31 Mar 2011

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



Maclean's   -  Canada    March 30, 2011

On polygamy, child brides and why the stakes in B.C. are so high

Carolyn Jessop in conversation with Luiza Ch. Savage


by Luiza Ch. Savage



Carolyn Jessop, 43, was born in the U.S. into a radical polygamist cult, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (FLDS). At 18, she became the fourth wife of a 50-year-old man and bore eight children. She recounts the abuses she endured and her harrowing flight in a book, Escape. She recently testified before the Supreme Court of British Columbia, which is considering whether polygamy laws violate religious freedom under the Charter and whether they can be used to prosecute FLDS leaders in Bountiful, B.C.



Q: Critics of anti-polygamy laws say that the state should not interfere with the religious beliefs or lifestyle decisions of consenting adults. Do you agree?

A: This is not about consenting adults. My position is it is sexual slavery. I was never asked. I was told what I was going to do. My husband Merril never asked me to marry him. The purpose of marriage is not to fall in love but to provide righteous children. They say it’s a victimless crime. I have not seen a polygamous situation that is not abusive to someone in the relationship.

Q: Ironically, you describe your husband, who had more than a dozen wives and 54 children, as emotionally monogamous.

A: If a man gets many wives, he’ll find one he has chemistry with. Once they fall in love, things get difficult for the other women. If he’s not having sex with you, your status in the family goes down. When he shuts you out, they know you are just a prime target for whatever abuse they want to throw at you because he won’t protect you or your kids.

Q: Did you witness child abuse?

A: Systematic abuse. There is a lot of violence toward kids. Merril did a lot of water torture on his babies.

Q: What is water torture?

A: The concept is that you have to break a child’s will before the age of 2. If you don’t, you’ll never be able to control them at the level that their salvation depends on. A baby may be crying because it is hungry. They would take the baby and spank it to really get it going. Then they hold the baby face-up under cold running water for 30 seconds, and as soon as it gets its breath and starts crying, they’d spank it again. A session like that could last an hour until the baby quits fighting from fatigue. That can happen frequently until the parent feels the baby is sufficiently broken.

Q: And you say the community was rife with child sexual abuse?

A: This isn’t a typical sexual assault of a minor. Parents are involved in this. That’s what makes it so egregious. Underage marriage is a conspiracy to have sex with minors. The parents are involved, the grandparents, the aunts and uncles. The options the girls have for help and relief from those crimes—they virtually have none.

Q: The RCMP are now investigating evidence that cult members were smuggling Canadian girls as young as 12 to marry men in the U.S. One of them ended up being given to your husband.

A: Back in 2008, when they did the raids at the Yearning for Zion ranch in Texas, three of the minors that had been sexually assaulted under the pretense of marriage and didn’t know where their parents were, were from Canada. They were brought into the States by the parents, given to [FLDS leader] Warren Jeffs on a silver platter and abandoned. The investigator in Texas, Angie Voss, sent a report to Canada, saying [they had] three girls who were trafficked [there] for the purposes of sex. That got lost in the system and nothing was ever done. As far as I know, they are still in the U.S. Merril married another Canadian girl who was 16 at the time.

Q: What happens to boys when all the girls are married off to the old men of the church?

A: Boys are disposable. It’s simple math. They excommunicate them. They dump a 13-year-old boy on the street, in a big city, and tell him they never want to see him again because he has been turned to the temptations of Satan. There are crimes committed against children in these groups that if committed in a regular household, the family would lose their children.

Q: Why not just leave?

A: Getting out of the community is a huge obstacle. You are not free to say, “Oh, I don’t want to do this anymore.” They hunt you down. They take you back and put you under 24-hour surveillance, take your kids away and tell you that you can’t see them again.

Q: What obstacles did you face?

