blackmore becomes bishop for Canada and in 1986 is appointed as a trustee to the United Effort Plan trust.

    October, 1991 — RCMP concludes a 13-month investigation and recommend charges be laid against Winston Blackmore and Dalmon Oler.

    Junem 1992 — The B.C. Attorney General’s ministry rejects the RCMP’s charge recommendation, citing undisclosed legal opinions that suggest the polygamy section of the Canada’s Criminal Code is unconstitutional.

    continued below

  30. 2002 — Winston Blackmore is excommunicated by Warren Jeffs, who succeeded his father, Rulon, as the prophet of the FLDS. James Oler (Dalmon’s son) is appointed bishop.

    June, 2004 — After complaints of abuse in Bountiful, Attorney General Geoff Plant asks RCMP to investigate.

    April, 2005 — At a polygamy summit he’d organized in Creston, Winston Blackmore admits he had married “several underage girls” and says one of his sons had married a 14-year-old.

    Aug. 25, 2006 — Three months after being placed on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List, FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs is arrested outside Las Vegas on a routine traffic stop.

    December, 2006 — Winston Blackmore goes on CNN and tells Larry King he had “married” several girls who were 16 and one who was 15.

    Aug. 1, 2007 — Special prosecutor Richard Peck recommends that rather than laying charges against Blackmore and possibly others, the province should determine the constitutionality of the law. Attorney General Wally Oppal disagrees and a month later asks another special prosecutor, Leonard Doust, to review the RCMP evidence and Peck’s decision.

    Sept. 25, 2007 — FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs is convicted on two counts as an accomplice to rape of Elissa Wall, who was 14 when Jeffs forced her to marry her 19-year-old first cousin.

    April, 2008 — Doust agrees with Peck and recommends a constitutional reference to the court. Oppal disagrees and two months later appoints another special prosecutor who does recommend charges.

    Jan. 7, 2009 — Winston Blackmore and James Oler are arrested, taken to Cranbrook where they are charged and released with conditions after pleading not guilty to one count each of polygamy.

    September, 2009 — B.C. Supreme Court rules Attorney General Wally Oppal erred in appointing another special prosecutor. Charges against Blackmore and Oler are dropped. British Columbia launches a constitutional reference case to determine the validity of the polygamy law.

    November 2011 — Nearly a year after the hearings began in the constitutional reference case, Chief Justice Robert Bauman upholds the criminal sanction against polygamy.

    Jan. 17, 2012 — Peter Wilson is appointed as special prosecutor and asked to review the new evidence that emerged a year earlier during the constitutional reference case regarding Bountiful men who had transported 31 underage girls across the Canada-U.S. border to become child brides.

    Fall, 2013 — Federal Taxation Court upholds Revenue Canada’s assessment that Blackmore under-estimated his income by $1.8 million. Blackmore files an appeal.

    Dec. 16, 2013 — Utah judge strikes down a section of the polygamy law in a case involving Kody Brown and his family who star in the reality show, Sister Wives. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, who was only appointed in November, says he may appeal.

    Jan. 16, 2014 — The Criminal Justice Branch of the Attorney General’s ministry issues a press release a day shy of the second anniversary of Peter Wilson’s appointment as “independent special prosecutor” and says his mandate now includes consideration of “potential offences contrary to the polygamy provisions of the Criminal Code.”

    Feb. 28, 2014 — Winston Blackmore goes voluntarily as a witness for the UEP trust’s lawyers in a civil case involving Elissa Wall and without a lawyer. During the deposition, he admits to having married 10 women who were under the age of 19; three of whom were 15 and one who was 16.


  31. Excerpts from Polygamist Winston Blackmore's deposition

    Vancouver Sun MARCH 14, 2014

    On Feb. 28, Canada's most notorious polygamist Winston Blackmore voluntarily answered questions under oath in a civil case in Utah involving the sale of land owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints through its United Effort Plan.

    Blackmore, an FLDS bishop and a UEP trustee from the mid-1980s until 2002 — when he was ex-communicated by Warren Jeffs — testified voluntarily and without a lawyer.

    And, while this case is about property, during cross-examination lawyer Alan Mortensen asked about 10 of Blackmore's 22 wives, who were under 18 when they married. Three of them were 15 and one was 16.

    These are excerpts from the deposition.

    Mortensen: Have you ever performed any marriages of girls that are under the age of 16?
    Blackmore: No I haven't.
    Q: Have you ever married someone who is under the age of 16?
    A: Yes, I have.
    Q: When was that?
    A: Oh, heck, I can't recall . . . They had their parents' consent.
    . . .
    Q: And how old was she?
    A: She was 15, just about 16.
    Q: Are you still married to her?
    A: Yes I am.
    Q: So, she was 15 years old?
    A: Just about 16.
    Q: She was 15 when you married her?
    A: Yeah.
    Q: What year did you marry her?
    A: Oh, brother, you are going to get me really in trouble because I can't remember. I'd have to phone her.
    . . .
    Q: And where were you married?
    A: Nevada, I think. Oh, no, in Canada. I believe it was in Canada. . . No, it was in - it was in Utah.
    Q: Where in Utah?
    A: Probably right here in Salt Lake City.
    Q: Do you remember?
    A: I could sure find that out.
    . . .
    Q: Your father . . . married a 16-year-old, correct?
    A: Yeah.
    Q: And you married a 15-year-old?
    A: Well, I never touched anybody before they were 16.
    Q: When you say 'touched' is that having conjugal . . .
    A: In any way.
    Q: Conjugal relations?
    A: I never had any conjugal relationship. I mean I held a hand, but I would not touch anybody before they were . . .
    Q: Okay. So you married someone that was 15?
    A: Yeah, 15 and eight, nine 10 months, somewhere in there.
    . . .

    continued below

  32. Q: As the bishop of the Fundamentalist movement in Bountiful, you have prohibited anyone from under the age of 18 being married, correct?
    A: A plural marriage.
    Q: Plural marriage?
    A: Yes . . . I encourage someone if they want to be someone's plural wife — and they do, there's lots of people that do — they get [to be] 18, they get their parents and then they come talk.
    Q: And they come talk to you as the bishop?
    A: They come and talk to me if they want to have me approve it.
    Q: And for you to approve, they have to be at least 18?
    A: 18
    Q: But that always hasn't been the case, correct?
    A: No, it hasn't.
    Q: That changed after Warren Jeffs?
    A: In 2002.
    Q: Prior to that, though, you as the bishop would perform plural marriages to girls that are under the age of 19?
    A: I have to think of who and where, but I would have. I would have had the occasion.
    Q: You don't deny that you did that?
    A: No, I don't deny that.
    Q: And you don't deny that before you would do that the parents didn't bring with them a signed consent form from the government of British Columbia?
    A: I don't.
    . . . .
    Q: Are there any other women that you took as plural wives that were under the age of 19?
    A: Yes.
    Q: Who are those or what is — what are — more than one?
    A: Are you the media? I mean do I have to display my personal family life her? I mean they were in the 1990 era, earlier than 1990 It would be two or three of them but. . .
    . . .
    Prompted by Mortensen, Blackmore eventually agreed that he'd had 10 underaged wives - three who were 15, two who were 16 and five who were 17.
    . . . .
    Q: Did you ever go to petition juvenile court here in Utah to marry any of these women?
    A: No.
    Q: And, you understand, don't you, under the laws of Utah, that if you had gone to a clerk to obtain a marriage licence, you would have been denied one?
    A: There was never any intention to go and I did not understand that, no.
    Q: You were legally married to Jane Blackmore at the time?
    A: Yeah.
    Q: And under the laws of Utah, you would have been denied a marriage license with these four women that were under the age of 18. . . Did you have that understanding?
    A: I never even thought of that.
    Q: You didn't research that before you married -
    A: No I didn't.
    . . .
    Q: I take it that at least with regard to you marrying someone under the age of 18 is not an anomaly?
    A: Not under the age of 18.
    . . .
    Q: But without sanction or protection from the state of Utah?
    A: No.
    Q: Or protection or sanction from the province of British Columbia.
    A: The province of British Columbia, I had no concern about them and I know nothing about your rules.
    Q: You don't believe that you are subject to the rules of Utah?
    A: Yeah, I do.
    Q: You are subject to them?
    A: Yes I am.
    . . .
    Q: I take it that you have never gone to the Canadian authorities to report any kind of concern that you have had about an underaged bride in your flock?
    A: Not in my flock.
    Q: Have you gone to Canadian authorities over other underaged brides?
    A: I wouldn't know of any of the circumstances regarding them, so I haven't.
    Q: So, that would be no?
    A: That's no.


  33. Ousted Bountiful bishop reported on child brides to RCMP

    Still no charges in B.C. as Ken Oler tells his story for a Utah civil lawsuit


    In 2011, former bishop Ken Oler went to the Creston RCMP detachment to report that marriages of under-aged girls were being sanctioned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

    Days earlier, he had lost everything. He had been stripped of his position, his family, his home and forced out of the church by the FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, who still controls his flock despite being in a Texas prison.

    Born into one of the founding families of Bountiful, B.C., Oler had never spoken out before. Oler had two wives of his own. His father, Dalmon, had been investigated for polygamy in the 1990s, but never charged. And, Oler must have known that 10 of the 26 wives that his brother-in-law Winston Blackmore had married had been under 18.

    Last month, under oath in a deposition for a Utah civil case involving church-owned property, Oler acknowledged that he’d reported under-aged brides to the RCMP. And, in the deposition, he identified Canadian girls from a list of more than 70 names.

    Two of the girls — Oler’s half-sisters — were only 15 and 16 when they were married. The third was 13 when she was taken illegally across the U.S. border in 2005 by her parents to become one of Jeffs’s 80 or more wives.

    Three years later, that third girl was found at the Yearning for Zion Ranch during the raid that eventually led to Jeffs’s conviction for aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault of two 12-year-olds.

    Texas child protection services notified the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development about the Canadian teen. But the ministry did nothing to retrieve her. Oler believes the girl is now living somewhere in the United States with Jeffs’s son.

    And, nearly three years after Oler reported to police and more than two years after RCMP handed its files to B.C. special prosecutor Peter Wilson, nothing has happened.

    Eight months before Oler went to the RCMP, he had been appointed bishop for the 500 or so members of FLDS’s Canadian congregations in Rosemary and Cardston, in Alberta, and Bountiful.

    He replaced his half-brother, James Oler, whom Jeffs had “sent away” because of a court action in B.C.

    Ken Oler said that his half-brother had “not been given directives to action (sic) ... the way that he was doing.”

    In November 2010, the B.C. Supreme Court began hearing a constitutional reference case to determine the validity of the Criminal Code’s anti-polygamy law. A year earlier, both James Oler and his predecessor, Winston Blackmore, had been charged with one count each of polygamy. Those charges were dropped because of a procedural error.

    Oler doesn’t know what has become of his half-brother; his family has heard nothing from him and RCMP have been notified that he is missing.

    continued below

  34. Ken Oler said he was surprised when told that Jeffs wanted him to be bishop.

    Did he take the role voluntarily, Oler was asked in the Utah case.

    “I don’t know if I would use the word ‘voluntarily’

    “The problem that you face is if you refuse something, then the first thing they (the FLDS) do is they come after your family. It’s happened numerous times where people lose their families because they refuse a directive from Warren Jeffs.”

    Oler described Jeffs as “very draconian … very radical.”

    “He was sending these, you know, what he called revelations. … There was probably only maybe about five per cent of what he sent that was ever presented (by me) to the people in forms of, you know, maybe some innocent trainings.

    “But as far as some of his directives, like sending people away from the community, I shredded those and I never acted out on any of them. And because of my position against what he was doing, I notified him by way of letter that I was no longer willing to have anything to do with him or his teachings or his directives.”

    Oler sent the letter to the Texas prison where Jeffs is serving a life sentence.

    He said in his deposition that he’d previously told other FLDS members that “I was not on side with that (child marriages).” But he had never spoken about it outside the community because he knew the repercussion.

    “My whole process had to be thought through very carefully because today I’m gone and … I don’t have my family, my wife and … (I’ve got) four kids that are there … I knew that they wouldn’t come when I took the stand that I took.

    “So it was … it’s quite a, you know, a heart-wrenching, you know, decision that you have to make. But you have to make it for the sake of what’s right.”

    About a week after Oler had mailed his letter, Russell Johnson arrived from the United States with orders from Jeffs to banish Oler.

    Oler moved to Rocky Mountain House, Alta. with his 17-year-old daughter. A few months later, his 15-year-old daughter was also sent away by Johnson.

    In 2012, Oler’s two other teenage daughters joined him, a year after he and five other excommunicated fathers had gone to court to gain access to the 40 children they’d been forced to leave behind.

    Over the past 20 years, many other girls haven’t been as lucky as Oler’s daughters. They’ve had neither their parents nor the B.C. government step up and protect them.


    Bountiful chronology

    October 1991 — RCMP conclude a 13-month investigation and recommend charges be laid against the bishop of Bountiful, Winston Blackmore, and FLDS elder Dalmon Oler.

    June 1992 — The B.C. Attorney General’s ministry rejects the RCMP’s charge recommendation, citing undisclosed legal opinions that suggest the polygamy section of the Canada’s Criminal Code is unconstitutional.

    continued below

  35. 2002 James Oler (Dalmon’s son) is appointed bishop after Winston Blackmore is ousted by FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs.

    June 2004 — After complaints of abuse in Bountiful, Attorney General Geoff Plant asks RCMP to investigate.

    Aug. 25, 2006 — Three months after being placed on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List, FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs is arrested outside Las Vegas on a routine traffic stop.

    Aug. 1, 2007 — Special Prosecutor Richard Peck recommends that rather than laying charges against Winston Blackmore and possibly others in Bountiful, the province should determine the constitutionality of the law. Attorney General Wally Oppal disagrees and a month later asks another special prosecutor, Leonard Doust, to review the RCMP evidence and Peck’s decision.

    Sept. 25, 2007 — FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs is convicted on two counts as an accomplice to rape of Elissa Wall, who was 14 when Jeffs forced her to marry her 19-year-old, first cousin.

    April 2008 – Texas law enforcement and child protection officers raid the Yearning for Zion Ranch and take 462 children and 100 women into protective custody. Among those children is a girl from Bountiful who had been 13 when her parents took her illegally across the U.S. border to marry Warren Jeffs. The raid resulted in Jeffs’s 2011 conviction and life sentence for aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault of two, 12-year-old girls.

    Jan. 7, 2009 — Winston Blackmore and James Oler are charged with one count each of polygamy. The charges are stayed in September because of a procedural error. British Columbia launches a constitutional reference case to determine the validity of the polygamy law.

    Early 2011 – From his Texas jail cell, Warren Jeffs banishes James Oler for not following his directives regarding the court actions. His half-brother, Ken Oler, becomes the Canadian bishop.

    November 2011 – B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman upholds the criminal sanction against polygamy.

    November 2011 – Bishop Ken Oler writes a letter to Warren Jeffs denouncing the practice of child marriages. Within a week, he is stripped of his wives, children, home and position. Oler goes to RCMP to report child marriages.

    Jan. 17, 2012 – Peter Wilson appointed special prosecutor.

    September 2012 – Six FLDS men banished from Bountiful go to court to get access to the 40 children they were forced to leave behind.

    Feb. 28, 2014 – Ken Oler gives a voluntary deposition in a Utah civil case regarding FLDS-owned property and identifies three Bountiful girls who were child brides, including his two half-sisters.


  36. Polygamist Blackmore has hidden reason for admitting to underage marriages

    Being a martyr has always been important within the breakaway Mormon sect that considers itself persecuted

    By Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun columnist March 20, 2014

    When disgraced Toronto Mayor Rob Ford went on Jimmy Kimmel’s late night TV show, the host asked him: “Why are you here? What good could come of this?”

    The same question could have been asked of notorious Canadian polygamist Winston Blackmore about his voluntary deposition, given under oath in Utah, for a civil case involving property owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

    What good could flow from his admission that 10 of his 26 wives were under the age of 18 when he ‘married’ them in religious ceremonies? What possible benefit is likely to come from his confirming that three of those 10 girls were only 15 years old and that one was 16?

    One might think, nothing good — at least for him. But that reckoning doesn’t account for the fact that Blackmore leads a religious congregation that feels unfairly persecuted because of its practice of both polygamy and the ‘marriages’ of underage girls.

    Blackmore’s deposition prompted the Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes to meet with staff Wednesday to decide whether to launch an investigation with a view to charging Blackmore with child rape. The problem in Utah, however, is that it has a statute of limitations on sex crimes and Blackmore’s ‘weddings’ happened close to two decades ago.

    Canada has no statute of limitations on sex crimes. So, Blackmore’s sworn testimony could be used against him here — not that B.C. Attorney General Suzanne Anton is giving any hint of things to come. Through a spokeswoman and via email, Anton curtly refused to comment: “As you are aware, an independent special prosecutor has been appointed.”

    Blackmore is neither a naive narcissist as he initially appears, nor is he an altruist just trying to help an ally by giving a deposition in a civil suit. Like Ford, Blackmore is a survivor with a keen eye for playing to his audience. Although he shunned an offer to do a reality TV show, Blackmore has often defended his ‘lifestyle’ on network television in Canada and the United States.

    In 2005, Blackmore provocatively invited the attorneys general of B.C., Idaho, Utah and Arizona to his polygamy summit in Creston. Had any of them showed up, they would have heard Blackmore say that his son had married a 14-year-old and that at least one of his own ‘brides’ was 15.

    Within the fundamentalist Mormon culture, it was likely seen as standing up for his beliefs and, in that culture, martyrs have been venerated ever since the 1844 murder of Mormon founder Joseph Smith.

    continued below

  37. And it may be martyrdom that Blackmore was courting when he admitted under oath to having had 10 teen ‘brides’ rather than refusing to answer on the grounds that it might incriminate him.

    Because any resulting prosecution — persecution in the eyes of fundamentalist Mormons — would burnish Blackmore’s credentials just as previous prophets have enhanced their own by going to jail. This even holds true in the eyes of some FLDS members for the current prophet Warren Jeffs, who is serving a life sentence in Texas for raping two girls.

