B.C. judge upholds polygamy law

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has upheld Canada's law against polygamy, because of potential harm to women and children.

B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond

B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has upheld Canada’s law against polygamy, finding that the potential harm to women and children in multiple marriages outweighs the infringement of religious freedom.

The ruling clears the way for the B.C. Attorney General’s ministry to try again to prosecute leaders of Bountiful, a polygamous community in southeastern B.C. near the Idaho border.

Charges against Winston Blackmore and James Oler, rival leaders of the community, were dismissed on a legal technicality by another B.C. judge in 2009. Blackmore was charged with having 19 wives and Oler three wives.

Attorney General Shirley Bond said Wednesday the ministry will take time to study the complex ruling before deciding what to do next. After the prosecution was turned away, the government proceeded with a reference case, to see if the rarely used law conforms with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“Our case was in essence quite simple – that there are profound harms to children and women related to polygamy, and today I think that Justice Bauman clearly embraced government’s argument,” Bond said. “My job now is to go back and assess what implications this might have for a future potential prosecution.”

Bond added that with many intervenors in the case, the judgment is likely to be appealed.

Chief Justice Robert Bauman issued a 300-page ruling Wednesday after hearing testimony from expert witnesses as well as people who have lived in Bountiful, an isolated community of about 1,000 people belonging to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Bauman surveyed the history of marriage around the world and found that preserving monogamous marriage “represents a pressing and substantial objective for all of the reasons that have seen the ascendance of monogamous marriage as a norm in the West.” He rejected arguments that there is such a thing as “good polygamy.”

The Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints split with the mainstream Mormon church a century ago rather than renounce multiple marriage.

The B.C. community was established in the 1940s, but didn’t come to public attention until the 1980s. Similar communities exist in the U.S., particularly in Utah where the Mormon church was founded.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An Island Health nurse prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy Island Health)
Health authority opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents

Health authority anticipates more than 40,000 people will be immunized over the next month

Cumberland council is backing the business association again. File photo
Cumberland backs homeless veteran count

Briefs: Council continues support for business association

Courtenay Nissan’s Matthew Bourassa, Geoff Piper and Sean LaFleur join YANA’s Ashley Smith, Kelly Rusk and Lisa Wilcox for the 4x4x48 event to raise funds. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Courtenay Nissan eats and runs for YANA

Dealership realized non-profit groups need new ways to raise funds during COVID

Rev. Sulin Milne at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Comox is part of those helping distribute food to those in need within the town. Photo by Jim Peacock
Comox church serving the community with food through COVID-19

“We knew there were so many people who were facing economic challenges …”

Cole Moore with one of his sisters, Jasmin Moore. Photo supplied
Courtenay man looks to brain surgery for second chance

Cole Moore’s sister sets up GoFundMe to help father looking after brother

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Most Read