A: The first was legal: how do you get legal custody of your kids? Merril hired an attorney who was paid around $1 million. Family attorneys would not touch my case because they would be taking on a cult, and they only did family law. I didn’t have any money. My attorney, Lisa Jones, said it was the most stressful case in her career. She did it as a favour to the state attorney general of Utah, who told her we cannot lose. If we lose, no other woman will ever come forward. I was the first one to ever leave the FLDS and get legal custody of all my children and get all of them out. Another problem a woman has is the fact that we are in an illegal lifestyle. When I went into court to fight for my kids, it was viewed as two criminals fighting over the kids. I didn’t get any advantages that women would get who are leaving an abusive situation.

Q: Why didn’t you have any money?

A: My husband had a home worth more than $1 million—it was 17,000 square feet for seven wives and 30-some kids. I had no claim, even though I worked as a teacher and all my money contributed to that home. But it was all in a Church-controlled trust. He had other assets such as construction equipment that he put in the name of other members. It was a fraudulent transfer and the state could have traced it back to him, but they didn’t want to do that. My case didn’t fit the simple system where he gets a paycheque and you garnish it for child support. He would have had to give support for eight kids and one with a severe disability and in critical condition with cancer. That’s one of the problems with polygamy. Women don’t have any protection from financial abuse. He was flying around in a private jet and I was in a homeless shelter.

Q: When you escaped, you discovered he had run up debts in your name.

A: He was using my name to finance different things—credit cards, construction equipment. When I left, he stopped paying. I didn’t know what I owed. He legally got away without paying child support and pushed me into bankruptcy and it did not hurt him because we were not legally married. Harrison, my 11-year-old disabled son, at the time was 4. He needed 24-hour-a-day care. That forced me onto welfare.

Q: How are women prevented from physically leaving the community you were in, on the Arizona-Utah border?

A: The men work construction and are gone during the week. They are not there to watch their wives. They don’t want her taking her kids to go to town but it’s not practical to leave a woman with a lot of little kids with no transportation. So they leave her a clunker that’s unlicensed and uninsured to make sure that she cannot leave the community. The minute I start driving outside of the community, they know I’m leaving without permission. It’s like driving a marked car.

Q: Why not go to the police?

A: The cops are members of the cult. Merril would have called and said, ‘My wife is leaving and you’d better get over and stop her.’ I tried to call a cop outside of the community; they said we don’t have jurisdiction there.

Q: What made you finally decide to leave?

A: It was a combination of how critical things were becoming because Warren Jeffs had become the prophet and he was preaching the “lifting up.” I could see he was starting to program us for a mass suicide. I was also afraid for the safety of my daughter, who was turning 14 and I knew Warren wanted to marry her. The other factor was my disabled son. I was having hell on wheels getting him treatment, keeping him alive.

Q: What do you think would happen if courts strike down Canada’s anti-polygamy law?

A: It could have a devastating impact. It would push the legalization of polygamy into the U.S. It would help mainstream that lifestyle. We want to see specific legislation to go after specific crimes they are committing, such as educational neglect of children, medical neglect, in addition to sexual assault. If Canada says this is legal, there probably won’t be legislation to deal with these crimes.

Q: You tell U.S. audiences Canada represents “hope” because of the potential for prosecutions of leaders of a branch of the FLDS in Bountiful, who had many underage brides.

A: Canada presents a hope to me for two reasons. They are looking very seriously at crimes within the polygamous community. The other encouraging thing is because they are looking at a polygamist population of fewer than 2,000 people, dealing with the situation is more feasible. In Utah we have 80,000. If Canada prosecutes, it would put serious heat on Utah.

Q: What do you think the Canadian government should do?

A: They should pass specific legislation. If children are born into it you can’t take away all their Charter rights in the name of freedom of religion. Regardless of what you believe, you don’t have a right to deprive a child of all their other rights. You couldn’t just take girls over international lines and give them over to sexual abuse when they are 12. You can open the door to freedom for people who are trapped. It’s not about consenting adults. There are children there.

This article was found at:



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News-Leader    -   Springfield, Missouri   March 29, 2011

Speaker opens eyes to suffering of women in polygamist cults

Written by Linda Leicht  | News-Leader





Carolyn Jessop's new book, "Triumph," is about her life after escaping her ex-husband and the FLDS. / Valerie Mosley / News-Leader


Carolyn Jessop is on a mission.