    It’s Jeffs who blocked Blackmore’s path to becoming the prophet. He had been on track to replace Jeffs’s father, Rulon, as the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the largest polygamous group in North America.

    When Rulon was prophet, he controlled the present and future lives of his followers as well as millions of dollars’ worth of property and a large network of businesses (including construction and even manufacturing parts for the U.S. space shuttle) through the church’s United Effort Plan trust.

    Named Canadian bishop in 1984, Blackmore became an Effort Plan trustee two years later. But Warren Jeffs stripped him of both roles, declaring him an “apostate” in 2002 and threatening anyone who associated with him with excommunication.

    Despite that, Blackmore held on to about half of the 1,000 FLDS in Canada and he began attracting disenfranchised American FLDS members to his congregation as Jeffs’s behaviour went quickly from odd to bizarre.

    From the total congregation of nearly 10,000 members, Jeffs banished fathers and husbands as well as anywhere from 400 to 1,0000 young men — known as the Lost Boys — whose presence threatened Jeffs’s absolute control over who would marry whom.

    In 2005, the attorneys general of Utah and Arizona went to court in Utah asking for an independent administrator to be appointed to oversee the United Effort Plan to stop the evictions and stop Jeffs from stripping all the assets.

    A judge appointed Bruce Wisan to administer the trust and sought members and former members to sit on an advisory board. Blackmore put his name forward; he and his 26 wives and more than 100 children lived on Effort Plan land and were at risk of expulsion.

    The judge rejected Blackmore as an official adviser. But, as Blackmore noted in his deposition, he became an unofficial adviser to Wisan, who also controlled the Canadian United Effort Plan land. It was the lawyers for Wisan and the Plan who asked Blackmore to do the deposition.

    Blackmore has always just played to the audience that matters most in his life, just as Ford has. It’s served them both well. And it’s just possible that Blackmore took a calculated risk with his deposition — redemption and possible veneration in exchange for some time in jail.

    Stay tuned. This sordid drama is far from over.


  38. Canadian polygamist leader under investigation in Utah

    By Nate Carlisle | The Salt Lake Tribune March 19 2014

    The Utah Attorney General’s Office will investigate a polygamists leader’s admission he married a teenage girl years ago.

    But it’s not clear whether Winston Blackmore, who leads the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Bountiful, British Columbia, committed any crime. In the deposition he gave last month, Blackmore said the marriage occurred in Utah — or at least he was pretty sure — the bride was 15 and had her parents’ consent to marry. The marriage happened in 2001 or 2002, an again uncertain Blackmore said, and was performed by Warren Jeffs. Blackmore and the now-woman are still married, he said.

    Utah law says 15-year-olds can marry with the permission of their parents and approval from the juvenile court. Blackmore did not state when he and the bride had sex.

    "We are currently investigating the allegations," the Utah Attorney General’s Office said in a statement The Salt Lake Tribune received Wednesday. "Attorney General Reyes does not view illegal activities that target children and other vulnerable populations lightly and will prosecute criminal activity when appropriate."

    Blackmore gave the deposition Feb. 28 at a law firm in Salt Lake City as part of a lawsuit filed by Elisa Wall against Jeffs and the FLDS. Wall says Jeffs forced her to marry her cousin when she was 14 years old. Blackmore is not a party in the lawsuit. His deposition was first reported by The Vancouver Sun.


  39. Mormons sue to get identity back from BC polygamist

    Winston Blackmore: Excommunicated leader of Bountiful-based sect registered various corporate names


    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wants the B.C. Supreme Court to stop fundamentalist leader Winston Blackmore from using its name.

    Blackmore is the leader of a Bountiful-based 500-member polygamous sect, based on the teachings of Mormonism’s founder Joseph Smith.

    The 15-million-member mainline church (colloquially known as the LDS or Mormons) rejected polygamy in 1890. In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, it alleges that Blackmore registered the name, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Inc., in 2010.

    The LDS found that out when it tried earlier this year to register the name, which it says it had used in B.C. since 1838, and was blocked. (Before its incorporation in January, the Canadian branch of the Utah-based church was a trust set up under the laws of Alberta, although it had trademarked its name in both the United States and Canada.)

    The Mormons allege Blackmore “misappropriated the names, identity and reputation” of the mainstream church.

    The lawsuit’s allegations have not been tested in court and Blackmore has several weeks to file a response.

    In its notice of civil claim, the LDS notes: “The church and the plaintiffs have nothing whatsoever to do with those practicing polygamy today. Any church member who is found to be practicing polygamy is excommunicated, which is the most serious penalty the church can impose.”

    The suit goes on to allege that Blackmore has made statements “tending to discredit the wares, services or business” of the LDS, “directed public attention to the defendant’s wares, services and business in such a way as to cause or is likely to cause confusion,” and passed off his own products and services as those of the mainstream church.

    The LDS wants the court to order Blackmore to give up the corporate name and “deliver up or effect destruction upon oath of all signage, brochures and other materials of any kind in possession, custody or control … that may offend the injunctive relief sought.”

    The LDS says it has 30,000 members in 79 congregations in B.C. and more than 190,000 members across Canada.

    Blackmore sect represents mostly members of his large, extended family in B.C., Idaho, Utah and Arizona.

    Before forming his own group, Blackmore was the bishop of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    After his excommunication by its leader Warren Jeffs, who is now serving a life sentence in Texas for sex crimes committed against children, Blackmore registered the name “The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” in 2008 in British Columbia.

    He changed the corporate name to “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Fundamentalists Inc.” in January 2010 then changed it again in May 2010 to “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Inc.”


  40. On the EDge: FLDS funeral more than a family feud

    by Ed Kociela , OPINION – St. George News June 21, 2014

    Human frailty is never more evident, they say, than on the occasions of marriages, births, and funerals.

    We saw a sad example of that just days ago when the cops had to be called in to keep the peace when a local man and his siblings tried to pay their respects to their mother at Heideman Hughes Mortuary in St. George, only to be turned away by other family members.

    This wasn’t, however, your typical family feud. Instead, it was the remnant of a long-standing religious feud within the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

    It all began with the passing of Loana Silvester Harker Barlow Broadbent, 81, from complications resulting from a heart attack. Those familiar with the history of the area known as Short Creek – Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona – will recognize the familial names as those who were integral to the migration south of those who became disenfranchised from the mainstream LDS church and came to the area to practice the polygamous lifestyle of the FLDS.

    Over the years, there were power struggles within the fledgling sect, the most recent with the passing of Rulon Jeffs, who was the FLDS leader until his death in 2002.

    Shortly after his passing, his son, Warren Jeffs, proclaimed himself the prophet of the church and took iron-fisted control over this group of Mormon fundamentalists. There was a power struggle at that time between Warren Jeffs and Louis Barlow, who was also a member of the FLDS hierarchy.

    Warren Jeffs was subsequently charged with sex crimes in Utah, Arizona, and Texas and placed behind bars. But, he still held a death-grip on his followers, manipulating them from prisons in Utah and then Texas. His paranoia over losing control ran so deep that his relationships with brothers Lyle and Nephi were in on-again, off-again status. He continued to play such a role in the FLDS culture that he decided who would marry whom; the nutritional requirements for women and children, who were placed on a beans and water diet; the migration of followers from the ranch in Texas to other points in Colorado and South Dakota; and who would and would not retain membership. He even ordered that married couples refrain from sexual activity, that only a select group of men would be allowed to father the next generation of FLDS followers, men of his choosing.

    Halso excommunicated a number of followers who displeased him, including, not surprisingly, Jeremiah Barlow and several of his siblings whose only sin was being the offspring of one of Warren Jeffs’ strongest opponents.

    continued below

  41. This is what happens in cults when one holds the power over those who are led to believe they are doing God’s will.

    This is nothing really new on our societal landscape. We saw it in Jonestown, we saw it in Waco, Texas. We saw it among the followers of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, L. Ron Hubbard, and, yes, that evil coterie in the southern California desert led by Charles Manson.

    How these people gain such an upper hand is one for the psychologists to explain, all I know is that it can prove dangerous when a wee segment of the population separates and insulates itself from the rest of society.

    But, this, again, should be nothing new for those who study Warren Jeffs and the FLDS culture and the practice/habit of tossing people from the community.

    Most of those excommunicated, of course, are young men, removed from the church and community because there are not enough women to sustain the polygamous lifestyle of those who live in Short Creek. Others are tossed because of charges of apostasy. Some, as in the case of Jeremiah Barlow, simply because of their bloodline.

    I know a young man who was excommunicated and wound up on the streets of Los Angeles, the victim of numerous abuses as a result of no education and a lifetime of indoctrination. He was so shattered by his childhood in the FLDS community that when the terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon took place he believed that one of Warren Jeffs’ prophesies about “blood in the streets” being the sign that the walls of the prison that held him would come tumbling down was coming to fruition. The young man went into full panic mode, terrified that the self-proclaimed prophet, or one of his followers, would track him down for further abuse. The mere mention of some names connected to the FLDS community is enough to send him into hiding in his closet, shaking with fear.

    There’s another young man I know living in Las Vegas who is under the care and guidance of a woman who was sexually, physically, and emotionally abused during her years in the polygamous lifestyle. The young man was also removed from the community at a young age simply because there were too many males and not enough females to sustain the polygamous lifestyle.

    So, no, this isn’t your ordinary family feud. This is the result of a personal vendetta by a man who claims to talk to God; a man who has soaked his followers’ brains – from cradle to grave – with the belief that only those who follow his instruction will find salvation; a man who, as we have learned, was a sexual predator of children; a man whose lust for power, sex, and money overwhelmed any sense of decency he may have been born with.

    I understand Loana Silvester Harker Barlow Broadbent was a kind and decent woman, a longtime teacher in Short Creek, that she touched many lives in a positive manner, and we mourn her passing.

    I only wish all of her children would have had an opportunity to say goodbye.

    They were separated from her through no fault of their own.

    No bad days!

    Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.


  42. Bountiful students get A grades, school gets a D

    Discrepancies shine light on B.C.’s polygamous community’s education system


    There were only A students in the Grade 10, 11 and 12 classes at the government-supported Mormon Hills School in the polygamous community of Bountiful, B.C. in 2012.

    The average marks ranged from a low of 84 per cent in Grade 12 English to a high of 91 per cent in Grade 11 social studies and Grade 10 math.

    But that all changed when students wrote provincial exams.

    The students’ best average mark was 74 per cent in Grade 11 social studies. Their worst were bare passes in Grade 12 communications (53 per cent), Grade 10 math (54 per cent) and Grade 10 science (56 per cent).

    This “significant discrepancy” was one of a number of problems external evaluators found at the independent school that is run by Winston Blackmore.

    Blackmore is the father of more than 115 children and ‘husband’ to 26 wives. So, unsurprisingly, almost everyone connected with the school is related: the 182 students, the 11 teachers, the staff and the school’s directors.

    Blackmore, his brother and one of his sons are directors. Six of the teachers are named Blackmore; at least one is Winston’s daughter. And the school’s secretary is one of Blackmore’s so-called celestial wives, who is also the secretary for Blackmore’s company, J.R. Blackmore & Sons.

    Even six months after the three-member evaluation team first went to the school near Creston in October 2012, they found on their followup visit that student assessment “continues to challenge the staff.”

    Other problems at the kindergarten-to-Grade 12 school included: no comments on report cards as required by the Education Ministry; “haphazard tracking” of graduation transition portfolios; and, no information about the modified instructional programs for special needs children.

    The deficiencies were outlined in several reports made to B.C.’s Office of the Inspector of Independent Schools, which were provided in response to an access to information request.

    Other problems included not recording student grades promptly. As the evaluation report tartly noted: “Student grades should be recorded at the time the student completes the course and entered on the student’s 1704 (permanent student record) accordingly — not written on a Post-it Note to be entered the following academic year.”

    Evaluators found that some students received course credits for classes they didn’t take.

    And they questioned whether some credits were even valid since there was no supporting documentation that the required instructional hours had been fulfilled.

    continued below

  43. There was no written policy regarding transfer credits to college. That may not be that surprising since course overviews for apprenticeship and workplace 11, math and Earth Science “continue to remain skeletal,” according to the most recent report.

    If there is any good thing to be said, it is that Mormon Hills isn’t as bad as it was in 2008.

    That year, evaluators concluded there was no way to tell what, if anything, the 14 students in Grades 8 and 9 were learning since all of them had “virtually identical reports.”

    They also pointed out — among other failings — that five of the teachers weren’t accredited and that the health and career program was being taught using a web-based version even though none of the school’s 20 computers were connected to the Internet.

    What hasn’t changed is the continuing and deliberate policy of the evaluators, bureaucrats and politicians not to question what is being taught in the government-accredited Mormon Church History course.

    It’s most recently described as using “material and literature from Mormon Church History as well as the Bible, Book of Mormon and the sermons of LeRoy Johnson.”

    Among Johnson’s revelations, for example, is that God determines who will marry whom and passes that on to the church’s prophet/president. It’s that teaching that has resulted in girls as young as 12 being forced by church leaders into ‘celestial’ or ‘plural’ marriages, which are inevitably reserved only for the most powerful of the men in the community.

    What is being taught is not Mormonism in the commonly understood meaning of that word, which is the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    (Blackmore has done what he can to confuse the issue by registering the mainstream church’s name in British Columbia. Only last week, the LDS church filed a civil suit in B.C. Supreme Court asking for its name back.)

    What Blackmore teaches his followers is a religious doctrine based on the teachings of Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith, that has been distilled and changed over the years since the mainstream church renounced polygamy in 1890 to justify polygamy.

    Despite all that, taxpayers’ money just keeps on flowing to Mormon Hills School: just under $3 million in the last four years, not including the amount of ministry staff time it has taken to get the school to comply with the basic requirements.

    Why does this continue? Because stopping it would require much more rigorous scrutiny of the school.

    It would likely require amending the Independent School Act to broaden the restrictions on what is taught in independent schools.

    And that would require political will — something that is as distressingly lacking on every aspect of the Bountiful file now, as it has for more than 65 years.


  44. Polygamy pedophilia prostitution and extortion. FLDS saga has it all


    The story of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints keeps getting weirder and weirder.

    It has gone beyond polygamy and pedophilia, beyond girls being handed over by their fathers to their contemporaries to be married, and beyond mothers ripping up photos of their young boys who were kicked out for listening to rock music, drinking and wearing short-sleeved shirts.

    The latest twist in the Warren Jeffs saga are unproven allegations of extortion involving prostitution and the person appointed by a Utah court to keep the FLDS assets safe for Jeffs’s ill-treated followers.

    The two main characters in this latest sideshow are: accountant Bruce Wisan, who was appointed by a Utah judge in 2005 as fiduciary; and Willie Jessop, a former bodyguard to the FLDS prophet who was the church’s spokesman during Jeffs’s trial that resulted in his conviction for raping two girls aged 12 and 15 and jailed for life.

    Wisan was found in a hotel room with a prostitute in March 2013. Since then, a lawyer for one of the ill-treated FLDS followers says Jessop has been extorting Wisan for preferential prices on FLDS property that Wisan has been selling to cover his own fees.

    And while all of this is happening in the United States, there are a bunch of Canadian connections. Wisan not only has oversight of all the church-owned property in Utah and Arizona, his name is on the titles to most of the townsite of Bountiful, B.C.

    Bountiful is home to about 500 FLDS members and another 500 people who follow former bishop Winston Blackmore, who was once a trustee of the United Effort Plan which held all of the church’s assets.

    Like Blackmore, Jessop was ex-communicated. But Jessop has since successfully sued the church, the trust and the leaders for $30 million for ruining his excavating business.

    He’s also been buying up church property. Last year, Jessop bought Jeffs’s sprawling compound in Hildale, Utah for $3.6 million and has turned it into the America’s Most Wanted Bed and Breakfast — a sly reference to Jeffs having been on the FBI’s most wanted list in 2006.

    Last month, Jessop bought 484.03 acres for $362,944 at an auction organized by Wisan. Jessop got the property even though his bids for some of that land were less than the minimum of 70 per cent of assessed value, which was set by the court, and even though others who didn’t meet the 70-per-cent threshold had their bids rejected.

    continued below

  45. Lawyer Alan Mortensen describes Jessop as having “a sweetheart deal” with Wisan that includes an unconditional release from any liability to the church trust.

    During a deposition under oath last week, Mortensen asked Wisan why. Is it because Jessop knew about Wisan and the prostitute?

    “Did (Jessop) ever approach you about (prostitute) Marissa Ann Payne when he wanted a sweetheart deal on his property?”


    “Do you know if he had a file on you where Marissa Ann Payne was included?”


    Wisan refused to answer whether he’d had sex with Payne before police burst into the Utah hotel room where she was arrested, hand-cuffed and charged with prostitution.

    The police report quotes Payne as saying that she had met Wisan twice in a hotel, performed oral sex and showered with him. The report notes that even though Payne was charged, Wisan was not because he was not caught in the act and there was no evidence that he had paid.

    “Mr. Jessop didn’t use this information at all in negotiating complete release and the purchase of property?” Mortensen asked.

    “Absolutely not,” Wisan replied.

    “That would be highly improper, correct?”

    “Yes, it would.”

    “That would be extortion, correct?”

    Mortensen noted that Wisan was in Salt Lake City having the auction’s sales confirmed by the court on the day that he had been subpoenaed as a witness in Payne’s trial. Twice, Mortensen noted, Wisan has failed to respond to summons.

    But Wisan said he was “helping” Payne with money and food so that she could get out of prostitution.

    Mortensen is the lawyer for a woman named Elissa Wall, who was 14 when Jeffs forced her to marry her first cousin, Allan Steed, who subsequently raped her. She fled to Bountiful. Steed was never charged, but in 2006 Jeffs was convicted of being an accessory to rape.

    Wall is now suing the FLDS, the trust and its trustees (including Blackmore) for damages that Wisan’s own lawyers have estimated could be as high as $40 million.

    Unsurprisingly, Wall’s lawyer is fighting hard to ensure that the church’s assets are preserved and property is sold for the highest possible price.

