Judge rules against challenges to polygamy law in Canada

In this file photo, Winston Blackmore, the religious leader of the controversial polygamous community of Bountiful, shares a laugh with six of his daughters and some of his grandchildren in a photo taken near Creston, British Columbia, Canada, April 21, 2008 | Photo by Jonathan Hayward, The Canadian Press via The Associated Press, St. George News

CRANBROOK, British Columbia (AP) — A judge has rejected a challenge of Canada’s polygamy laws that was launched after two men were found guilty in British Columbia.

Winston Blackmore and James Oler were found guilty in British Columbia Supreme Court last July of having multiple wives, but a lawyer for Blackmore argued the law infringes on constitutional right of freedom of religion and expression.

In this 2017 file photo, Gail Blackmore, right, and James Oler, left, arrive at the courthouse in Cranbrook, British Columbia, Feb. 3, 2017 | File photo by Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via The Associated Press, St. George News

Justice Sheri Ann Donegan dismissed all arguments Friday that the charges should be dropped, including a claim that the prosecution was an abuse of process.

Both men have been leaders in the small community of Bountiful, British Columbia, where the court heard residents are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which condones plural marriage.

Blackmore, 62, was found guilty of marrying two dozen women, while Oler, 53, was found to have five wives. Both men face a maximum of five years in prison.

In December, Blackmore argued that he believed he was allowed to practice polygamy because he wasn’t charged when police investigated allegations about his multiple wives in the 1990s.

Outside court on Friday, Blackmore said he doesn’t encourage anyone to practice polygamy, but he also doesn’t discourage anyone who has a religious commitment.

“I know one thing, and that’s that our faith is as good as anybody’s,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we need to be people who try to respect the laws of our country.

“I didn’t know it was illegal. We got a definite letter from the attorney general at the time, which said that our conduct was protected under the charter — the same charter, by the way, that affects all the same-sex couples … the same charter that affects every other person’s right to associate with whoever they choose. All I’m saying is that I should equally enjoy that same right.”

His lawyer, Blaire Suffredine, argued the unions were never legal marriages, but common-law relationships sanctioned by Blackmore’s church, which carry no legal weight.

Special prosecutor Peter Wilson argued Blackmore was always at risk of prosecution, even though Canada’s polygamy laws have in the past been constitutionally vague.

In 1991, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police completed a 13-month investigation into Bountiful by recommending polygamy charges against Blackmore and another man, but B.C.’s attorney general decided not to lay charges because of uncertainty over whether the law was unconstitutional on the grounds of religious freedom.

The B.C. Supreme Court upheld the polygamy laws in the 2011 reference case, ruling that a section of the Criminal Code banning plural marriages is constitutional. The court’s chief justice found that the harm against women and children outweighs concerns over protecting religious freedom.

After nearly 28 years, Blackmore said, the legal battle over polygamy has been a test of the community’s faith.

“But it’s kind of driven us together,” he added.

Blackmore said he will not decide whether to appeal until after he is sentenced. The case returns to court on May 15 for a sentencing hearing.

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Twitter: @STGnews

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  • statusquo March 10, 2018 at 8:52 pm

    I guess you can marry cats and dogs in Canada too? Throw out God and you have no foundation to define morality.

  • utahdiablo March 10, 2018 at 9:09 pm

    “I know one thing, and that’s that our faith is as good as anybody’s,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we need to be people who try to respect the laws of our country.

    “I didn’t know it was illegal. We got a definite letter from the attorney general at the time, which said that our conduct was protected under the charter
    You worthless POS….I didn’t know it was illegal? FU you lying POS… the law isn’t done with you yet, not by a longshot

  • biker11 March 11, 2018 at 5:02 am

    I agree with the other two posters, mental cult. Where in the Bible can you have multiple wives, oh thats right well make our own version.

    • uprightandmovingforward March 11, 2018 at 9:00 am

      Many of the Prophets of the Old Testament had multiple wives.

      In the Bible See 2 Samuel 12 verse 7 ¶ And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; verse 8 And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom,

      2 Samuel 5 verse 13 ¶ And David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem, after he was come from Hebron: and there were yet sons and daughters born to David.

      These wives and concubines were given unto David by Nathan the Prophet. And in none did he sin except in the case of Bathsheba.

      Over 40 important Bibile figures had more than one wife, such as Esau (Gen 26:34; 28:6–9), Elkanah (1 Samuel 1:1–8), and Solomon (1 Kings 11:1–3). Moses had 3 wives; Zipporah (Exodus 2: 21), the daughter of Hobab (Numbers 10: 29) and the Ethiopian woman (Numbers 12:1).

      Multiple marriages have been authorized by God to raise up righteous seed but ONLY when He authorizes it through His Prophet. Multiple marriages were DE-authorized in 1890 by God’s Prophet at the time. Since then, they have not been authorized.

      • comments March 11, 2018 at 2:54 pm

        I love it when holy buybull believers don’t even have a clue about what’s in the text they think is “the word of god”.

        • uprightandmovingforward March 12, 2018 at 7:46 am

          Oops Apparently someone can’t read English. 🙂 Right there in the text of Bible my friend.

          • comments March 12, 2018 at 1:31 pm

            was in response to the clown above you, buddy. 😉

        • Striker4 March 12, 2018 at 1:19 pm

          Whatever you say Prophet Bob

  • Mike P March 11, 2018 at 8:37 am

    Ah, you all know this same exact thing is going on, right here, under your nose in St. George? Do you know there are also T.V. shows on currently where local polygamy families are making 10’s of thousands of dollars a year showing us their lifestyle? And your worried about a couple of weirdo’s up in Canada?

  • Carpe Diem March 11, 2018 at 3:47 pm

    Unfortunately Wink and Warren were never prosecuted for their crimes of transporting minor girls over State and International boundaries for the purposes of sex trafficking. Wink may want to ponder that, as one of the reasons they finally pegged him to the wall. PLEASE give him the MAX. STOP the sex crimes!


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