The 43-year-old mother of eight "escaped" from a polygamist compound eight years ago and is determined to open the public's eyes to the realities of a way of life that holds women powerless and children in peril.

"The crime is still happening, and children are still being hurt," she told a packed house at Missouri State University Tuesday night.

Jessop is the author of "Escape," which tells the story of her life in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and her escape from it, and "Triumph: Life After the Cult, a Survivor's Lessons."




After the petite, blonde woman with a quiet voice told the harrowing story of being forced at age 18 to become the fourth "wife" of a man of 50 and of ultimately escaping with her children, the crowd rose to their feet to applaud her.

"I thought it was phenomenal," said MSU senior Abby Barcomb of Springfield. Although Barcomb had been interested in the topic of polygamy and aware of some of the things Jessop reported, she said, "Everything was shocking."

Ethan Couch, a sophomore from Cassville, attended the talk as part of an assignment for his ethics class. He came away impressed. "(Polygamy) is not at all like I thought it would be," he said, admitting that his insights had only been from the television show "Sister Wives," a reality show focusing on one polygamist family. "It sounded horrible."

Jessop described a life that surpasses horrible in many ways. She came from six generations of FLDS polygamists, tracing her family back to the founder of the cult that broke away from the Mormon church in 1912.

She grew up knowing only a life that offered her no choices but to have children for the man the "prophet" of the group chose for her and face the possibility that those children could be taken from her at any moment.

"I was never allowed to experience anything else," she said. "The mind control is very severe."

Her own father had three wives and 38 children. She saw her brothers banished from the community when they were still teenagers -- a fate she estimates happens to about 80 percent of the boys born into the cult. Her father was later banished, too.


Jessop's decision to leave the cult and take her children with her came after the group made an even more extreme turn. Warren Jeffs, the new prophet, declared that the children would no longer receive an education, he began excommunicating men and reassigning their wives and children to different families, and began arranging marriages between girls as young as 14.

In her family, Jessop faced the possibility that her daughter, 14, would become one of Jeffs' wives and that her son, diagnosed with cancer, would not be allowed medical treatment.

With the help of a sister still on the compound and two brothers who were living in Salt Lake City, she managed to get all eight of her children into a van and drive out of Colorado City, Ariz., a city
completely dominated by FLDS, she said.

Although she had no money, a critically ill son, children who were panicked that they were destined to hell for leaving, and little hope of succeeding, she managed to win full custody of her children and child support, something no other woman from the cult had accomplished.

Today, she is a successful author. Her son Harrison no longer has cancer but was left seriously disabled, and the other children went through counseling and continued in school. Her oldest daughter,returned to the
compound when she turned 18.

"I think the day that Betty went back was more terrible than learning my son had cancer," she said. "I couldn't do anything."

But Jessop is doing plenty to open the public's eyes to the realities of polygamy and cults like the FLDS. In addition to her best-selling books, Jessop has turned to the media, speaks at campuses, and testifies before courts in the U.S. and Canada.

Today, Jeffs sits in jail awaiting trial in Texas, and Canada's high court considers the constitutionality of its polygamy law and the case of two men who brought their 12-year-old daughters to the United States to
marry Jeffs, then about 50.

Jessop wants the government to do more. She wants states with polygamist communities to quit turning a blind eye to the abuse that comes with polygamy. And she wants laws that will protect women who
have no legal rights as a wife because their marriages were never legalized.

"Those women have no power," she says. "They are given like a slave."

Leaving that slavery meant giving up much more than her marriage. "I was willing to give up my religion, my home ... all I knew," she said.

It also meant finding a new power that gives her the strength to speak out for the women and children who continue to live in slavery and danger.

"I strongly believe there's a higher power," she said. "I believe in miracles."