    And as salacious as all of this is, Wisan’s lawyers tried earlier this year to have Wall’s suit dismissed by claiming that extortion and coercion were involved in a settlement reached between Wall and Steed.

    Jessop helped broker that deal.

    Over the years, there have been copycat TV shows and two polygamy “reality” series made. But none comes close to this unfolding drama, because as the saying goes: You just can’t make this stuff up.


  46. Bountiful sect members face polygamy, child-related charges

    Charges are latest attempt to prosecute members of the isolated religious community

    CBC News August 13, 2014

    British Columbia's Criminal Justice Branch has approved polygamy and child-related charges against several members of the same family in an isolated religious community in Bountiful, B.C.

    Winston Kaye Blackmore and his brother-in-law James Marion Oler are facing polygamy charges. Oler is alleged to have had four wives between 1993 and 2009, while Winston Blackmore is accused of marrying 24 women between 1990 and 2014.

    Oler and two others, Blackmore's son Brandon James Blackmore and his wife Emily Ruth Crossfield, are also alleged to have unlawfully removed a child under 16 from Canada "with the intention that an act be committed outside Canada that would be an offence against Section 151 (sexual interference) or 152 (invitation to sexual touching)," according to a Criminal Justice Branch news release.

    Special prosecutor Peter Wilson "declined to approve" other charges, such as alleged offences of sexual exploitation. The standard for approving charges "was not met in relation to these offences," said the release.

    Many residents of Bountiful follow the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS, which, unlike the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, holds polygamy as a tenet of the faith.

    James Marion Oler and Winston Kaye Blackmore are leaders of two factions of the FLDS and were charged with similar polygamy offences in 2009.

    The prosecution of that case fell through, after the first special prosecutors recommended against charges over concerns that a ban on polygamy violated the right to religious freedom.

    The new charges against Oler, Brandon Blackmore and Emily Crossfield alleging the removal of children from Canada are thought to relate to girls being taken across the Canada-U.S. border to be married.

    According to special prosecutor Peter Wilson, the latest report he received from RCMP in January 2014 contained material that was "new and derived from investigations in the United States that involved members of the FLDS communities in Arizona, Texas and Utah."

    The new charges of child removal "are based primarily on new information that came to light as a result of investigations that unfolded in the United States," writes Wilson.

    The first court appearance in the case is scheduled for Oct. 9, 2014 in Creston provincial court.

    continued below

  47. Polygamy investigation began in 2005

    The new charges are just the latest stage in a decade-long effort by RCMP and the B.C. government to prosecute members of the isolated religious community for polygamy.

    The RCMP investigation into allegations of polygamy in the isolated, rural community in southeastern B.C. began in 2005 and included interviews with 90 people in B.C., Utah, Idaho and Nevada.

    But after the investigation, B.C.'s Crown prosecutors remained reluctant to lay polygamy charges for fear they would be declared unconstitutional on the basis of religious freedom.

    Former B.C. attorney general Wally Oppal then appointed special prosecutors Richard Peck and later Len Doust, who both recommended the government get a court ruling on the constitutionality of Canada's anti-polygamy laws.

    In June 2008, Oppal hired a third special prosecutor, Terrence Robertson, to review the results of the latest police investigation and consider charges against men in the polygamous community.

    The following year, Robertson recommended polygamy charges against Blackmore and Oler.

    However, in September 2009, a B.C. court threw out the polygamy charges against the two religious leaders, ruling Oppal was wrong to ask Robertson to take the case after the first two prosecutors decided the men should not be charged.

    The government then asked the B.C. Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the polygamy ban.

    During lengthy hearings, the court heard evidence that teenage girls in Bountiful were taken across the Canada-U.S. border to be married.

    n November 2011, Chief Justice Robert Bauman upheld the polygamy ban, ruling it infringed on some sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but also that the criminalization of polygamy is justified.

    Bauman also suggested the law shouldn’t be used to criminalize minors who find themselves married into polygamous unions.​

    In 2012, the B.C. government appointed Wilson as the next special prosecutor for the case.

    Bountiful charges timeline

    Polygamy investigation by RCMP begins.

    First special prosecutor Richard Peck recommends against charges.
    Peck recommends province asks courts whether polygamy is constitutional.
    Then B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal appoints second special prosecutor Leonard Doust.

    Doust recommends against charges, agrees with Peck.
    Oppal appoints third special prosecutor Terrence Robertson.

    Jan. 2009
    Robertson recommends charges.
    Winston Blackmore and James Oler charged with polygamy.

    Sept. 2009
    Charges against Blackmore and Oler thrown out.
    B.C. Supreme Court rules Crown acted improperly by "special prosecutor shopping".

    Oct. 2009
    Province asks B.C. Supreme Court to examine the constitutionality of polygamy.

    B.C. Supreme Court rules that the polygamy law is constitutional.
    RCMP begin investigation of allegations Bountiful "child brides" being taken to U.S.

    Peter Wilson is appointed special prosecutor.

    Wilson recommends charges.
    Winston Blackmore and James Oler charged with polygamy again.
    Oler, Brandon Blackmore and Emily Crossfield charged with unlawfully removing two children from Canada back in 2004.


  48. Wife of B.C. polygamous leader says charges violate her religious freedom

    BY THE CANADIAN PRESS Vancouver Sun AUGUST 14, 2014

    LISTER, B.C. - Marsha Chatwin is guarded in what she'll say about her marriage to Winston Blackmore, one of the leaders of a small religious community in southeastern British Columbia known as Bountiful.

    When asked when she married Blackmore, who was charged this week with practising polygamy and is accused of marrying 24 women, Chatwin simply says it's been "a long time."

    She pauses when asked how many children she and Blackmore have, but reluctantly says they've had six, though she and her children don't live with Blackmore. She declines to talk about whether she has a job; it's not unusual for women in Bountiful to work as teachers or midwives.

    But Chatwin doesn't hesitate when asked about the latest criminal case hanging over a community she describes as "a polygamous place."

    "It seems ridiculous that they would say you can have relationships with people but if it's in the name of religion, then you can't," Chatwin, whose name is listed among Blackmore's alleged polygamous wives in an indictment filed this week, told The Canadian Press.

    "This is not freedom."

    Blackmore and James Oler were each charged with one count of practising polygamy. Oler is accused of having four wives.

    Oler was also charged with unlawfully removing a child from Canada to commit the offences of sexual interference or invitation to sexual touching. Two other people were also charged with illegally removing a child from the country.

    None of the allegations have been proven in court.

    About 1,000 people live in Bountiful, the informal name of an area in the town of Lister, which is located about 480 kilometres east of Vancouver near the Canada-U.S. border. Members of the community follow a fundamentalist form of Mormonism that, unlike the mainstream Mormon church, still condones polygamy.

    The community split into two factions more than a decade ago, with Blackmore leading one side and Oler, who is affiliated with jailed American polygamist Warren Jeffs, leading the other. However, Chatwin said Oler hasn't been in charge of that side of the community for some time.

    continued below

  49. Bountiful has been the subject of numerous investigations dating back to the early 1990s amid allegations of polygamy, sexual abuse and child trafficking, including a failed prosecution of Blackmore and Oler in 2009.

    Polygamy charges against the men were thrown out, prompting the provincial government to launch a constitutional reference case. A judge eventually ruled the polygamy law does not violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    The constitutional case saw documents seized from a fundamentalist Mormon church in the United States that detailed 13 alleged instances in which underage girls from Bountiful were taken to the United States to marry older men. All 13 of those alleged cases appeared to involve Oler's side of the community.

    The court also heard evidence from American authorities that alleged Blackmore married someone identified in an affidavit from an Texas police officer as "Child U" in Utah in 1999.

    Two of Blackmore's daughters were married in the United States, according to the affidavit, which also listed Blackmore as a witness to three underage marriages.

    When asked about allegations of young girls being taken across the border to be wed, Chatwin replied: "I don't know about that stuff. ... I'm against underage marriages."

    While the community is frequently described as isolated, Chatwin rejected the notion.

    "We know people outside of here, all the time, and we don't have fences around our community," she said.

    "We're open. In fact, we're more open now than we've ever been."

    Blackmore did not return repeated messages requesting an interview.

    Blackmore has publicly admitted to having multiple wives. He told a tax court in 2012 that he had 22 wives and 67 children.

    Blackmore, Oler and the two other people who were charged — Brandon Blackmore and Emily Crossfield — are all scheduled to make their first court appearance on Oct. 9 in Creston, B.C., which is just north of Bountiful.


  50. Polygamy Are charges a case of too little, too late?

    The suffering by women and children has been enormous while the wheels of justice ground even slower than usual


    It has been a ponderously long journey to this week’s filing of charges against four members of the reclusive, B.C. polygamous community of Bountiful.

    It has cost millions of dollars for the repeated investigations, the legal opinions dating back to the 1980s, and a lengthy, constitutional reference case in 2011 that determined the criminal sanction against polygamy is valid despite constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion, expression and association.

    But the biggest cost is a human one.

    Generations have suffered under the yoke of polygamy — a practice that the judge in the reference case determined is inherently harmful to women and children.

    And, as these charges drift through the courts, more lives will continue to be shaped by religious leaders who believe that they are beyond the law.

    They have good reason for that belief given the legal foot-dragging that dates back almost as far as the community’s founding in 1952.

    Two former bishops of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints — Winston Blackmore and James Oler — had been charged earlier with one count each of polygamy. The first charges were quickly dropped in 2009 because of an administrative error that left the attorney general no choice but to do a constitutional reference.

    Surely this time, everything is in order.

    Yet one can’t help wonder why there are so few charges.

    Only a few months ago in Utah, Blackmore admitted under oath that 10 of his 24 “wives” were under the age of 18.

    It is almost inconceivable that a religious leader, let alone one who runs a school, could admit to that and not be charged with sexual exploitation.

    Beyond that, it’s well known to Immigration Canada that many of his young wives are undocumented Americans. In the 1990s, some were allowed to stay on the compassionate grounds because of their children.

    But a decade ago, three were deported. They live in Idaho, little more than a 15-minute drive from Bountiful.

    Yet, Blackmore — father to 135 — is only charged with polygamy, which seems to suggest that the bar to laying charges in B.C. — a substantial likelihood of conviction — is almost insurmountable.

    Still, he will have his day in court. A man who loves the limelight, it will give him the opportunity to attempt a rerun of the constitutional reference case. He only sat out that case because the B.C. government refused to pay his legal costs to be an intervener.

    continued below

  51. Oler is charged with both polygamy and with unlawfully taking a child out of Canada for sexual purposes in 2004.

    Brandon Blackmore and Emily Ruth (Gail) Crossfield are also charged with child sex trafficking in 2004.

    It is somewhat surprising that Crossfield is charged because it challenges the common perception that women are victims in polygamous societies, not perpetrators. Of course, Crossfield’s defence could well be that she had no choice but to go along.

    Of the four charges, the trafficking ones are the more important. They get to the root problem of polygamous societies, which is that there are too few women to go around, so girls are forced into marriages.

    But what makes these charges so deeply disturbing is that the girls named in the indictments weren’t even born when Debbie Palmer first alerted the police and the B.C. attorney general to the abuses in Bountiful.

    It was the late 1980s and Palmer was the first woman who’d escaped Bountiful with her children. She had been a child bride, married to Winston Blackmore’s father, Ray.

    In 1991, because of information provided by her and several others who had quietly left, the RCMP recommended charges against Palmer’s father, Dalmon Oler, and against Winston Blackmore, then the bishop in Bountiful.

    The B.C. attorney general refused to lay charges because of legal opinions on the polygamy law’s constitutionality.

    Today, Palmer is a grandmother. Her appeals for justice in B.C. predated the most egregious abuses by FLDS leaders that came in the early 2000s that have been documented and prosecuted in the United States, including the imprisonment for life of FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs for sexual crimes against girls aged 12 and 15.

    Jane Blackmore fled more than a decade ago, leaving behind all but one of her children. She was Winston Blackmore’s first and only legal wife, who had been forced to play den mother to his gaggle of 10 under-aged brides. As Bountiful’s first midwife, she also delivered their babies.

    Today, Jane Blackmore, too, is a grandmother who had to threaten legal action against her own daughter to gain access to her grandchildren being raised within an FLDS compound in the United States.

    Yet while this week’s charges seem almost too little and too late, they’re still a welcome, small step on the long road to justice.


  52. Why did it take so long to address Bountiful’s horror stories?

    Chris Selley | National Post August 15, 2014

    Reasonable people disagree on whether polygamy should be illegal in Canada. With Wednesday’s announcement that Winston Blackmore and Jim Oler, the former and current bishops of Bountiful, B.C., again face charges under Section 293 of the Criminal Code — which prohibits all forms of multiple marriage — that debate will likely reignite. But everyone agrees, I imagine, that the mere existence of polygamous households and communities is far less an affront to Canadian society than the harmful practices generally associated with them: Most serious is the ghastly trifecta of child trafficking, sexual abuse and forced marriage, although abandoning surplus young males along the sides of highways isn’t great either.

    Can polygamy exist without those harms? We spent years debating that. Could Section 293 withstand a Charter challenge? B.C. authorities spent years averting their eyes from Bountiful, for fear it wouldn’t (at which point human civilization would draw quickly to a close, they seemed to believe). At long last, the government asked the B.C. Supreme Court for its opinion on the matter, and in 2011 it ruled Section 293 was indeed constitutional. And so here we are: Messrs. Blackmore and Oler face up to five years in the hoosegow for their multi-wife lifestyles. Hurray for us. It only took decades.

    But while the polygamy charges hogged Thursday’s headlines, Mr. Oler and two others face far more serious charges: “the unlawful removal of children under the age of 16 years from Canada with the intention that an act be committed outside Canada that would be an offence against section 151 (sexual interference) or 152 (invitation to sexual touching) of the Criminal Code,” to quote the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch press release.

    To quote the release further: These charges “are based primarily on new information that came to light as a result of investigations that unfolded in the United States.”

    Indeed, while Canadian authorities wrung their hands over what to do about polygamy, American authorities got (relatively) busy policing the harms associated with it: For having arranged a marriage between a 19-year-old and a 14-year-old, Warren Jeffs, the self-styled prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus of Christ of Latter Day Saints — of which the residents of Bountiful are adherents — was convicted as an accessory to rape. (Though that conviction was later overturned on a technicality, he’s now serving a life sentence in Texas for raping two children all by himself.)

    continued below

  53. That 14 year old Elissa Wall has written movingly about her ordeal. And many former residents of Bountiful have given similar testimonies. Mr. Blackmore has freely admitted that many of his 26 wives “married” him before they were 18. More than 10 years ago, he told CBC’s The Fifth Estate that 15-year-old girls in Bountiful were marrying — though he said he disapproved. Less self-interested parties, such as former resident Jane Blackmore, have insisted children as young as 14 were being married off. Needless to say, fundamentalist Mormon marriages are not known for being freely entered into: Women are typically “assigned” a husband by religious leaders.

    So that’s what we knew was going on, for years, in Canada. Where were the charges? When he was B.C. attorney-general, Wally Oppal once explained to me that charges wouldn’t hold up because the girls and women would insist sexual activity had been consensual. Somewhat incredulous, I asked whether much older men in a closed religious community — the bishops themselves, at least — wouldn’t constitute figures of “trust or authority,” in which case the age of consent would be 18. He pooh-poohed the notion, to my amazement.

    Even then, that wasn’t the only way to go after the harms associated with polygamy — one of which, as we see from this week’s charges, is the shipping of girls from Canadian polygamous communities to American ones, and vice versa, for arranged marriages. The alleged victim in this case is likely one of 31 girls between the ages of 12 and 17 that American authorities believe crossed the border over a 10-year period. It was three-and-a-half years ago that we learned about that.

    The wheels of justice turn excruciatingly slowly in this country — but in Bountiful, for many years, they appear barely to have been turning at all. Whatever the outcome of the charges laid this week, we have an opportunity here for some serious introspection: Did we do enough for the women and children of Bountiful? And if we didn’t, why the hell not?


  54. Judge orders $5 million bond in Warren Jeffs child-bride lawsuit

    By Stephen Hunt | The Salt Lake Tribune August 19 2014

    A state court judge on Tuesday ordered the United Effort Plan trust to post a $5 million bond to ensure that assets remain available while the UEP proceeds with a pre-trial appeal to the Utah Supreme Court.

    In May, the Utah Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in the MJ v. Warren Jeffs case, where attorneys will argue whether a polygamous trust should be held liable for what happened when a 14-year-old girl was forced to marry.

    "MJ" is Elissa Wall, who is suing the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, its imprisoned leader Warren Jeffs, and the United Effort Plan — a trust holding much of the land in the polygamist-dominated border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. The state took over the trust in 2005.

    Third District Judge Keith Kelly ruled last month that it was appropriate to halt proceedings in the civil lawsuit until the Supreme Court rules on the issue, which will likely take several years. But the judge told attorneys that he was hesitant to issue the stay, because UEP’s assets could be dispersed by the time a new trial date could be set — leaving no money for Wall if a jury rules in her favor.

    Wall had asked the judge to order the UEP to post a $10 million bond. UEP suggested that a $1 million bond was sufficient.

    On Tuesday, Kelly set the bond at $5 million, adding that if the UEP does not post the bond within 30 days, the stay will be lifted and a trial will go forward in January, as scheduled.

    Wall is seeking $30 million to $40 million from the trust and other defendants. But only the United Effort Plan is defending the lawsuit and is presumably the only defendant with any assets to pay a judgment.

    Wall was raised in the polygamous FLDS. She was 14 when she was forced to marry her 21-year-old cousin Allen Steed. Jeffs helped arrange the union.

    Wall later left the marriage. Jeffs was charged in state court in St. George with rape as an accomplice. Wall’s testimony helped convict him in 2007, and Jeffs received a sentence of life in prison. But in 2010, the Utah Supreme Court overturned the verdict due to faulty jury instructions.

    In 2011, Jeffs, 58, was convicted in Texas of sexually assaulting two girls, ages 12 and 15, he took as spiritual wives. He is now serving a life prison sentence.

