VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Polygamy charges have been approved by a special prosecutor against two religious leaders in Bountiful. Winston Blackmore is accused of having 24 marriages and James Oler is accused of having four.
BC’s Representative of Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond welcomes the news and calls it an important “development” in protecting the rights of children.
“This has been more than a decade in the making to actually get charges sworn in criminal court that have some reasonable prospects of moving forward. We had an important decision of the BC Supreme Court upholding the polygamy provisions of the criminal code and very influential in that decision was the fact that young girls in particular, were being pledged into incestuous marriages to older males. The aspect of exploitation of children was considered in BC and this was long overdue,” she explains.
She has been concerned with what has been going on in Bountiful and that’s why her office has been in touch with people in the community over the years.
“In particular, in this community we have to be very careful where there are practices and beliefs that allow for the exchange of children particular for religious and sexual purposes. These are not protected activities under our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” she says.
She says these charges don’t mean the end of the story; instead it’s just the beginning. She will be carefully watching the case with the hope the court will rule in favor of the children.
She says this case should bring a lot of attention to the issue of polygamy and child exploitation.
“This issue is not just a British Columbia issue. It’s obviously a national issue. There have been issues in the United States. One of the significant leaders in the United States Warren Jeffs is in prison and is serving a long period of incarceration. I anticipate that the untangling of some of these issues is going to take time and effort in addition to this criminal matter. I’m hoping that in particular the government in BC will take a sharp and clear position on the side of children.”