This article was found at:



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Religious practice not above the law, polygamy consumes its young says Attorney General of BC in closing argument



CBC News   -   March 28, 2011

Polygamy 'consumes its young,' court told


Lawyer for B.C. says in closing argument that anti-polygamy law must be retained

by The Canadian Press



A polygamous religious sect in southeastern B.C. can't hide behind the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to defend a practice that oppresses women, victimizes children and harms society, a lawyer for the provincial government said Monday.

Craig Jones urged a B.C. Supreme Court judge to uphold Canada's 120-year-old law outlawing multiple marriage, arguing that two months of evidence from experts, former polygamists and current plural wives can only lead to one conclusion: polygamy is always harmful and must be stopped.

"This is what we know about polygamy both in theory and practice," said Jones.

"A polygamous society consumes its young. It arms itself with instruments of abuse and shields itself behind institutions of secrecy, insularity and control. It depresses every known indicator of women's equality. It is anti-democratic, anti-egalitarian, anti-liberal and antithetical to the proper functioning of any modern, rights-based society."

The government asked the court to examine the constitutionality of the polygamy law after the unsuccessful prosecution of two men from the sect in Bountiful, B.C.

Residents of Bountiful belong to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a breakaway Mormon sect which, unlike the modern-day mainstream church, considers polygamy a sacred religious practice required to reach the highest level of heaven.

The controversy surrounding Bountiful has plagued police and lawmakers for two decades, as they struggled with the uncertainty of the law and whether it violates charter protections of religious freedom.
Underage girls married off, court told

Jones noted the court heard from numerous experts who predicted multiple marriage will always lead to societies that control women, marry off young girls to older husbands and cast off young men. Most of those problems, the experts testified, were rooted in the limited supply of potential wives — even if only a small portion of a society practises polygamy. Testimony from women and children who left polygamous communities, as well as from women currently living in Bountiful, demonstrated all of those academic predictions were true, said Jones.

The court also heard evidence that girls as young as 12 years old were taken to the U.S. to marry much older men, including jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs.

Among the girls from Bountiful allegedly married to American men were two teenaged sisters of James Oler, one of two competing bishops within Bountiful, who were also married to Jeffs. Another was Oler's 15-year-old daughter, who was married to another man the same day Oler himself married a 15-year-old American girl, the government alleges.

Oler, who was among the two men charged in 2009, declined to testify at the constitutional reference case. He insisted in a written affidavit that his community reports any criminal activity to police

Jones said the stories of young girls trafficked across the border and other allegations of abuse are no coincidence.

"The evidence in this case shows that these harms are caused by the practice of polygamy as surely as anything can be said to be caused by anything else," said Jones.

"These victims are inevitable, and there will be many more if the challengers succeed in making Canada the first western nation to decriminalize polygamy."

Two questions

The court was asked to answer two questions: First, is the anti-polygamy law consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Second, if the law is valid, what exactly does it prohibit?

Jones said the law doesn't violate the charter because constitutional protections don't extend to practices that are harmful.

To the second question, he said the law specifically prohibits multiple marriages involving one man and several wives, not the extremely rare practice of women with multiple husbands or same-sex polygamous relationships. On this point, the province disagrees with the federal government, which insists any form of polygamy is illegal.

Some critics of the law have argued polygamous marriages should only be outlawed if they involve abuse, coercion or exploitation. Jones rejected that argument.

"These societal harms are felt regardless of whether any particular polygamous relationship is good or bad," he told the court.

"These [harms such as abuse or exploitation] may be aggravating factors for sentencing purposes. A person who knowingly enters into a polygamous relationship is guilty."

The case will also hear closing arguments from the federal government, a government-appointed lawyer arguing against the law, a lawyer for Bountiful, and several other interveners, including civil liberties groups and women's rights advocates. The final submissions were streamed on the Internet and recorded for TV broadcasts after the judge granted a rare request from the media.

Whatever Justice Robert Bauman eventually decides, it is expected the question will ultimately end up before the Supreme Court of Canada.

The province referred the issue to the B.C. Supreme Court after the unsuccessful prosecution of Oler and Winston Blackmore, who leads the other faction within the community.