    Steed was later charged with sex crimes in Utah, but the criminal case was settled in 2011 when Steed entered a plea in abeyance to a reduced charge and served 30 days in jail.


  55. Two Bountiful leaders appear in Creston court on polygamy charges

    by Lorne Eckersley - Creston Valley Advance October 9, 2014

    It was a Blackmore family day in the Creston Law Courts on Thursday morning, where two leaders of opposing Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints factions appeared to face polygamy charges.

    Winston Kay Blackmore sat in the public section of the courtroom, surrounded by eight daughters and a granddaughter. He was represented, on a temporary basis, by Vancouver attorney Alison Latimer and was not required to speak to Judge Grant Sheard. The indictment against Blackmore alleges that he has 24 wives.

    James Marion Oler, Blackmore’s brother-in-law, has not retained counsel and requested time to hire a lawyer. The Oler-led faction is said to keep close ties with the followers of Warren Jeffs in the US. Jeffs is currently incarcerated in Texas.

    Both cases were remanded until December 4 so that both men could retain counsel.

    Also appearing in court were Blackmore’s son, Brandon James Blackmore and his wife, Emily Ruth Crossfield, who are charged with unlawfully removing a child under 16 from Canada with the intent that an offence of a sexual nature would be committed outside of Canada. Neither has retained counsel and Sheard suggested they speak to the Legal Aid lawyer who was in the courthouse at the time.

    The husband and wife are followers of Oler’s faction. When asked outside the courthouse if he speaks to his son often, Winston said, “Not for a long, long time.” Their case was also remanded.

    No information about the charges was provided in the courtroom, but Crown prosecutor Peter Wilson consented to Latimer’s request that Winston Blackmore should be able to cross into the US because he has family on both sides of the border. Sheard agreed to amend previous conditions that required him to remain in BC or Alberta. Blackmore will still have to report in to the Creston RCMP every other Wednesday.

    “He is not a flight risk,” Latimer contended. Wilson agreed.

    Oler made a quick exit from the courthouse, avoiding questions from reporters. But Blackmore, dressed in a black suit and tie with a white shirt and wearing a baseball cap with the initials WB (“It’s my son’s,” he said.), stayed outside to do interviews and pose for photographs, including some with his daughters and granddaughters.

    “A little bit sick,” Blackmore said when asked how he felt. “I don’t really know that much (about the prosecution’s case). I haven’t seen anything and it’s probably wise not to say anything.”

    On facing polygamy charges “again”, he said, “I will absolutely defend.”

    How that defense will be made is unclear, as Blackmore said his financial situation prevented hiring Latimer except on an interim basis.

    “I’m worried about money,” he admitted.

    Asked about how he will carry on with his life with what could be a lengthy trial looming, he said, “We just live one day at a time and we’ll do the best we can.”

    “It’s Thanksgiving weekend,” he said. “I’m just going to go home and be thankful.”


  56. The Bountiful Four Who are they?

    Courts: With only a few surnames to go around, stories about polygamy are inherently hard to follow


    Keeping the cast of characters straight in any story about polygamy is bound to be complicated, because there are only a few surnames and almost everyone is related by marriage.

    And so it is with the four people from Bountiful, B.C. who will appear in provincial court Thursday facing charges that include polygamy and trafficking girls for sexual purposes.

    Best known is Winston Blackmore, 60, who is charged with one count of polygamy. The charismatic and clever former bishop of Bountiful has become the public face of polygamy in Canada over the last 25 years.

    The father of 132 children, the names of 24 women — his so-called “celestial” or “spiritual” wives — are listed on his indictment.

    Under oath during a deposition in a civil case last March in Utah, Blackmore admitted that three of his wives were 15 and 10 were under the age of 18.

    Since his excommunication in 2002 from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Blackmore has led his own religious sect that consists of about 500 people, most of whom are related to him either by birth or marriage.

    Blackmore recently registered the group’s name in B.C. as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which was the name used by Mormonism’s founder Joseph Smith.

    With the exception of a hyphen, it is the same name used since 1838 by the mainstream Mormon church, which claims 15 million followers in 170 countries. The mainstream church — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — filed a civil suit against Blackmore in B.C. Supreme Court this spring.

    Blackmore has an ongoing case in Federal Court where he is appealing a Revenue Canada reassessment that he owes more than $1.6 million in back taxes.

    Blackmore’s father Ray and great-uncle Harold founded Bountiful. But soon after, Ray ousted Harold and took control of the community and the land.

    Although Winston was not the oldest son, he was the favourite. After his father died, Blackmore took over running J.R. Blackmore & Sons, the family’s farm and logging operations, and became Bountiful’s spiritual leader.

    Just before being named the FLDS bishop, Blackmore handed over all but a few parcels of the family’s land to the church’s United Effort Plan trust. That land remains in the trust and is under the control of a special fiduciary appointed by a Utah court in 2006 just before the arrest of FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs, who is now serving a life sentence in Texas for child-sex crimes.

    Blackmore was first investigated in the late 1980s, and the RCMP recommended charges against him and Dalmon Oler, another of the community’s founders. No charges were laid because the B.C. attorney general was concerned that Canada’s polygamy law was unconstitutional.

    However, he was charged in 2009 with one count of polygamy along with Oler’s son, James. Those charges were dropped due to an administrative error.

    continued below

  57. Blackmore has indicated that his defence will be to argue that polygamy is protected by the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom, even though that argument was soundly rejected in 2011 by the B.C. Supreme Court.

    James Marion Oler, 50, is charged with one count of polygamy and one count of unlawful removal of a child — his daughter — from Canada for sexual purposes.

    Four women are listed as wives on the polygamy indictment.

    Oler has 13 children.

    He is Winston Blackmore’s brother-in-law. His half-sister was Blackmore’s only legal wife.

    Along with Blackmore, Oler was arrested, handcuffed and charged in 2009 with one count of polygamy, a charge that was subsequently stayed.

    As one of Dalmon Oler’s 46 children, James became the FLDS bishop after Winston Blackmore’s excommunication in 2002.

    Initially, Oler agreed to be a witness during the 2011 constitutional reference case. That may have had something to do with his excommunication at around the same time.

    Oler was replaced as FLDS bishop by his half-brother, Ken Oler.

    In 2011, Ken Oler was also excommunicated, forced out of his home and forced to leave his 20 children and two wives behind. He went to the RCMP to report that under-aged girls were being forced into religious marriages.

    In March, under oath in the same Utah civil case that Blackmore gave a deposition, Ken Oler identified three girls from Bountiful as having been taken as child brides to the United States. Two were his half-sisters, who were only 15 and 16.

    Excommunication also forced James Oler out of his home. At the time charges were laid, Oler was working in Alberta.

    Emily Ruth (Gail) Crossfield Blackmore is charged along with her husband, Brandon Blackmore, with one count of unlawful removal from Canada of their daughter for sexual purposes.

    Crossfield Blackmore’s father is a notorious polygamist prophet known as Brother Onias. He was born Robert C. Crossfield in 1929 in New Westminster, and raised in Alberta.

    A convert to Mormonism, Crossfield was excommunicated by the mainstream Mormon church in 1972 for publishing a book of his revelations titled The Book of Onias. He moved to Bountiful before moving to Provo, Utah, and establishing the School of the Prophets, a group also known as The Restorers.

    Crossfield’s and the group’s current whereabouts are unknown.

    Among Crossfield’s followers were Dan and Ron Lafferty, who were convicted of the brutal murder of their sister-in-law and her baby. As Jon Krakauer wrote in Under the Banner of Heaven, the pair killed Brenda Lafferty believing that the only way she could be forgiven for her “sin” of refusing to allow her husband to take a second wife was “blood atonement.”

    Brandon James Blackmore, 67, is one of Winston’s older brothers and one of Winston’s 13 full siblings, which means they have the same mother and father. He has five wives, including Crossfield Blackmore, and 30-some children. He and his family continued to follow Jeffs and the FLDS teachings rather than switch loyalties to his brother, Winston, following his excommunication.


  58. Accused polygamists from BC religious sect make court appearance

    Winston Blackmore, who was accompanied in court by eight daughters and a granddaughter, pledging to "absolutely defend" himself


    CRESTON — Two men from a religious sect in southeastern British Columbia made their first appearance Thursday to face polygamy charges, with outspoken community leader Winston Blackmore, who was accompanied in court by eight daughters and a granddaughter, pledging to "absolutely defend" himself.

    Blackmore and his brother-in-law, James Oler, were charged in August. The indictment against Blackmore alleges he has 24 wives, while Oler is accused of having four.

    The community follows a fundamentalist form of Mormonism that, unlike the mainstream church, still condones polygamy. Blackmore and Oler each became leaders of separate factions when Bountiful split in two more than a decade ago, though members of the community have said Oler is no longer in charge.

    Blackmore sat in the public section of the courtroom during Thursday's hearing, surrounded by his daughters and granddaughter, while his lawyer appeared on his behalf.

    Oler told the judge he had yet to hire a lawyer and asked for more time to do that.

    Both men's cases were put off until Dec. 4.

    Also appearing in court were Emily Ruth Crossfield and her husband, Brandon James Blackmore, who is Blackmore's son. They are charged with unlawfully removing a child under 16 from Canada with the intent that an offence of a sexual nature would be committed.

    Neither had retained a lawyer and the judge suggested they speak to the legal aid lawyer who was in the courthouse.

    The husband and wife are followers of Oler's faction, which is believed to remain loyal to jailed American polygamist Warren Jeffs, who leads the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS. Their case was also put off.

    When asked outside the courthouse whether he speaks to his son often, Winston Blackmore said: "Not for a long, long time."

    Winston Blackmore's lawyer asked that he be permitted to travel into the United States because he has family on both sides of the border. The judge granted the request, amending a list of conditions that previously required him to remain in B.C. or Alberta.

    Oler made a quick exit from the courthouse, avoiding questions from reporters.

    But Blackmore, dressed in a black suit and tie with a white shirt and wearing a baseball cap with the initials WB, stopped outside to speak with journalists and pose for photographs alongside his daughters and granddaughter.

    Blackmore said he felt "a little bit sick."

    "I don't really know that much (about the prosecution's case)," he continued. "I haven't seen anything and it's probably wise not to say anything."

    Blackmore and Oler were charged with practising polygamy in 2009, but the case was thrown out over the government's use of a special prosecutor.

    That prompted the B.C. government to launch a reference case to determine whether the law was constitutional, which ended in 2011 with a judge ruling the ban on polygamy does not violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    "I will absolutely defend," said Blackmore, though he added his financial situation will make it difficult to pay for a lawyer.

    Blackmore said he'll "just live one day at a time" while the legal case unfolds.

    "We'll do the best we can," he said.

    "It's Thanksgiving weekend. I'm just going to go home and be thankful."


  59. Church acknowledges Mormon founder had teen bride during polygamy days

    THE ASSOCIATED PRESS October 24, 2014 The Tampa Tribune

    SALT LAKE CITY – Mormon church founder Joseph Smith had a teenage bride and was married to other men’s wives during the early days of the faith when polygamy was practiced, a new church essay acknowledges.

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says most of Smith’s wives were between 20 and 40 years old. One of them, however, was a 14-year-old girl who was the daughter of Smith’s close friends.

    The essay posted this week on the church’s website marks the first time the Salt Lake City-based religion has officially acknowledged those facts, though it also has not denied them.

    It’s part of a recent push by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to open up about sensitive issues within the faith, many of which are unflattering or uncomfortable to discuss.

    Other articles posted in the past couple of years have addressed sacred undergarments worn by devout members; a past ban on black men in the lay clergy; and the misconception that Mormons are taught they’ll get their own planet in the afterlife.

    The new article about Smith’s wives during the 1830s and 1840s in Kirtland, Ohio, and Nauvoo, Illinois, comes about 10 months after the church acknowledged polygamy was widely practiced among its members in the late 19th century.

    “As a collection, these are remarkably revealing articles, continuing the new open and transparent philosophy of historical writing,” said Armand Mauss, a retired professor of sociology and religious studies at Washington State University.

    The information will be surprising to many Latter-day Saints who either didn’t know or were encouraged to dismiss speculation as anti-Mormon propaganda, Mauss said.

    Mormons don’t practice polygamy today. Splinter groups who call themselves fundamentalist Mormons still practice plural marriage, including Warren Jeffs’ sect on the Utah-Arizona border.

    Latter-day Saints began practicing polygamy after Smith received a revelation from God. He took his first plural wife in 1830 in Ohio, three years after he married his first wife, Emma, the article shows. He and his first plural wife separated, but he renewed the practice a decade later in Illinois. That’s where he married the teenager.

    The essay noted that while inappropriate by today’s standards, marriage among teen girls was legal and somewhat common during that time.

    The article acknowledges that many details about polygamy in early Mormonism are hazy because members were taught to keep their actions confidential. But, research has indicated that Smith’s marriage to the young girl might not have involved sex.

    Some plural marriages were designed to seal the man to the woman for eternity only, and not life and eternity as Mormons believe, the article says. Those types of marriages didn’t seem to involve sex.

    Little is known about Smith’s marriages to the already-married women, the article says. They also might have been the type of unions that didn’t involve sex.

    Plural marriage was an “excruciating ordeal” for Emma Smith and confounding for some men, too, the article says. Some people left the faith, and others refused to take multiple wives while remaining Latter-day Saints.

    When Latter-day Saints trekked cross-country to Utah in 1847, nearly 200 men and more than 500 women were in plural marriage, it says.

    “Difficult as it was, the introduction of plural marriage in Nauvoo did indeed ‘raise up seed’ unto God,” the article says. “A substantial number of today’s members descend through faithful Latter-day Saints who practiced plural marriage.”


  60. Ottawa aims to end barbaric practices, such as polygamy

    Federal bill aimed immigrant communities, but has happy effect of providing more protection for the girls of Bountiful


    It’s called the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Practices Act and it’s almost certain that polygamists from Bountiful, B.C. will be among the first affected by it when or if it’s passed.

    The federal bill is being fast-tracked and, by the end of Wednesday, is expected to be approved by the Senate’s human rights committee and passed on to the Senate with a recommendation for its approval.

    Among the amendments are additions and clarifications to the Criminal Code. If the bill is enacted quickly, the changes could be used by special prosecutor Peter Wilson, who has not ruled out laying more charges in Bountiful.

    Earlier this year, four people from Bountiful — including Canada’s most notorious polygamist Winston Blackmore and another former bishop James Oler — were charged with a total of five polygamy-related offences. A trial date has yet to be set, although the defendants’ next court appearance is Jan. 29.

    Of course, it doesn’t seem that anyone in Ottawa had in mind Bountiful when the legislation was written or debated.

    Certainly when the Senate human rights committee began its deliberations on the bill this week, the majority of those testifying were from immigrant and ethnic communities. As a result, the senators didn’t hear much about the homegrown polygamist sects who have thrived in Western Canada for more than a century or about Blackmore with his 25 wives and more than 125 children or the jailed pedophile prophet, Warren Jeffs, the spiritual leader to several thousand in Canada and the United States.

    In fact, it’s fair to say that tougher laws for homegrown polygamists is just a happy, if unintended, consequence.

    It was Immigration Minister Chris Alexander who introduced the bill in early November, underscoring that this is driven by concerns about immigrant, Muslim communities rather than fundamentalist Mormons practising polygamy in B.C. and Alberta.

    Still, there are good things in the bill, which would amend sections of the Immigration and Refugee Act, the Civil Marriage Act, the Criminal Code, the Prisons and Reformatory Act and the Youth Justice Act.

    • It would set 16 as the minimum age for marriage.

    • It would prohibit immigrants and refugees from entering Canada if they are or will be practising polygamy with anyone present in Canada.

    • It provides for anyone who fears that a child will be forced into marriage to ask a provincial court judge to intervene. The judge could then require the parties to appear. Defendants could be ordered to “keep the peace and be of good behaviour” for up to 12 months or up to two years if the defendant had a previous conviction under the forced marriage section.

    • The Criminal Code would be amended so that anyone legally authorized to solemnize marriages under either federal or provincial law could be sent to jail for up to five years for performing polygamous or forced marriages.

    • Anyone who celebrates, aids or participates in polygamous marriages or those involving children under 16 could be sent to jail for up to five years.

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  61. Where the bill begins to get problematic is with the amendment that makes it an offence to celebrate, aid or participate in a ceremony knowing that one of the persons being married is marrying against their will.

    The notion of free will is more clearly stated in the amendment to the Civil Marriage Act, which would require both people to be 16 or older, unmarried and to have given “free and enlightened consent of two persons.”

    What does “against their will” or even “free and enlightened consent” mean for children raised in a closed, religious communities where they attend private schools, are taught by those of the same faith and religious leaders that those who don’t believe as they do are ‘apostates’ and ‘infidels’ who must be shunned?

    Few young women from Bountiful who’ve been taught that God chooses their husbands for them and reveals the names to the bishop would ever testify that they hadn’t given ‘enlightened’ consent or hadn’t freely chosen when their immortality depends on obedience to God?

    Strikingly absent from those testifying at the Senate committee were any B.C. prosecutors, lawyers, attorneys general or RCMP who have been involved in the decisions in the early 1990s and in the early 2000s not to lay charges against Blackmore and other polygamists in Bountiful. They might have had some valuable advice regarding the wording of any new laws.

    But where the bill totally overreaches is in the amendment of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. It would allow provincial judges to have children held in custody for up to 30 days if it appears that the child may disobey a court order against entering into a polygamous or forced marriage.

    It would criminalize children for their upbringing.

    There are other remedies. The most obvious is to ensure that all children have opportunities to explore different ideas in classrooms where they can meet children who are being raised with different traditions, customs and faiths.

    Constitutionally, however, that’s beyond the federal government’s reach.

    And, sadly, it’s a solution that provinces like British Columbia have already shut the door on by allowing both publicly and privately funded, independent schools.

    Forced marriages, child marriages and polygamy are barbaric practices and anathema to the equality rights of children and women.

