Polygamy decision coming soon, says B.C. attorney general
B.C Attorney General Wally Oppal says he'll decide soon what to do about the polygamous community in Bountiful, but cautioned police can't just march into the area and start making arrests without a formal complaint.
Bountiful, in B.C.'s Southern Interior near Creston, has links to the polygamous community in Texas where 416 children were seized in a raid by U.S. authorities on April 4.
"You will recall that what happened in Texas was there was a complaint by a 16-year-old girl who said that she had been abused by a male person. We have no such complaint here, and if we did, obviously we'd be in a position to do something," said Oppal.
Oppal said he hopes to meet next week with the special prosecutor, Leonard Doust, who recently recommended the issue be referred to the B.C. Court of Appeal for a ruling on the legality of Canada's polygamy laws.
The court should be asked whether Canada's laws regarding polygamy are constitutionally valid, and whether they could withstand a court challenge on the grounds that multiple marriages fall under the right of religious freedom, Doust wrote in special report for the B.C. Crown office issued on April 7.
The attorney general says he'd rather go ahead with a prosecution instead, but he hopes to meet Doust next week and decide his next move.
The attorney general has previously also expressed concerns that Canadian laws making polygamy illegal in Canada might not stand up to a constitutional challenge based on freedom of religion.
He also pointed to the difficulty in getting witnesses to come forward, and to Canadian law, which set the legal age of sexual consent at 14 years, as obstacles in getting a polygamy conviction.
On Friday, Oppal said U.S. officials told him at least some of the children seized in the raid in Texas are believed to be Canadian, possibly from Bountiful. There is still no official confirmation on how many Canadians might be involved in the U.S. raid.
Both communities are part of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a sect that broke away from the Mormons after the latter disavowed polygamy more than a century ago.