The men were arrested in early 2009 and each charged with practising polygamy. A judge later threw out the charges because of how the province chose its prosecutor, setting the stage for the constitutional reference case.

Blackmore has boycotted the hearings, while Oler's side of the community has a lawyer in court.

****
Corrections and Clarifications

The Canadian Press initially reported that James Oler had allegedly taken two teenage daughters to the U.S. to marry American men. In fact, the B.C. government alleges one of Oler's daughters, aged 15, and two of Oler's teenaged sisters were married to American men.

This article was found at:


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CBC News  -  March 29, 2011

Marriages to Canadian girls recounted in court


by The Canadian Press



In late 2005, the now-jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs called two men in Bountiful, B.C., and told them to bring their 12-year-old daughters to the United States to be wed, according to passages from Jeffs' diaries presented in a B.C. court Tuesday.

Jeffs, who was in his late 40s or early 50s at the time and already married to dozens of women, told the men the girls would become his new wives.

In the diaries, Jeffs describes one of the fathers as "thrilled" with the news and he goes on to describe the marriages themselves, in which he and the girls were "sealed for time and eternity."

"I then called in these two young ladies. I explained to all that these girls were to be sealed to me to protect them at a time when they were able to be sealed and that I had their fathers' permission and the Lord's direction," Jeffs said in the written dictations, portions of which were read in court during closing arguments at a landmark case about Canada's polygamy law.

"We felt a powerful spirit of peace and more especially the second one, the younger one, received the burning witness of burning peace. All present received that peace."

In an unrelated diary entry, Jeffs explained his reasons for marrying children.

"These young girls have been given to me to be taught and trained how to come into the presence of God and help redeem Zion from their youngest years before they go through teenage doubting and fears and boy troubles," wrote Jeffs.

"I will just be their boy troubles and guide them right."

More than two dozen teenagers

Jeffs, 55, is the self-described prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS. He is in a Texas jail awaiting trial on charges of sexual assault and bigamy, related to allegations he had sex with two children, one under 14 and the other under 17. In the diaries, which were seized in a raid by Texas authorities on the FLDS's Yearning for Zion ranch in 2008, Jeffs recounted phoning the fathers of the two 12-year-olds. He told them to bring their daughters to the FLDS cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., which together are known as Short Creek.

Jeffs said God told him how to get the girls into the U.S. undetected, telling the fathers to bring their daughters to an FLDS member's house in the Short Creek area and keep them hidden inside.

He later described a plan to move the girls from Short Creek to the ranch, located near Eldorado, Texas, using a trailer with a bathroom so the girls could stay inside without having to "go to gentile places to use restroom."

The girls were among more than two dozen teenagers from the polygamous community of Bountiful that B.C. government lawyers allege were moved to the U.S. to marry much older men.

Government lawyers are presenting documents seized during the Texas raid as evidence that young girls were trafficking between FLDS communities in Canada and the U.S. to marry — which they say is one of many inevitable abuses that justify keeping polygamy illegal. The B.C. government noted in its closing submissions that it has already submitted evidence 13 girls from Bountiful between the ages of 12 and 18 were married to older American men from 2004 to 2006.

On Tuesday, B.C. government lawyer Leah Greathead said Texas officials had sent information about more than a dozen additional cases, and asked for permission to table the documents as new evidence. The judge will decide later whether to admit the new evidence.

Craig Jones, another government lawyer, told the judge it's impossible that residents of Bountiful weren't aware that girls as young as 12 were being taken to the U.S. to be married off. And no one, he noted, called the police.

"Children are simply disappearing from the community — 12-year-olds girls, 13-year-old girls, 15, 16, 17 — and all this is happening with the regularity that the evidence indicates," he said.

"It's unfathomable to think that this practice was not widely known in the community."
Jeffs awaiting trial

Among the girls from Bountiful allegedly married to American men were two teenaged sisters of James Oler, one of two competing bishops within Bountiful, who were also married to Jeffs. Another was Oler's 15-year-old daughter, who was married to another man the same day Oler himself married a 15-year-old American girl, the government alleges.