    After more than a century of ignoring them, the government’s bill takes Canada a step closer toward eliminating them.


  62. Religion and polygamy at heart of Utah couple’s divorce and custody dispute

    By JENNIFER DOBNER | The Salt Lake Tribune December 09, 2014

    Divorce » Order forbids polygamous discussion but lets husband take kids to an LDS church.

    A Utah woman is fighting a temporary court order barring her from talking to her children about her fundamentalist Mormon beliefs, including polygamy.

    The order, issued in October by a 3rd District Court divorce commissioner as part of a custody dispute, also prevents the mother of three from talking about politics or about any faith other than the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    Raised a Mormon, the 33-year-old woman has been studying the early church teachings and history and currently attends the polygamy-practicing Apostolic United Bretheran church in Bluffdale, although she is not a member of the church.

    Divorce Commissioner Kim Luhn eased the restriction on speech to a degree during a court hearing on Tuesday, amending the order to allow for age-appropriate conversation about faith. Her decision followed arguments from the woman’s attorney, Laura Fuller, who said the order’s prohibitions violate her client’s First Amendment and constitutional rights.

    "My problem is not with [the woman’s] religion. I don’t care if her conduct is a result of her belief in the UAB," Luhn said, after acknowledging the order may have been too broad. "I care that her conduct is creating chaos for the children and in essence rising to the level of emotional abuse."

    The amended order will be in place until a Jan. 8 review hearing. And while religion was not the focus of Tuesday’s hearing, it is at the heart of the dispute between the couple, according to the woman, her family members and her attorney.

    Court documents in the the case are mostly sealed as is typical in divorce proceedings, but Fuller says all of the affidavit’s submitted by the father reference religion.

    "He doesn’t want [the children] to go to join a polygamous church," she said of the father, who currently has sole custody of the children.

    The woman’s brother also told The Tribune that he and her parents were specifically asked by the father to support his effort to "take custody of the children in order to keep them away from a polygamous church."

    continued below

  63. The Tribune is not naming the couple or their family members in order to protect the identities of the children, who are 7, 5 and 18 months.

    But an attorney for the father said Tuesday that placing religion at the center of the case is a mischaracterization of the issues in what is a high conflict and difficult situation between divorcing parents.

    "Her investigation of an alternate religion has certainly played into why the parties are separating and seeking a divorce, but it has nothing to do with the children," Kendra Shirey said after the hearing. "Everything that we are doing for the commissioner and this court is about ensuring that the children’s best interests are met."

    Shirey said Luhn has been clear from the start that her intention was not to restrict the mother’s religious views.

    "What [the commissioner’s] goal has been about is caring for the children," she said.

    It was concern for his children’s well being that prompted the father last month to seek a temporary restraining order against his wife, claiming she had violated the conditions of the court’s order, not by talking about religion, but through statements about the divorce that have upset the children and by seeking unsupervised time with them.

    "She would say things about the court case in front of the children," the man testified on Tuesday. "She would talk about what was going on with the court case, as far as her version of the truth."

    The judge allowed the temporary restraining order to lapse on Tuesday after hearing testimony from both parents.

    The children’s mother, who was a stay-at-home parent and home-schooled her elder children before being court-ordered to move out of the family home, insists she too is working in her children’s best interests. She told the Tribune she’s a good mother who has never abused or neglected her children.


  64. Mysterious ‘tent city’ springing up in FLDS towns

    BY BEN WINSLOW fox13now DECEMBER 15, 2014

    SALT LAKE CITY — A massive “tent city” is springing up in the polygamous border towns, an apparent response to a threat of eviction by the courts in a long-running land war.

    FOX 13 was provided a series of photographs showing the construction of the giant white tents being built behind a huge wall with “no trespassing” signs all around it. The tents appear to be able to shelter hundreds. The source who provided the photos to FOX 13 said no one is living in the tents yet, they are still being built.

    The construction of the “tent city” appears to be in response to the threat of eviction from land owned by the court-controlled United Effort Plan Trust. Jeffrey L. Shields, the lawyer for the UEP’s court-appointed fiduciary, said the town councils of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., have changed ordinances to allow for the construction.

    “We’ve heard they’re rerouting utility lines and water and sewer to accommodate those folks,” Shields said.

    The tents are the latest in a battle between the Fundamentalist LDS Church and the courts over the UEP. In 2005, a judge in Salt Lake City’s 3rd District Court took control of the UEP amid allegations that FLDS leader Warren Jeffs mismanaged it.

    Recently, the court-controlled UEP began evicting people for not paying a $100 a month occupancy fee to stay in their homes. Shields said he believed the tents are the FLDS leadership’s response.

    “That’s the only logical explanation I can come to is they’re trying to have a place to put people if they’re evicted from UEP property,” he told FOX 13. “Which seems a lot more expensive than paying a $100 fee.”

    So far, 16 homes have been the subject of eviction proceedings in St. George’s 5th District Court. Shields said two homes actually paid the fees to stay after eviction proceedings began. The remaining 14 are still in process by the courts.

    Tonia Tewell, the executive director of the non-profit group Holding Out Help, called the tent city a “P.R. move” by FLDS leaders.

    “The sad thing, honestly, is that the leaders will be comfy-cozy in their homes,” she said. “It’s the followers that will be the ones that will suffer.”

    Tewell, whose group works with people in need in the polygamous communities, called the situation there a “humanitarian crisis.” Hundreds have left or been excommunicated by Jeffs, leaving the church with nothing (they consecrate most of their property to the FLDS Church). Jeffs still controls the church from his Texas prison cell, where he is serving a life sentence for child sex assault related to underage “marriages.”

    If the courts start evicting people en masse, Tewell said it will strain social service providers’ ability to help.

    “We’re already overloaded with people who are being or being kicked out,” she said. So if these mass evictions happen and people are kicked out and head to the tent city, it’s winter and it will not surprise me if people flee from the community. It puts us in a predicament of needing food and clothing and shelter.”

    The Utah Attorney General’s Office said it was monitoring the situation and urged people in need to contact social service providers.


  65. Mormons win battle to distance themselves from B.C. polygamist

    Blackmore agrees to end court fight but still faces criminal charges for practising polygamy


    The Mormons have their names back. But it took lawyering up and going to court to wrest them away from polygamist Winston Blackmore.

    In the end, Blackmore wasn’t up for the fight. He agreed to give up the names “Mormon” and any variation of the name “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

    Perhaps that’s because since August, Blackmore’s attention has been more focused on the criminal charge filed against him for practising polygamy.

    (His next court date is Jan. 29 in Creston provincial court, where he is expected to appear along with three others from Bountiful. His brother-in-law James Oler is also charged with one count of polygamy, while his brother Brandon Blackmore and Brandon’s wife Gail Crossfield are charged with unlawful removal of a child from Canada.)

    It may also be because of the large bill he’s had to pay for back taxes, fines and court costs after failing in his attempt to have Revenue Canada tax him and his followers not as individuals but as a religious commune.

    Last September, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld a Federal Tax Court decision that Blackmore and his group failed to meet any of the four conditions in the Tax Act that must be met to constitute a religious congregation.

    No doubt to the delight of the mainstream church, judges in both the courts determined that Blackmore’s group is not affiliated in any way with the LDS.

    The decision also noted that Blackmore’s group doesn’t require all property to be held communally or that all of its members devote their working lives to the activities of the congregation.

    The fight over who has the legitimate right to be called Mormon or use the name The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been going on for 125 years.

    It’s a fight focused on the most controversial “revelation” of the religion’s founder Joseph Smith — polygamy.

    In 1890, the church’s then-president Wilford Woodruff had his own “revelation” and suspended the practice of polygamy — after the U.S. Congress passed a law that would have allowed it to seize all of the church’s assets. It cleared the way for Utah to become a state.

    continued below

  66. But over the years, there were those who disagreed with Woodruff and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Among them were Blackmore’s father, Ray Blackmore, and his uncle, Harold Blackmore. Their disaffection from the mainstream church led to their founding in 1946 of the community known as Bountiful, where like-minded people have openly practised polygamy ever since.

    Over the years, those practising polygamy have organized themselves under various names including the United Order, the Apostolic United Brethren and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

    Winston Blackmore was once a bishop of the FLDS, the largest group in North America. But after his excommunication, he began his own group, which has fewer than 500 followers (almost all of them relatives including many of his 135-plus children).

    In May 2010, Blackmore registered the name “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Inc.” in British Columbia.

    The Utah-based church, which claims a membership of 15 million in 170 countries, didn’t notice until last year when it went to register the name in Canada.

    On Monday, by consent, the B.C. Supreme Court issued an order prohibiting Blackmore and his followers from using the name “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Inc.” or any similar names — known in court-speak as “any other colourable imitation thereof.”

    The order also prohibits directing public attention in any way that would cause confusion between Blackmore’s group and the LDS or in any way suggesting that there is an association between the two groups.

    Further, it prohibits Blackmore and his followers from “questioning, attacking, challenging, [and] contesting the validity of, and objecting to, opposing or otherwise impugning or interfering in any way, including by way of legal proceedings of any nature” with the Utah-based church’s use of its trademarked names.

    Those include: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Latter-day Saints and Mormon.

    Blackmore must also immediately change his group’s corporate name to the Church of Jesus Christ (Original Doctrine) Inc.

    The mainstream LDS church has succeeded in getting its names back.

    But it’s almost certain that one of the defences Blackmore will use when his criminal trial begins is that, as one of Joseph Smith’s true followers, practising polygamy is his religious right.


  67. Polygamist leader files to have criminal charge quashed

    Winston Blackmore claims prosecutor was improperly hired


    Unabashed polygamist Winston Blackmore is asking the B.C. Supreme Court to quash the single criminal charge against him on a legal technicality.
    Filed Friday, the petition comes less than a month before Blackmore is scheduled to be back in provincial court to choose whether he wants to be tried by a judge or jury on the one count on which 24 women’s names are listed as “wives.”

    Blackmore’s petition argues that in 2012, the B.C. attorney general improperly appointed special prosecutor Peter Wilson, who laid the charges against Blackmore as well as three others.

    If all of this sounds a bit familiar, it should because it worked once before for the leader of a fundamentalist Mormon sect when he was charged with a single count of polygamy in 2009. That charge was stayed after a B.C. Supreme Court ruled the special prosecutor had been improperly appointed.

    Critical to understanding what’s happening is that in British Columbia only Crown counsels (not the police) can lay charges.

    But lawyers in the attorney general’s criminal justice branch have repeatedly rejected RCMP recommendations to lay polygamy charges against polygamist leaders from the fundamentalist Mormon community of Bountiful.

    The reason given was that the ministry had legal opinions suggesting the polygamy section of the Criminal Code was unconstitutional and an unjustifiable infringement on religious freedom.

    So, after Crown counsel again rejected an RCMP recommendation in 2006, then-attorney general Wally Oppal appointed Richard Peck as special prosecutor.

    Peck concluded that polygamy is the root of problems in Bountiful that include child brides, teen pregnancies and even forced school leaving and that the polygamy law was likely a reasonable limit on religious freedom.

    But Peck didn’t recommend charges.

    Instead, he recommended that the province refer the constitutional question to the B.C. Court of Appeal “from which there is an automatic right of appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.”

    That didn’t happen.

    Instead of a reference case, Oppal appointed another special prosecutor who subsequently agreed with Peck. Then, Oppal appointed another special prosecutor whose recommendation resulted in Blackmore’s 2006 arrest.

    Then, Blackmore’s lawyer Joe Arvay — who is again representing Blackmore — argued that Oppal had gone “prosecutor shopping” to get the result he wanted.

    continued below

  68. The judge agreed and said that Peck’s recommendation for a constitutional reference case remained the final word on the matter.

    By then, Mike de Jong was attorney general. He decided not to appeal that decision and not to refer the constitutional question to the Court of Appeal. Instead, he opted to send the constitutional reference to the trial court — the B.C. Supreme Court — where the polygamy law was upheld.

    After that decision came down, then-attorney general Shirley Bond decided not to take the reference any further. In 2012, she approved Wilson’s appointment as special prosecutor after securing Peck’s resignation.

    So what Blackmore’s petition contends is that Peck’s recommendation remains the final word and that not only did the attorney general have no authority to appoint another special prosecutor, the government never carried out Peck’s recommendations.

    It says that the reference to the B.C. Supreme Court “is neither the authoritative decision contemplated by Mr. Peck nor does it provide fair notice to the petitioner and the members of the Bountiful community as to how their alleged practice of polygamy should end.”

    In addition to having Blackmore’s charge quashed, the petition calls for Wilson’s appointment to be ruled invalid.

    No one was willing to comment on the petition. Wilson is out of the country. Attorney General Suzanne Anton’s office referred calls to the ministry’s criminal justice branch and its communications counsel, Neil MacKenzie, replied by email, “It would not be appropriate to comment on the content or the issues at this time.”

    What’s not clear is whether Blackmore’s March 26 hearing date will be postponed or what will happen to scheduled court appearances of the other three who Wilson is prosecuting.

    They are: James Oler, who has elected to be tried by a judge alone in B.C. Supreme Court on one count of polygamy and one of illegally transporting a child across a border for sexual purposes (child trafficking); Emily (Gail) Crossfield Blackmore, who has elected trial by a B.C. Supreme Court judge on one count of child trafficking; and, Brandon Blackmore (Winston’s older brother) who has been charged along with his wife on one count of transporting a child for sexual purposes.


  69. B.C. defends its decision to file new polygamy charges against Bountiful leader

    by GEORDON OMAND, THE CANADIAN PRESS news1130 April 30, 2015

    VANCOUVER – The B.C. government is defending its right to lay a polygamy charge against the head of a fundamentalist Mormon sect in the province’s southern Interior, say documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court.

    The province previously appointed a series of special prosecutors to pursue a charge against Winston Blackmore, one of the leaders of a fundamentalist splinter community in Bountiful, B.C.

    An earlier attempt to prosecute was quashed by the court after Blackmore’s lawyer successfully argued that the government couldn’t keep appointing successive prosecutors until it got the recommendation it wanted.

    “(The judge) expressly found that the successive appointment of special prosecutors is authorized … where there has been a change in circumstances,” said the province’s submission filed earlier in April.

    The province said it is justified in reopening the case against Blackmore because of new police evidence collected from a fundamentalist ranch in Texas, as well as more constitutional certainty following a 2011 B.C. Supreme Court decision that confirmed polygamy violated the Criminal Code.

    Blackmore filed a petition earlier this year to have the court throw out this most recent charge against him, in which special prosecutor Peter Wilson alleges he has 24 wives.

    Wilson also recommended a polygamy charge against James Oler, who allegedly has four wives. Oler is also charged along with, Emily Crossfield and Brandon Blackmore with unlawfully removing a child from Canada for sexual purposes.

    Marriage certificates obtained from the Yearning For Zion ranch in the southern United States were compared with B.C. birth records to reveal the movement of young girls from Bountiful to be married to older men in American fundamentalist communities, the court documents alleged.

    None of the allegations have been proven in court.

    In his petition, Blackmore argued the province’s attorney general acted improperly in its most recent appointment of a special prosecutor.

    It’s a similar argument to the one Blackmore’s lawyer made in 2009, when a judge tossed out a polygamy charge because of how the province appointed its special prosecutor.

    In 2007, special prosecutor Richard Peck concluded that polygamy was the root cause of Bountiful’s alleged issues. But instead of pressing charges he recommended a constitutional question be referred to the courts to provide more legal clarity.

    The province countered by appointing another special prosecutor who laid charges, which were dismissed after Blackmore’s lawyer successfully argued that Peck’s initial decision should be final.

    In response to Blackmore’s most recent petition, the province argued that the polygamy judgment has since cleared away the constitutional uncertainty surrounding the practice.

    Peck’s decision “cannot reasonably be read as a final determination that no polygamy charges should ever be approved against any member of Bountiful,” said the province in its filed documents.

    “Rather, Mr. Peck reasoned that criminal charges should await the outcome of a reference.”

    The petition will be heard in Vancouver court on June 8.


  70. BC government faces off against Bountiful leader over polygamy

    Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press, CTV News June 8, 2015

    VANCOUVER - The leader of a fundamentalist religious commune in British Columbia's southern interior will square off in court today against the provincial government over whether the province has the right to charge him with polygamy.

    Winston Blackmore filed a petition in late February asking the B.C. Supreme Court to quash the criminal charge, arguing that B.C.'s attorney general improperly appointed Peter Wilson, the special prosecutor who recommended the charge.

    The court threw out an earlier attempt to prosecute the head of the remote, Mormon breakaway community of Bountiful after Blackmore's lawyer Joe Arvay successfully argued the government couldn't keep appointing successive prosecutors until it got the recommendation it wanted.

    In 2007, special prosecutor Richard Peck concluded that polygamy was the root cause of Bountiful's alleged issues. But instead of recommending charges he suggested a constitutional question be referred to the courts to provide more legal clarity.

    The province responded by appointing another special prosecutor, who recommended charges in 2009. They were ultimately dismissed after Blackmore's lawyer persuaded the court that Peck's initial decision should be final.

    That prompted the B.C. government to launch a constitutional reference case, which ended in 2011 when a B.C. Supreme Court judge concluded the law making polygamy illegal doesn't violate the religious protections in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    A year later, then-Attorney General Shirley Bond appointed Wilson as a special prosecutor. He approved charges against Blackmore, alleging the leader had 24 wives. Wilson also recommend a polygamy charge against James Oler, who leads a separate faction in Bountiful and has an alleged four wives.

    Arvay countered with the same argument used three years earlier - that Wilson's appointment was improper and that the province was bound to follow the initial special prosecutor's decision.

    In late April the province filed documents in court defending its right to seek a polygamy charge against Blackmore.

    “(The judge) expressly found that the successive appointment of special prosecutors is authorized ... where there has been a change in circumstances,”' read the submission.

    The province said it is justified in reopening the case against Blackmore because of new police evidence collected from a fundamentalist ranch in Texas, as well as more constitutional certainty following the 2011 court decision that confirmed polygamy violated the Criminal Code.