The province launched the constitutional reference case after the failed prosecution in 2009 of Bountiful's two leaders. Winston Blackmore and James Oler were each charged with one count of practising polygamy, but those charges were later thrown out.

Jeffs is awaiting trial in Texas and could also face trial in Utah, where prosecutors are considering whether to retry him on charges of rape as an accomplice for his role in the 2001 marriage of a 14-year-old follower to her 19-year-old cousin. He was found guilty in 2007, but the state's Supreme Court overturned that conviction last year.

On Monday, a church elder, William E. Jessop, filed papers with the Utah Department of Commerce to take over as president of the FLDS.

Jessop said he wasn't taking over the church, but rather fulfilling of an earlier directive from Jeffs.

This article was found at:


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CBC News  -  March 30, 2011

Religion 'magnifies' polygamy's harms: lawyer


by The Canadian Press



Canada's criminal prohibition of polygamy isn't designed to target religion, but the practice does seem to be most harmful when it is connected to a religious belief, a lawyer for the B.C. government said Wednesday during a landmark court case examining the law.

Opponents of the law, including a small religious sect in Bountiful, B.C., argue the ban infringes on their charter right to religious freedom.

Craig Jones said the province accepts that some people, including the self-described fundamentalist Mormons in Bountiful, practise polygamy because of deeply held religious views. But he said that doesn't mean they should be immune from the law.

"We've seen the extent to which religion is used as the control mechanism, as the enforcement mechanism that magnifies the harms of polygamy," Jones said during his third day of final submissions at the constitutional reference case being heard by the B.C. Supreme Court.

"The evidence that has emerged from expert and lay witnesses alike is that the greater the religious fervour with which polygamy is intertwined, the more harmful it can be expected to be. There is something significantly harmful about the religious manifestation of polygamy."

The court was asked to determine whether the law against polygamy is constitutional following the failed prosecution of two community leaders from Bountiful in 2009.

Residents of Bountiful are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS, which, unlike the mainstream Mormon church, still encourages polygamy.

Religious practices not above law

Critics argue the law violates several sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, most notably those dealing with religious freedom and discrimination. They also claim the law is too broad and targets innocent relationships involving more than two people.

The provincial and federal governments insist polygamy is inherently harmful, leading to physical and sexual abuse, teenage brides, human trafficking and other crimes. They also say polygamy affects the broader society, regardless of whether a particular polygamous marriage is good or bad.

Those harms, the governments say, outweigh any claim to religious freedom.

"Religiosity of a practice does not automatically render it immune from prosecution," said Jones.

"There are few crimes that have not, at one time or another, been excused on religious bases, from petty theft to genocide. Clearly, criminal activity such as female-genital mutilation, honour killings, ritual animal sacrifice and cannibalism may be deeply connected with cultural or religious beliefs."

And even without religion, Jones argued, polygamy is still harmful. In any society in which men marry multiple women, the pressures created by the reduced supply of potential wives will cause all of the same problems, he said.

Jones also rejected the argument that the law — rather than polygamy itself — is really what's harming the women and children of Bountiful.

Groups opposing the law have suggested criminalizing polygamy drives it underground, leading to the secretive isolation that has come to define the polygamous community in southeastern B.C. The law puts Bountiful residents under psychological stress, critics have argued, and makes it impossible for them to report crimes and seek outside help.
Prosecutors reluctant

"Decriminalizing polygamy is unlikely to make Bountiful less insular," said Jones.

"It seems fantastic to suggest that these crimes are hidden because polygamy has been driven underground. These crimes are hidden because they are crimes. They flow from polygamy and they need to be kept secret in order for their perpetrators to be able to continue committing them."

Bountiful has been subjected to several RCMP investigations during the past 20 years over allegations including polygamy, child sexual abuse and human trafficking, but prosecutors repeatedly declined to lay charges. That changed in early 2009, when a special prosecutor recommended polygamy charges against the community's two competing bishops, Winston Blackmore and James Oler.

Blackmore was accused of having 19 wives, but the constitutional case has heard he has as many as 25. Oler was accused of having three wives, but the court heard he now has five, allegedly including an American girl he married when she was 15.

A judge later threw out the charges because of how the provincial government chose a special prosecutor, prompting the government to order the ongoing constitutional hearings. The case is expected to eventually end up at the Supreme Court of Canada.

This article was found at:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2011/03/30/bc-polygamy-hearing-jones.html


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The Vancouver Sun  -  March 30, 2011

Ban polygamy now, or never: B.C. attorney general laywer

The lead lawyer for the B.C. attorney general closed his arguments Wedneday, and said 'the harms caused by polygamy cannot be easily addressed through the enforcement of child exploitation, sexual assault, procurement or other laws.'

By Daphne Bramham  |  Vancouver Sun



If the prohibition on polygamy cannot be supported by the evidence presented over the past few months in B.C. Supreme Court, it could never be supported.

With that, Craig Jones – the lead lawyer for the B.C. attorney general – ended his closing argument Wednesday in the constitutional reference case to determine whether the polygamy law is valid.

He took three days to review more than two months of evidence, legal precedents and answer the written arguments that the court-appointed amicus George Macintosh will make later in his closing submission.

Jones rejected suggestions by Macintosh and others that the harms of polygamy could be addressed by implementing stricter child-exploitation or trafficking laws or even more vigorous enforcement of the existing laws.

“It is a nice idea that the harms that go hand-in-hand with the practise of polygamy could be addressed if only the practise would be brought into the sunlight through decriminalization,” Jones told Chief Justice Robert Bauman of the B.C. Supreme Court.

“But there is no reason to believe that this would happen. Polygamy needs insularity to hide the abuses that it requires to sustain itself through generations. It requires insularity to shield the methods of of control and indoctrination that will guarantee the next generation of willing child brides.”

He pointed to evidence – some of which has been filed and some which has yet to be filed – of a pattern of criminality by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Church marriage records, birth records and diary entries by FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs indicate that 31 under-aged girls were trafficked between Canada and the United States for arranged marriages with church leaders.

In exchange for their sisters or daughters, some of the men – including James Oler and Winston Blackmore, two former bishops of Bountiful – were given child brides of their own.

Jones said that evidence “demonstrates eloquently why the harms caused by polygamy cannot be easily addressed through the enforcement of child exploitation, sexual assault, procurement or other laws.”

Yet even with that compelling evidence, Jones said, “There remains a question of whether the crimes detailed could ever be prosecuted.

“Without the cooperation of the victim, it is virtually impossible to prove sexual contact as an element of exploitation or assault unless the girl becomes pregnant while still a teen. And, surely, public policy cannot require the government to wait until that point before addressing a serious social harm.”

Criminalizing polygamy is a legitimate limit on religious freedom given the harm it causes women and children, he argued.

Limiting religious freedom with the criminal sanction against polygamy is justified by the harms it causes, he argued.

“It is the religious nature of plural marriage that permits the cradle-to-grave indoctrination of adherents into the acceptance of the practise,” he said. “It is the religious nature that has permitted it to expand so rapidly in Bountiful from a single family in 1947 to about a thousand souls today.

“Most types of polygamy may be, on balance, bad. But religiously mandated polygamy is many times worse.”

Jones finished by quoting Truman Oler, a witness in the case who left Bountiful in his teens after he was denied an education and was sent to work in a post-and-pole mill for wages far below the minimum.

When asked whether he was ever taught about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Oler said he thought it only protected religious freedom.

“The one thing they [church leaders] are trying to do is use that right to protect themselves,” he said. “We never as children knew of charters and rights and freedoms.”

The case continues Thursday with Keith Reimer from making the closing argument on behalf of the attorney general for Canada. He will be followed by interested parties that support the two governments' position that the law ought to be upheld and then by the amicus and interested parties that support decriminalization.

The closing arguments scheduled to be completed by April 15.

This article was found at:

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