    Oler was also charged alongside Emily Crossfield and Brandon Blackmore with unlawfully removing a child from Canada for sexual purposes.

    None of the allegations have been proven in court.


  71. Polygamy charges should be thrown out over delays, alleged prosecutor ‘shopping,’ B.C. court hears

    by Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press | National Post June 9, 2015

    VANCOUVER — A polygamy charge against the leader of a fundamentalist, Mormon breakaway commune in southeastern British Columbia is unfair and should be thrown out because he wasn’t given “fair notice,” a court has heard.

    But the Crown wants Winston Blackmore’s petition dismissed, saying arguments about fairness belong in a criminal trial.

    Blackmore is one of the heads of Bountiful, B.C. — a remote, fundamentalist community whose name has become synonymous in Canada with the practice of polygamy.

    Blackmore’s lawyer Joe Arvay argued in B.C. Supreme Court on Monday that the provincial government doesn’t have the right to criminally charge his client — or any resident of Bountiful — for historical acts of polygamy.

    The cutoff point, said Arvay, should be a 2011 reference question that concluded polygamy laws do not violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That decision provided constitutional clarity to Canadians involved in the controversial practice, he added.

    “The whole point of having a reference (case) was to give those people fair notice that their conduct was lawful or unlawful,” Arvay said.

    “It would be unfair to the people of Bountiful to prosecute them for conduct that they were led to believe by many people in authority was lawful.”

    Crown lawyer Karen Horsman countered Arvay’s argument, saying that to exempt historical acts of polygamy from prosecution would tie the province’s hands and “grandfather” Blackmore’s alleged polygamy into law. She said he would be granted “perpetual criminal immunity” for ongoing polygamous relationships that began before 2011.

    None of the allegations have been proven in court.

    Blackmore sat quietly in court Monday morning watching the proceedings. His shock of white hair, neatly combed back, contrasted his sharp black suit. He held a ball cap in his lap bearing the name of his family business: J. R. Blackmore & Sons Ltd.

    Arvay told the court that Blackmore’s 25 alleged marriages took place between 1975 and 2001, predating the reference question by a decade.

    Arvay also argued that Blackmore’s polygamy charge should be quashed because the government acted improperly by appointing successive prosecutors until it got the recommendation it wanted.

    “This is yet another case of, to use the vernacular, ‘shopping’ for a prosecutor to do something the first prosecutor wouldn’t do,” said Arvay.

    In 2007, special prosecutor Richard Peck concluded that polygamy was the root cause of Bountiful’s alleged issues. But rather than recommend charges he suggested a constitutional question be referred to the courts to provide more legal clarity.

    Instead, the province opted to appoint a succession of other prosecutors until one eventually recommended taking legal action in 2009.

    Those charges were thrown out later that year, after Arvay successfully argued the province had acted inappropriately by giving the new prosecutor an identical mandate to the first. It was only then that the province posed a reference question to the B.C. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of polygamy.
    Horsman argued that circumstances had changed enough since Peck’s recommendations to warrant the appointment of special prosecutor Peter Wilson in 2012.
    In addition to the earlier reference question clearing up the legal grey area, Horsman said new evidence had come to light when American police seized records from a fundamentalist ranch in Texas. She said the 2008 investigation revealed girls were allegedly being moved across the border between polygamous communities.

    B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen reserved his judgment.


  72. Winston Blackmore polygamy charge upheld by BC Supreme Court

    Blackmore is one of 4 people facing charges related to polygamy from southeastern B.C. community

    By Mike Laanela, CBC News June 25, 2015

    The leader of a British Columbia polygamous sect has lost his attempt in the province's Supreme Court to have the polygamy charge against him quashed, his lawyer has confirmed.

    Winston Blackmore asked the court earlier this month to dismiss the 2014 criminal charge against him, arguing it must be thrown out on a legal technicality.

    His lawyer Joe Arvay argued that the provincial government doesn't have the right to criminally charge his client — or any resident of the Bountiful commune — for historical acts of polygamy, because he wasn't given "fair notice."

    The cutoff point, said Arvay, should be a 2011 decision by the B.C. Supreme Court that Canada's polygamy laws did not violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That decision provided constitutional clarity to Canadians involved in the controversial practice.

    But Associate Chief Austin Justice Cullen rejected Arvay's argument, saying the 2011 ruling did not create any obstacles to prosecution.

    Arvay had also argued that Blackmore's polygamy charge should be quashed because the government acted improperly by appointing successive prosecutors until it got the recommendation it wanted.

    The justice also rejected that argument, ruling that special prosecutor Peter Wilson was not appointed with the same mandate in 2012 as the previous special prosecutor Richard Peck, and that appointment did not conflict with any decisions reached by Peck.

    Long legal battle

    In 1990, Crown counsel in B.C. first decided against pursuing polygamy charges against members of the religious sect, which had links to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the Utah, saying the polygamy ban might be struck down by the courts as "an unjustifiable infringement on religious freedom."

    Then in 2006 RCMP the recommended criminal charges, following an investigation in allegations that men had been marrying several women and teenagers.

    It was Peck who decided in 2007 not to lay criminal charges against Blackmore, but to refer the greater question of the constitutionality of Canada's polygamy laws to the Court of Appeal instead, in order to clear up the legal controversy first.

    But, seeking a more aggressive approach, B.C.'s then-attorney general Wally Oppal appointed Leonard Doust to review that decision in 2008.

    When Doust supported Peck's decision, Oppal then appointed lawyer Terrence Robertson in 2008 as special prosecutor to conduct a charge assessment.

    Robertson approved charges against Blackmore and rival leader James Oler in 2009. Blackmore and Oler became leaders of separate factions in the community when the religious community split more than a decade before.

    But those charges were then dismissed by a judge who ruled the A.G. had appointed successive prosecutors "simply to get a desired result."

    The B.C. government then took the reference case to the Supreme Court of B.C., which upheld the constitutionality of Canada's polygamy laws in 2011.

    In 2012 the government then appointed Peter Wilson as special prosecutor to relaunch the criminal investigation of Blackmore and Oler, which eventually lead to charges against four people in 2014.

    Blackmore was accused of marrying 24 women, while James Oler was accused of marrying four women. Two other people, Blackmore's older brother Brandon James Blackmore and Brandon's wife Emily Ruth Crossfield, were charged with polygamy and unlawfully removing a child from Canada for sexual purposes.


  73. NOTE FROM PERRY BULWER: The following preface to the article below was written by Nancy Mereska, in her blog "Stop Polygamy in Canada Movement" at http://stoppolygamy.com/

    Angela Campbell's "research" for the Polygamy Reference Trial was torn apart piece by piece by the attorney's representing Stop Polygamy in Canada (Brian Samuels) and the lead attorney for the AGBC (Craig Jones). I hoped after her very poor court appearance that she would have given up on polygamy and moved on. But here she is, postulating a theory --women in polygamy charged as co-conspirators-- when no such thing will ever happen. Women in polygamy are considered to be married to ONE man making her marriage monogamous. Further, the majority of Blackmore's wives support themselves by working outside the community. YES, the prosecution of Blackmore, et.al., will be a great boon for not only the women of Bountiful but women in general who are caught in this egregious, harmful, pathetic realm of existence. Polygamy in a boil on the soil of any nation it infests. NM

    Polygamy prosecutions a mixed blessing for women

    by ANGELA CAMPBELL, Contributed to The Globe and Mail July 23, 2015

    Angela Campbell is a law professor at McGill University and author of Sister Wives, Surrogates and Sex Workers: Outlaws by Choice?

    The B.C. Supreme Court’s recent decision refusing to quash polygamy charges against Winston Blackmore, a leader in the fundamentalist Mormon community of Bountiful, B.C., may be in line with the current state of Canadian criminal law. But, despite what public officials involved with this case will argue, his prosecution and possible conviction for polygamy are not legal developments that serve the interests of women.

    For decades, the controversial criminalization of polygamy under the Criminal Code has been politically and publicly rationalized as a means of protecting vulnerable people, notably women and children. Mr. Blackmore is said to have more than 20 wives and scores of children; it is further reported that some of his brides were not yet adults when they were married by religious or “celestial” ceremony.

    It would seem clear that he is no champion of contemporary feminism. The prospect of his encountering a criminal trial, or even jail time, won’t strike many as a travesty of justice. Just the same, how convincingly can his prosecution for polygamy be heralded as yielding justice for women, whether in Bountiful or in other polygamous communities, or within Canada more broadly?

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  74. Prosecuting polygamous men will invariably bring their wives into direct contact with the criminal justice system. They may be viewed as complicit in their husband’s marital arrangements, and the terms of Canada’s polygamy ban are broad enough to capture husbands and wives alike who are involved in polygamous marriage or co-habitation.

    For years, criminal prosecution loomed like the sword of Damocles over Bountiful. The current case brings this threat to bear on the community in a real and concrete way. Given the implications of this, a polygamous wife may be loath to seek out necessary public resources for herself or her children if doing so risks self-exposure as a plural wife. And if her domestic situation really is abusive or coercive, odds are strong that she will refrain from seeking support from the police, health-care providers or social workers.

    Her reticence will be especially acute given that parents who face criminal investigation and prosecution are likely to see child-welfare authorities become involved in their families.

    A legal response to polygamy that genuinely seeks gender equality and the protection of women would do more than prosecute a handful of men who likely will be valorized as heroes and martyrs in their own circles.

    Instead, it would promote the recognition of polygamous unions if only to ensure that spouses can claim and benefit from the property sharing and alimentary support obligations that accompany monogamous partnerships.

    Moreover, it is incongruent to argue that women are victimized by polygamy while also holding them criminally liable for the practice. Thus, there is some serious thinking to do about whether a plural wife who seeks required public resources for herself or her children should benefit from prosecutorial immunity against polygamy charges.

    None of this suggests that criminal charges are inopportune for offences that are unequivocally harmful, such as sexual assault, sexual exploitation or sexual interference with a minor. Rather, the issue is whether prosecution for polygamy itself can legitimately continue to be touted as a feminist move.

    As the Blackmore case develops in the months to come, we would do well to be wary of the claim that his prosecution for the offence of polygamy is moving forward in the name of the women of Bountiful, or women more generally. A more earnest and compelling justification is necessary.

    Alternately, if the state is truly concerned about women in polygamous families, other more viable routes are open to it, none of which involve criminal prosecution for polygamy.


  75. Polygamy the opera comes to Vancouver

    Dark Sisters, which premiered in New York City four years ago, will be staged here in November


    Polygamy as opera? Well, why not? The lives of North America’s fundamentalist Mormons have enough Sturm and Drang to fuel not one, but two reality TV shows.

    Sister wives fighting for their shared husband’s attention, the many children, mainstream society’s disapprobation and the often harsh restrictions placed on their lives and liberties by the prophet? There’s more than enough passion and drama to set to music.

    Dark Sisters by Nico Muhly and Stephen Karam is coming in November to the Vancouver Opera. It premiered four years ago in New York City. But it was three years ago, after seeing it staged in Philadelphia, that the Vancouver company decided it was a good fit for its 2015/16 season.

    It’s serendipitous timing. Dark Sisters is being performed at a time when four B.C. polygamists — all current or former members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints — are in court facing criminal charges including the trafficking of under-aged girls and polygamy itself.

    The opera is set in the present and is based on two raids on American fundamentalist Mormon communities during which children were taken from their parents.

    The first was during the longest lunar eclipse of the 20th century in July 1952 at Short Creek at the Utah-Arizona border, where the opera is set.

    The second was in 2008 in Texas. Evidence collected during that raid led to the subsequent trial and life-plus-20 years sentence given to Warren Jeffs, the FLDS prophet, for sexually assaulting a 12- and a 15-year-old bride.

    But, back to Dark Sisters, the opera.

    It’s the story of five sister wives coping with the removal of their children and how one in the subsequent media glare of a Larry King-like TV show breaks with the “keep sweet” diktat of her husband, the prophet, and tells the truth about her life.

    “It’s not La Bohème,” says James Wright, Vancouver Opera’s general director, referring to the Puccini piece that’s in most opera companies’ rotation every six years or so.

    “It’s a modern, melodic piece. But it’s going to be a tough sell because it’s also not Stickboy.”

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  76. Stickboy was the critically acclaimed piece about bullying that was commissioned by the company for the 2014 season. The libretto was written by Vancouver-based, spoken-word poet Shane Koyczan. He’s best known for his performance at TED in 2013 and at the opening ceremony for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

    For traditionalists — and even for non-opera-goers — the idea of turning news stories into the classic opera format seems odd. It’s as disarming as Shakespeare performed in steampunk costumes. But as Bard on the Beach’s production of Comedy of Errors is proving, done well this stuff can work both artistically and financially.

    It’s a risky — some say desperate — attempt to attract new fans. But Wright says it’s also necessary.

    Bluntly put, opera audiences are old and dying off. Most have exposed their children and grandchildren to opera. But despite that (or because of it) those younger generations would rather do almost anything but attend one.

    So, companies like Vancouver’s try to build seasons that have popular, traditional operas to please their old audiences along with a contemporary one and/or musicals aimed at generating some buzz and single-ticket sales, but without alienating and infuriating the season-ticket holders.

    It’s a fine balance that’s difficult to achieve as Vancouver Opera has found. Subscribers bailed following the 2009/10 season that included Nixon in China and again the following season when the opera commissioned by the VO, Lillian Alling, was on offer.

    Dark Sisters was described as “a sensitive and unusual work” by a New York Times reviewer. Anthony Tommasini wrote that he was “touched by the story and intrigued by the music” and “was rooting for the piece, wanting it to be better.”

    That review haunted the production before it opened in Philadelphia.

    But Dark Sisters was well reviewed and proved popular there even though the Philadelphia Inquirer’s music critic David Patrick Stearns noted it is “a place known to fear the cutting edge.”

    It’s an open question whether singing sister wives will find an audience here with our peculiarly local interest in the FLDS and polygamy.

    Still, it’s not likely to be as controversial as the Vancouver Opera’s decision to switch after this season from producing operas throughout the year to an annual three-week festival to be held in April starting in 2017.


  77. Former polygamous sect member to walk from Canada to Mexico to address sex abuse

    by Nate Carlisle, The Salt Lake Tribune August 28 2015

    The first time Cindy Blackmore left Canada, and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints enclave there, she took an airplane.

    This time, she's walking from British Columbia. Blackmore says her journey won't end until she reaches the Mexican border in San Diego.

    Blackmore plans to begin walking Tuesday. It's all to raise awareness about sex abuse within the FLDS.

    "My goal is to helpfully give some of these girls a voice," Blackmore, 24, said in a telephone interview Thursday.

    Blackmore thought she was pretty much done with the FLDS.

    When she was a pre-teen, the FLDS in Bountiful, British Columbia, underwent a split. Some wanted to follow Warren Jeffs, the Utah native who is still president of the FLDS despite being convicted in Texas in 2011 of crimes related to taking underage girls as brides.

    Others in Bountiful wanted to follow Blackmore's uncle, Winston Blackmore. The dispute divided families like Blackmores'. Her mother is from Salt Lake County and attended the Jeffs' Alta Academy at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. Jeffs eventually excommunicated Winston Blackmore and the people loyal to him separated themselves from the other FLDS. Blackmore said she was taken out of the FLDS schools and home-schooled for the eighth grade. She didn't like it, she said. When she was placed in public schools, that was hard, too. The other kids didn't like the children from Bountiful.

    "People were mean," Blackmore said. "There was a lot of bullying."

    At age 14, Blackmore contacted the Hope Organization, a St. George based group that helped people wanting to leave polygamy.

    Blackmore finished high school and went on to college. She married, had two children and later divorced. She said she became a police officer in Washington state and then in Nevada. She said her parents are out of the FLDS, but at least one older brother remains loyal to Jeffs.

    Then on Aug. 6, according to Blackmore's blog, two of old friends from the FLDS visited her in Las Vegas, "and my life was forever changed."

    She said her best friend told her stories of being raped by a stepbrother when she was 4 and 5 years old. That friend also described an abusive marriage and discussed "many other girls in the FLDS community who have experienced the same thing."

    Then, Blackmore wrote, she remembered things happening to her as a child, including being 8 years old and an older cousin taking her into the woods and taking her clothes off. She considers herself a victim of sex abuse, too.

    "I'm doing really well," Blackmore said in the interview. "I'm not trying to have a pity party and call myself a victim, but at the same time I am trying to raise awareness of what's going on out there."

    Blackmore quit her policing job on Aug. 15. She said she may go back to policing one day. She's also started a Go Fund Me page to raise money for the abuse victims' education.

    Blackmore plans to start her walk in Victoria, British Columbia. She will hike a combination of trails and roadways. She thinks the trip will take 4 to 5 1/2 months.

    Blackmore is trying to decide how to increase awareness along the way. She said one possibility is recruiting women who have been abused in the FLDS, letting a different woman post their story on her blog each week and dedicating that week of the trip to her.


  78. Polygamys poster girl now plans to walk for its victims

    Cindy Blackmore says child sexual abuse is rampant in polygamous community of Bountiful


    A decade ago Cindy Blackmore was the Canadian poster girl for polygamy. Now 24, she wants to raise awareness about the “disgustingly prevalent” amount of sexual abuse of children in fundamentalist Mormon communities like Bountiful, B.C. that has led to “a cycle of generations of messed up people.”
    Blackmore plans to walk from Victoria to the Mexican border and use her blog to track her progress and share stories of others like her.

    “It’s an entire community of girls and women who have been abused in the name of religion,” she said in a telephone interview from her home in Las Vegas. “They are suffering and have suffered for years. They have no voice and these predators are living normal lives.

    “This is not OK. It’s not OK that they live normal lives while these girls have to live with these demons in silence.”

    Blackmore hasn’t lived in Bountiful since she was 14 when she not only fled her polygamous family and the community, she left Canada for the United States where she was taken in by another survivor.

    In what describes as her decade of adventure, Blackmore has completed a degree in psychology, had two children and, until Aug. 15, she was a Boulder City, Nevada, police officer.

    She quit after two childhood friends from Bountiful visited and recounted the rapes and sexual abuse they’d endured as children.

    One said she’d been violently raped by an older stepbrother when she was four or five.

    “I have a five-year-old,” says Blackmore. “If anyone did that crap to her, I would become a momma bear (that) nobody would want to be around. She’s a baby!”

    Blackmore was shocked by their stories.

    “I’ve always said that it wasn’t that bad growing up there. But, oh my gosh. It’s very, very widespread. I had no idea it was that bad. To be honest, I’m super-overwhelmed.”

    Blackmore set up a blog to tell her friends and family that starting Sept. 1, she plans to walk from to Mexico to raise awareness of the widespread and unchecked abuse within fundamentalist Mormon communities in Canada and the United States.

    “I have to let all of those girls who have been sexually abused know that there is hope. I want to raise awareness. I want to share their stories because all of these girls have been silenced for too long. … I just can’t ignore it. I have to do something because these girls need to have a voice.”

    Within two days of setting up the blog, Blackmore heard horror stories from seven others, who told her they knew of at least 13 others like them.

    Some want to go to the police. But the now-former police officer isn’t certain they’ll get justice.

    “I’ve arrested somebody who did horrible, horrible things to kids. He was released the next day,” says Blackmore. “One of my friends was raped time after time after time between the ages of two and eight. How the f--- is she supposed to give dates or remember details?

    “We’ve got a rash of girls willing to go to the police. But they don’t know how. They don’t know what to do. And I don’t know what to tell them.”

    Blackmore doesn’t draw a straight line from polygamy to abuse. She notes that sexual abuse has plagued the Catholic Church as well as others including the mainstream Mormon church. But she doesn’t deny that it’s a factor because polygamous families are so big.

    “Any culture that is so shut off is likely to have this happen. So when you have so many kids with no attachment to their parents, so many kids who are not supervised, it can’t help but happen.”

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  79. When Blackmore was in Grade 4, she said a cousin took her into the trees behind his family’s house and told her to take off her clothes. She did, but has no memory of what happened next.

    When she was older, an uncle pinned her to the ground and kissed her all over. As she struggled and kicked to get away, she remembers people watching and laughing. The uncle and his family came for dinner every Sunday at Blackmore’s home. Every Sunday, she hid.

    She told parents about both incidents. They did nothing.

    She told them about another relative — a little boy — being taken to the bushes by a cousin and told to suck his penis. That same cousin fondled another girl that Blackmore knew.

    “They (parents) don’t know how to talk about it. The result is that there’s this cycle of messed up people.”

    None of the Bountiful parents did anything about it, she says. Nor did the religious leaders.

    Of course, why would they?

    Warren Jeffs, the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was sentenced in 2011 to life in prison plus 20 years for sexually assaulting two girls aged 12 and 15, who were his “brides”.

    Cindy’s uncle — Winston Blackmore — is a former FLDS bishop of Bountiful who since 2002 has led his own breakaway sect. In 2005, some of his wives organized a polygamy summit and there, Blackmore admitted that he’d had several under-aged ‘wives’ and that his son had married a 14-year-old.

    Blackmore’s planned walk is a work in progress. She has a backpack, tent, sleeping bag and little else other than the will to get it done. If it seems a bit impetuous, well, that’s pretty much the story of Cindy Blackmore’s life.

    She left Bountiful only a few months after the 2005 polygamy summit and having been portrayed in the National Post as the face of modern polygamy. Wearing a Molson Canadian sweatshirt, jeans with sandals and painted toenails, Blackmore had gone toe-to-toe with one of the organizers of a protest outside the summit.

    “Every time I come into town, I feel like everyone hates me,” Blackmore fumed at the time. “They treat me like I’m an alien or something. Well, guess what? I’m normal.”

    After a few months in Cranbrook, Blackmore boarded a plane for Las Vegas.

    Sara Hammon took her in. A decade earlier, Hammon had fled a fundamentalist Mormon community after an abusive childhood. Hammon’s father had once been the prophet of the group on the Utah-Arizona border that morphed into the FLDS.

    Blackmore admits she married impulsively a few years later. Her now ex-husband, Clyde Barlow, was one of the so-called lost boys, who had been kicked out when he was 14 by Warren Jeffs. When Blackmore met him, he was homeless and illiterate.

    She left the marriage almost as abruptly as she’d eloped with him. Soon after finishing at the police academy two years ago, she went to the bank, withdrew $10,000 from her account, gave it to Barlow and left.

    They remain friends and share joint custody of their five-year-old daughter and three-year-old son. It’s Barlow who will care for them while Blackmore attempts to walk the 1,900 kilometres from here to Mexico. (She’s blogging at walkingforthem.wordpress.com)

    Maybe it’s crazy to try. But this wilful young woman seems determined and her hope is that some other girls from Bountiful will join her.


  80. Bountiful polygamy case heads straight to trial

    By Staff Canadian Press September 2, 2015

    VANCOUVER – A lawyer prosecuting the accused polygamist leader of a fundamentalist Mormon commune has opted to forego a preliminary inquiry and head straight to trial.

    The Ministry of the Attorney General has signed off on special prosecutor Peter Wilson’s request to proceed with a direct indictment against Winston Blackmore, who allegedly has more than two dozen wives.

    A preliminary hearing is intended to determine whether there is enough evidence to take a case to trial.

    But the prosecution can avoid that route if the attorney general agrees doing so would be in the public interest —to protect a witness, for example.

    Blackmore has chosen to be tried by judge and jury.

    No date has been set for the trial of the Bountiful, B.C., resident but proceedings are expected to take place in Cranbrook.


  81. DOL fines fundamentalist Mormon church $1.9M over child labor

    By Lydia Wheeler - THE HILL September 09, 2015

    The Department of Labor (DOL) is fining one of the largest fundamentalist Mormon churches $1.9 million for allegedly violating child labor laws.

    The agency says its wage and hour division conducted a multiyear investigation and found that leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) illegally hired young children in Southern Utah and northern Arizona to harvest pecans by hand for commercial sale.

    On Wednesday, DOL took administrative action to collect $1.9 million from FLDS Church members Dale Barlow and Brian Jessop, and Paragon Contractors Corp. for child labor violations that occurred during the 2012-2013 pecan harvest.

    The department has also filed a lawsuit against the FLDS Church Bishop Lyle Jeffs and Barlow to claim back wages and initiated a contempt of court action against Jessop and Paragon for violating a 2007 court order that restrained them from violating child labor laws.

    FLDS leaders are accused of directing schools in Hildale, Utah, and nearby Colorado City, Ariz., to close so children and adult laborers could collect pecans. DOL investigators said they found that at least 175 children under the age of 13 were harvesting pecans.

    At least 1,400 FLDS children and adults allegedly worked in the fields for no compensation.

    “For years, these employers have trampled on the rights of workers, both children and adults, and violated our child labor laws forcing minors to work for them,” David Weil, administrator of DOL’s Wage and Hour Division. “Such disregard for the rights of all workers, especially children, will not be tolerated.”


  82. Americas little known ISIS The fundamentalist Mormon sect that blends polygamy, child rape and organized crime

    You might remember the sordid tale of prophet-rapist Warren Jeffs, but you don't know about his vast crime empire

    by ANDREW O'HEHIR, Salon September 19, 2015

    Over the past century or more, there have been quite a few breakaway Mormon sects scattered across rural North America, small groups led by self-appointed prophets who rejected the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ decision to disavow Brigham Young’s famous doctrine of “plural marriage” in the 1890s.
    For the most part these splinter sects have been left alone, even (or especially) in a place like Utah, where the mainstream Mormon Church still dominates the political and cultural landscape. In the larger picture of American society and religion, such fundamentalist Mormon groups have been nothing more than tiny, stagnant backwaters of belief. All of them, that is, except one.

    That group is the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (usually called the FLDS Church), a multi-million-dollar business enterprise that owns large chunks of remote real estate in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, South Dakota, Texas, Oklahoma and northern Mexico. FLDS-owned companies made the O-rings that failed in the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986 (although the failure was likely a result of flawed NASA specifications), have managed and run major construction projects all over the Western states and have installed the lighting in numerous Las Vegas casinos. For many years the FLDS Church has been dominated and operated by a man named Warren Steed Jeffs, who “married” more than 60 women and girls, some as young as 12 years old, and has repeatedly been accused of molesting children of both sexes, including his sisters, his daughters and his nieces and nephews.

    Jeffs made the FBI’s Most Wanted list in the mid-2000s, spent several years as a fugitive, and was ultimately convicted on two counts of sexual assault against children by a Texas jury in 2011. During Jeffs’ two trials (an earlier conviction in Utah was thrown out), Mormon fundamentalism became an object of cultural fascination, inspiring the HBO series “Big Love.” That has faded, and Jeffs is almost certain to spend the rest of his life in prison. But as filmmaker Amy Berg’s new Showtime documentary “Prophet’s Prey” makes clear, the FLDS empire of rape and misogyny and child labor and relentless ideological and psychological domination appears to go on much as before. Despite his isolation and his precarious mental condition, Jeffs continues to command the devotion and obedience of his 10,000 or so followers from behind bars, like an old-time Mob boss with a direct line to God.

    There was nothing especially strange or nefarious about the way mainstream Mormons and local law enforcement chose to ignore fundamentalist groups like the FLDS, although we can say in retrospect that it led to dire consequences. From the point of view of the LDS Church leadership in Salt Lake City, engaging with the disgruntled offshoots in any way was a no-win situation. For the last 60 or 70 years, Mormons have struggled to reposition their faith as a modern religious institution rather than a kooky artifact of pioneer America and the Second Great Awakening. Renegade groups who still practiced polygamy and dressed their flocks of sister-wives in hand-sewn “Little House on the Prairie” dresses and World War I hairdos weren’t helping. If the public largely viewed Mormons as freakazoids in clip-on ties with kinky underwear, who might well be practicing plural marriage in secret, then any attention paid to the throwbacks would only heighten the confusion.

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  83. This subject makes private investigator Sam Brower a little uneasy when I bring it up. Brower, who is himself a Mormon, is a sunburned, silver-haired, middle-aged man with the distinctive air of a Westerner who has spent his life outside. At breakfast in a trendy coffee shop in lower Manhattan (where I met him and Amy Berg, the filmmaker), he orders a Diet Coke amid a veritable forest of lattes and cappuccinos and chai. (I did not ask whether he observes the Mormon prohibition on caffeine.) When he moved to Utah from California some years ago, Brower agrees, he noticed “a sense of apathy” around Mormon fundamentalism in the Beehive State. “It was like they were just part of the landscape: You leave us alone, we’ll leave you alone.” But why, he continues, was this issue seen as the sole responsibility of the LDS Church, which had renounced polygamy and excommunicated every fundamentalist resister it could identify? Why hadn’t Catholic bishops and Jewish rabbis spoken out? Why had county sheriffs and attorneys general and federal prosecutors almost unanimously looked in the other direction?

    Some of those questions answer themselves: Jews and Catholics felt no historical or theological responsibility for bands of weirdos in the wilderness who pronounced themselves the true heirs to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. But if Brower feels defensive about outsiders’ attempts to connect mainstream Mormons to the wide-ranging criminal activities of the FLDS Church, by far the largest and most powerful of all Mormon breakaway groups, he has unmistakably earned that right.

    Along with author and journalist Jon Krakauer (and arguably now Berg, whose documentary features both of them and is based on Brower’s book of the same title), Brower has done more to expose the enormous but almost invisible criminal empire built by Warren Jeffs than anyone in the world. Furthermore, in the larger context of social and religious history, Brower is clearly correct that the disturbing story of the Jeffs family and the FLDS Church reflects issues that go far beyond the contradictions of Mormon theology and the weirdness of the American West.

    We can easily find a troubling parallel in today’s front pages, and as Brower will tell you, it’s not nearly as far-fetched as it sounds. You don’t have to approve of religion in general or the LDS Church to see that blaming the faith of Mitt Romney and science-fiction author Orson Scott Card and New York Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury for the apocalyptic extremism and mind-control techniques and vicious sexual predation of Jeffs’ isolated cult group is a lot like blaming Muslims in general for the 9/11 attacks or the gruesome crimes of ISIS. There’s an obvious historical connection that no one denies, but the two things are not the same.

    After Brower tells me twice that he fears that the FLDS saga might end in catastrophic violence, and that he feels certain that Jeffs’ followers would kill or die for him, I ask how he sees the differences between the FLDS and ISIS. Both groups have sought to pursue prophetic religious teachings to their ultimate extreme, and both have constructed a throwback social order based on male domination, female subjugation, forced marriage and the rape and sexual enslavement of children. If Warren Jeffs had the guns, the territory and the freedom that ISIS possesses, how far would he go?

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  84. Brower chuckles in a way that suggests he has asked himself the same question. “I would say the difference between them is an AK-47,” he says. “Warren doesn’t have those, and instead of using AK-47s, he uses people’s fear for their salvation. Where my fear comes from is that we know that there’s armed security there [on the various FLDS compounds]. They’ve got weapons, and they’ve had tactical military-type training. So we know that they’re capable of that. And I am 100 percent certain that if and when the time comes, if Warren told them to die at their posts, and the FBI were starting to come in or something, they would die for him. No doubt about it.”

    I have to issue a warning to anyone who might see “Prophet’s Prey,” which begins its theatrical release this week in New York and will premiere on Showtime next month. It’s a fascinating work of investigative journalism and cultural spelunking – and it features perhaps the most disturbing minute of audio recording you will ever hear. Berg and Brower decided to include the opening segment of a tape Jeffs had made documenting the consummation of his “marriage” to the youngest of his “spiritual brides,” who was then 12 years old. In other words, it’s a recording of a middle-aged man raping a little girl, while an uncertain number of Jeffs’ other wives stand by, ready to assist. Once heard, it cannot be unheard, but Berg insists it was important.

    “Sam told me early on that even after Warren had been arrested and went on trial, people in the FLDS community didn’t believe any of it,” Berg says. “We talked about it many times: How much of the tape to use and where to put it and all of that. But I felt that the jury heard it, and it was on the record. If there was any chance that people that hadn’t heard it before could hear this, it would shed some light. And I think it was a good decision, because since we played the film at Sundance in January, close to 100 women have escaped [from the main FLDS settlement in southern Utah]. Sam is getting those calls all the time, helping those women find food and shelter.”

    “Amy was very careful with that tape,” Brower says. “There’s much more of it. It’s much more graphic. That’s only one rape. The evidence produced in Texas was about an hour and a half, different recordings. And the jury – literally after 10 minutes, just about every member of the jury had their headphones off, and their face in their hands, just sobbing. You know, when Jon Krakauer talked about the case on CNN, not only did the people out in Short Creek [Utah] not believe it, the rest of the world didn’t believe it either. People said Jon was lying or exaggerating. ‘No, that could never happen! They’d go and arrest him!’ I think it was necessary to put that little taste of it in there so people could know, yeah, it really is true.”

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  85. While Warren Jeffs long career as a serial abuser and rapist created lurid headlines, and ultimately landed him in prison, the real story of the FLDS Church is at least as much about money and power as about sex crimes. Brower and Berg only scrape the surface of those issues in a 90-minute documentary, but it’s not fanciful at all to compare the interlocking tangle of FLDS-owned shell corporations, “shelf corporations” and quasi-legitimate businesses – carefully established in different jurisdictions, and all designed to funnel cash upward to Jeffs and his closest associates – to the operations of old-school organized crime. FLDS leaders (the functional head is presumably Lyle Jeffs, Warren’s brother, himself now a fugitive from justice) shuffle hundreds of millions through dozens of bank accounts in several states, pay fictional salaries to employees who actually work 20-hour days for almost nothing, and compel the children of church members to work as virtual slaves.

    In fact, if there’s one thing that might lead bring down this vast but little-known evil empire, which has combined two American traditions – the end-times religious cult and the organized crime family – in unique and sinister fashion, it is more likely to be the repeated violations of child labor laws then the cascade of rape and abuse charges. “That’s how the majority of the FLDS Church’s money is made, through the slave labor of children,” Brower says. As we see in the film, when the FLDS-owned pecan groves in Utah are ready for harvest, the church doesn’t hire migrant laborers. It has a more cost-effective solution: Close school for a week and send the kids out to pick nuts for no pay. (Boys and girls are kept apart, to be sure.)

    Largely as a result of Brower’s willingness to wade through tedious financial documents and court records, the federal Department of Labor has spent three years investigating and fining various FLDS-owned businesses and following the money trail back to the church itself. Lyle Jeffs and another brother, Nephi Jeffs, face contempt charges, and the church itself faces a potentially crippling federal suit. Among the numerous women who have recently left the church is Charlene Jeffs, Lyle’s only legal wife, an extremely high-level defector. She has apparently been talking to the Justice Department.

    Brower worries about the fact that Warren Jeffs is “in really bad shape” in his Texas prison cell, both mentally and physically. If Jeffs believes that his brothers and followers have failed him, Brower says, he could decide, “OK, this is it: I’m going to push the envelope as far as it will go.” But through many years of work the Mormon private eye has compelled the media, the public, the government and, yes, his own faith to confront one of the most insidious and destructive religious sects in American history, which was hiding in plain sight and tolerated for far too long. He admits to some satisfaction, with a curt nod and a swig of Diet Coke: “There’s some good things happening.”

    “Prophet’s Prey” is now playing at the IFC Center in New York, and opens Sept. 25 at the ArcLight Hollywood in Los Angeles, with a national rollout to follow. It will premiere in October on Showtime.


  86. Canadian polygamist Blackmore among latest to receive homes from Utah-run trust

    By NATE CARLISLE | The Salt Lake Tribune November 23, 2015

    The trust that owns much of the real estate in two polygamous towns on the Utah-Arizona line has awarded another batch of homes, including one that is going to a man charged with practicing polygamy in Canada.

    Winston Blackmore will receive a house on Jessop Avenue in Hildale, Utah, though Blackmore is a longtime resident of Creston, British Columbia.

    A state court judge in Salt Lake City awarded houses to Blackmore and 18 other people in an order issued Nov. 6. Blackmore did not respond to an interview request made through his attorney.

    Blackmore is the former Creston bishop for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He also is a beneficiary of the United Effort Plan (UEP), the trust that owns property in British Columbia as well as Hildale and Colorado City, Ariz.

    Blackmore, 59, lives in Canada, but he has family in Hildale. While those family members presumably could have applied for a home, Blackmore filed the petition instead and 3rd District Judge Denise Lindberg awarded the house to him, according to court records.

    The UEP's board of trustees voted 5-0 to award Blackmore the house once he paid $4,639 in fees and closing costs, court records show.

    The ranch-style house sits on 0.71 acre and has a market value of $74,000, according to the Washington County Assessor's Office. It was built in 1970 and has 2,191 square feet.

    Don Timpson, chairman of the UEP board, declined to discuss the contents of Blackmore's petition. Timpson said Blackmore followed the same process as other people who have received homes.

    Applicants complete a petition that specifies why they are beneficiaries, and describes their housing needs and any connection to particular homes. The advisory board then reviews the petition, Timpson said, and interviews the applicant.

    "We want to get to know what their situation is," Timpson said.

    Another UEP board member, Arnold Richter, said the Canadian and U.S. branches of the FLDS have contributed work and resources toward each other's communities and married into each other's families, giving each a stake in UEP assets on both sides of border.

    "It's not like there's a clear-cut line between Canadians and the Americans," Richter said.

    Timpson declined to discuss Blackmore's situation, except to tell a Salt Lake Tribune reporter: "As you well know, because you've probably reported it, he has a very large family."

    Blackmore is charged in a British Columbia court with one count of polygamy, for which he faces up to five years in prison. Court records accuse him of taking 24 wives through the decades.

    In a deposition in 2014, he admitted to marrying a 15-year-old girl whose parents consented to the marriage. Blackmore said he was pretty sure the wedding happened in Utah in 2001 or 2002. The Utah attorney general's office has investigated, but no charges have ever been filed.

    "Mr. Blackmore's legal issues have no effect upon his petition," Timpson said.

    Kristyn Decker, a former plural wife who founded the Sound Choices Coalition, which opposes polygamy, said in an email to The Tribune: "Though we are disheartened that those who broke laws and continue to break laws continue to get awarded while doing so, we are grateful that Hilldale and Colorado City are becoming more diverse, and that many more people are discovering the truth and leaving."

    FLDS President Warren Jeffs excommunicated Blackmore in 2002. Utah seized the UEP in 2005 out of concern that Jeffs was mismanaging it. Lindberg appointed a fiduciary and a board to advise it, though the judge is the one who approves the sale or transfer of all land.


  87. Polygamists thrive even though polygamy is illegal

    by DAPHNE BRAMHAM, VANCOUVER SUN Edmonton Journal April 13, 2016

    There’s something so nutty about the polygamous, fundamentalist Mormon communities in Canada and the United States that it’s easy to dismiss it all as a bad tabloid joke.

    It is incomprehensible to most of us that anyone — even Canada’s best-known polygamist Winston Blackmore — could have 145 children. But the 59-year-old does. The latest addition to the family was born earlier this month.

    Siring so many offspring requires many wives, which he’s had. There were 24 listed on the 2014 indictment on one count of polygamy. Some left him and the community of Bountiful, B.C. before he was charged. Others have taken their places.

    It bears repeating that polygamy is illegal in Canada and the United States. It was upheld here in 2011. This week, a U.S. federal appeal court upheld the American law in a decision ruling against Kody Brown and his wives from the TV show, Sister Wives.

    But it’s not just the number of wives and children that’s startling. In a Utah courtroom in 2014, Blackmore admitted under oath that 10 of his 24 “wives” were under the age of 18.

    Blackmore has also admitted that several of his wives were only 15 and 16 years old when they married in religious ceremonies, including at the polygamy summit he organized in 2005. There, Blackmore also said that one of his sons had married a 14-year-old.

    Despite that, Blackmore has never been charged with sexual exploitation even though at the time of those marriages, Blackmore held several positions of trust and authority.

    He was the bishop, head of the independent school’s society, Bountiful’s major employer and de facto landlord for the many families living on property owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

    Twice, he’s been charged with a single count of polygamy. The first charge was dropped in 2009 after a judge agreed with Blackmore that the special prosecutor who recommended the charge had been improperly appointed.

    Blackmore was charged again in 2014. He made the same argument about an improperly appointed special prosecutor and lost. He appealed and, four months after the B.C. Court of Appeal heard the case, there’s still no decision.

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  88. Three other people from Bountiful were also charged in 2014 and will go to trial this fall on more serious offences.

    James Oler, another former FLDS bishop, is charged with one count of polygamy and one count of unlawful removal of a child from Canada. Oler is alleged to have taken one of his under-aged daughters to the United States to be “married” to another FLDS man.

    Blackmore’s brother, Brandon, and one of Brandon’s wives, Emily Ruth Crossfield are also charged with unlawful removal of one of their daughters.

    Aside from the price paid by the young women and children in the largely unfettered religious community, citizens are subsidizing these extraordinarily large and complicated families.

    Tens of thousands of dollars flow into the Blackmore family coffers in child benefits.

    When the Conservative government sent out cheques for the Universal Child Care Benefit last year, a rough calculation of how much the Blackmore family might have been eligible for was $43,160. At that point, Blackmore had 133 children (124 of them are shown in the accompanying photo, which was taken around that time.)

    Then, there’s the $637,607 the province provided to the Blackmore-run independent school called Mormon Hills, which has 132 students (mostly Blackmore’s children, grandchildren and other relatives).

    Blackmore founded Mormon Hills in 2003 after he was excommunicated from the FLDS, which split the Bountiful community of roughly 1,500 in two.

    In 2012, the FLDS school — Bountiful Elementary Secondary School, which received $1.2 million in government support the previous year — abruptly closed. The order came from prophet Warren Jeffs, who is serving a life sentence in Texas for the rape of two of his child brides aged 12 and 15.

    Since that school’s closure, it’s unclear whether any of the 257 students transferred to other schools or what kind of home-schooling they might be receiving.

    So far, however, there’s no evidence of the kind of money laundering and fraud alleged in the United States, where 11 FLDS members have been arrested in the last three months in a scheme that investigators say involved more than $12-million worth of food stamps. Among those charged are two of Jeffs’s brothers — Lyle and Seth, who heads the community in Pringle, South Dakota.

    Nutty? Yes. But that doesn’t explain why politicians and prosecutors here have been so slow to deal with it.


  89. Bountiful turned teen off faith


    Walt Disney’s movies were fine. Elvis flicks — strictly forbidden.

    Those were the kind of restrictions Maggie Rayner grew up with in her family during the 1950s in Richmond. It was a life full of rigid rules that adhered to the Mormon faith. Except the line was drawn at polygamy.

    “Don’t feel, don’t question. Just obey. That’s the way it was in our family,” says Rayner, who has written a book, In Polygamy’s Shadow: From a Mormon Childhood to a Life of Choice, to explain the ordeal she experienced as a pre-teen.

    She recalls in the book, when she was about 11, the day her 16-year-old sister was the subject of a church elder’s quest for a third wife.

    “To my young eyes, this man looked like a grandfather. He must have been in his 50s, and he was trying to woo my sister, opening car doors for her,” Rayner says. “I knew this wasn’t right.

    “I could see his second, younger wife, pregnant, struggling to get out of her own car. And here is this much older man whispering things to my sister. It was very upsetting.”

    Rayner says that her father, a high-ranking member of the local Mormon church, decided against the move to let his daughter go, despite the urging and attention of the church elder from the community of Bountiful, located in the Creston Valley of southeastern B.C.

    “I remember my sister being very embarrassed by all of this,” Rayner says. “That elder’s first wife was trying to convince my mother how wonderful polygamy was. One wife went to work while the other stayed at home and took care of the children.”

    The decision by Rayner’s father, who is given the pseudonym Clarence in the book for privacy reasons, was one made more on how it would be perceived by the more mainstream Mormon congregation of about 200 at the time.

    “My dad thought his decision was more of a postponement of polygamy,” Rayner says, adding it was something promised to him once he reached heaven.

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  90. Firmly rooted back on Earth Rayner said she decided from that point on not to subscribe to the church’s ways and in small ways would rebel, unbeknownst to her parents.

    “I’d sneak off and see Elvis movies,” she says, adding it was hard to defy her parents overtly. That came later, after she graduated from Richmond High and left the family home at 18 and went to work and live in Vancouver.

    “I knew that as long as I lived in my parents’ home, I had to live by their rules. My dad was a violent man and we all lived in fear. My parents never spoke openly about the church, and all I learned was from eavesdropping.

    “But it was enough to know I was never going to be able to make my own choices in life as long as I lived there. So, I had to leave. And when I did, I remember, it was amazing to be free. I could go to the Vancouver Public Library and read anything that I wanted,” she says.

    Rayner left behind three sisters and three brothers. Two siblings — her oldest and youngest brothers — remained in the faith, while the others waited until their 30s to break away.

    She turned to writing about her experience in 2011, when a Bountiful elder hit the headlines regarding a tax fraud case. Her efforts were published in the Vancouver Sun, and the response to it was unexpected.

    “It was from people wanting to know more about our practices rather than church doctrine. But to get the information out was very emotional for me. It was the best therapy going.”

    That’s why she decided go a step further and write a book.

    “It’s a vehicle to inform people,” she says, adding that while she lost touch with her parents, who eventually left Richmond, first for Surrey then Penticton in the 1970s, she did keep in contact with the sister who had been the subject of the church elder.

    “As I wrote the book, I checked everything through her so I could write the full story,” she says.

    In Polygamy’s Shadow: From a Mormon Childhood to a Life of Choice is available as a print book through Amazon, Baker & Taylor, Ingram Book Company, and as an e-book through Amazon, Kobo, and iTunes.


  91. Accused polygamist Winston Blackmore loses court appeal

    BY KEITH FRASER, The Province JUNE 1, 2016

    VANCOUVER — B.C.’s highest court has upheld the appointment of special prosecutor Peter Wilson and the decision by Wilson to file polygamy charges against Winston Blackmore.
    Wilson, the third special prosecutor appointed in the case, decided in August 2014 to file charges against Blackmore, a leader of the Bountiful community in southeastern B.C.

    Blackmore responded by filing a petition in B.C. Supreme Court challenging the appointment. Associate Chief Justice Austin Cullen upheld the appointment.

    Blackmore then appealed Cullen’s decision, challenging the process by which Wilson was appointed. He also argued that the decision not to lay charges by Richard Peck, the first special prosecutor appointed, was final.

    But in a ruling posted online Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the B.C. Court of Appeal rejected Blackmore’s arguments.

    In his reasons for judgment, Justice David Frankel concluded that Wilson’s mandate was the result of the assistant deputy attorney general’s independent decision, made in the public interest.

    Frankel found that the factual and legal matrix had changed since Peck made his decision in 2007, leaving it open for Wilson to be appointed in the case.

    In particular, Frankel noted that the appointment was made in the wake of a comprehensive review of Canada’s polygamy laws by the B.C. Supreme Court, which resulted in the laws being upheld.

    His decision to uphold the charges and the appointment of Wilson was agreed to by Justices Pamela Kirkpatrick and John Savage.

    Joseph Arvay, a lawyer representing Blackmore, said in an email he had no comment on the ruling and had made no decision as to whether an appeal will be launched.

    Court heard that allegations first surfaced in the early 1990s that individuals were practising polygamy in the small community of Bountiful, near Creston.

    RCMP conducted an investigation and forwarded a report to Crown counsel, with the Crown declining to approve charges. Further allegations were investigated in the early 2000s, with the result that once again charges were not laid by the Crown.

    Peck was appointed in 2007 and decided not to file charges, expressing a preference that a ruling on the constitutional validity of polygamy laws be obtained.

    The following year, Terrence Robertson was appointed as the second special prosecutor. In January 2009, Robertson approved charges against Blackmore, who went to court and challenged that decision. The B.C. Supreme Court found the attorney-general had no jurisdiction to appoint Robertson and quashed that appointment and his decision to approve charges.


  92. Legal polygamy battle not over yet

    Proceedings move to charter arguments, despite findings of guilt in polygamy trial.

    by TREVOR CRAWLEy, Cranbrook Daily Townsman Jul 26th, 2017

    Polygamist leader Winston Blackmore was rushed by a mob of media on Monday morning before entering Cranbrook Supreme Court to hear his judgement on a polygamy charge.

    “We’ll see what happens,” he told reporters on his way into the building.

    However, the outcome was never really in doubt, as Blackmore was adamant during the trial and after the verdict delivery that he was never going to deny his faith.

    Special prosecutor Peter Wilson built a compelling case against Blackmore and his co-accused, James Marion Oler, during the course of the trial. Both Blackmore and Oler were charged with practicing polygamy; Blackmore with 24 wives, some of which were underage, over nearly 15 years span, while Oler was initially charged with practicing polygamy with four women, however, a fifth was added to his indictment during the proceedings.

    Justice Sheri-Anne Donegan presided over the trial, hearing evidence that included religious marriage and personal records stored by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), along with testimony from experts on mainstream Mormon faith, police investigators, and Blackmore’s first legal wife, Jane Blackmore.

    Much of Donegan’s ruling was also based around the analysis of a landmark constitutional reference case in 2011 that cemented polygamy as a crime within the Canadian Criminal Code and that the harms associated with polygamy outweigh the individual charter right to religious freedom.

    The ruling from that reference case paved the way for charges of polygamy to be pursued against Blackmore and Oler.

    In the judgement, Donegan had to determine if the Crown needed to prove harm, compulsion or lack of consent, the necessary elements to prove a conjugal union and the meaning of ‘practices’ as it relates to the two counts described in the indictment.

    “The Crown is not required to prove each accused practised a form of polygamy or a kind of conjugal union with all of the persons named in the count applicable to that accused,” wrote Donegan, “nor is the Crown required to prove an accused did so over the duration of the time period specified in the count.

    “Rather, the Crown is required to prove an accused was in more than one marriage at the same point in time within the specified timeframe.”

    Donegan summarized the evidence of Dr. Brian Hales and Dr. Richard Bennett, expert witnesses both testified to the history of the mainstream Mormon church and the rift that occurred in 1890 after a religious revelation prohibited the practice of polygamy. From there, fundamentalist groups split off from the mainstream Mormon in order to practice polygamy, which the FLDS believes to be essential to reaching the highest order of heaven.

    A significant portion of evidence against Blackmore and Oler involved marriage records that were seized by U.S. law enforcement during a raid on the Yearning for Zion ranch — an FLDS compound — in Texas in 2008.

    Wilson submitted evidence of 22 marriage records for Winston Blackmore, and four marriage records for Oler. Additionally, Wilson also tendered Oler’s own personal record and the records of his five alleged wives as evidence.

    The records were important to the case, given their spiritual significance — as described by both Dr. Hales and Dr. Bennett — that what is recorded on Earth is also recorded in Heaven. Indeed, the records were secured in a vault surrounded by concrete in an FLDS temple, as Texas Rangers had to drill through the side in order to gain entry.

    “The records were kept in a relatively organized and systematic fashion,” Donegan wrote. “They were kept under very tight security. ... continued below

  93. Such organization and significant security measures associated with their storage are good indicators that the records were of some significant importance to the FLDS.

    “…Like the LDS, the FLDS adheres to the belief in the importance of certain valid ordinances for its members’ salvation. Accurate record keeping is integral to the validity of such an ordinance. This spiritual significance serves to enhance the ultimate reliability of the records.”

    Jane Blackmore, the first legal wife of Winston Blackmore, was a key witness for the Crown.

    She married Winston when she was 18 years old in a placement marriage — a marriage arranged by the FLDS prophet and leader based on revelations from the Lord. She remained in the relationship for nearly 30 years before filing for divorce and leaving the community.

    Jane Blackmore was raised in the FLDS doctrine and knew her husband would marry additional wives, sometimes with or without her knowledge. When Winston had approximately 12 wives and 40 children, Jane Blackmore confronted him, asking him where he was ‘taking this’, to which Winston responded that he was only doing what God asked him to do.

    “Her testimony is particularly compelling evidence that supports a finding that Mr. Blackmore knew he was in an existing marriage at the time he married all of his other celestial wives,” Donegan wrote.

    A statement Winston Blackmore gave to RCMP in 2009 was also compelling evidence, as he told Sgt. Terry Jacklin during a police interview that he never denied being a polygamist. Blackmore spoke openly about his marriages even made corrections to the ages of his wives when Jacklin presented a chart.

    Oler was found guilty of practicing polygamy though much of the same evidence, including his marriage and personal records seized from Texas, testimony from Jane Blackmore — his sister — and statements made to police in 2005 and 2006 during investigations into sexual exploitation.

    “The Crown has overwhelmingly proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Oler, the accused before the Court, practised a marriage with more than one person at the same time within the time period set out in the Amended Indictment,” wrote Donegan. “In fact, the Crown has proven both that Mr. Oler entered into marriages with more than one person at the same time and that he practised marriages with more than one person at the same time.”

    Oler did not participate in the trial process, declining to take any positions or make any submissions on his behalf during the proceedings. He did have the services of Joe Doyle, who served as Amicus curiae — a friend of the court who is present to ensure a fair trial but cannot provide a legal defence.

    Though Blackmore and Oler have been found guilty, the process will head back to the courts as they both wish to make further arguments. Blackmore will be launching a charter challenge, while Oler will likely be making some common-law submissions through Doyle.

    Following the guilty rulings, Blackmore told media gathered outside the Cranbrook Law Courts that he expected the guilty verdicts.

    “I would’ve been hugely disappointed if I would’ve been found not guilty of living my religion,” he said.

    Under the provisions in the Criminal Code, five years is the maximum jail sentence for polygamy, however, sentencing has yet to occur until guilty convictions are recorded and the lawyers make their constitutional arguments.

    The basic outline of Suffredine’s argument is that since polygamy wasn’t officially considered a crime until the constitutional reference case upheld Section 293 of the Criminal Code in 2011, all evidence collected and used against Blackmore before that date — essentially the Crown’s entire case — should not be used against him.