Polygamy, exploitation charges considered in Bountiful case
RCMP have completed their report for the special prosecutor appointed by B.C.
The RCMP have completed their investigation into the polygamous community of Bountiful, B.C., and a special prosecutor is now considering whether sexual exploitation or polygamy charges will be laid.
Peter Wilson said it will take him several months to review the substantial police report, and make a decision on charges.
The new review is just the latest stage in a decade long effort by the RCMP and the B.C. government to prosecute members of the isolated religious community on polygamy charges.
Wilson was appointed in January 2012 by the B.C. government to conduct an independent assessment of the case, after the previous special prosecutor, Richard Peck, resigned from the case.
Polygamy investigation began in 2005
Peck stepped down after B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Bauman upheld Canada's polygamy laws, ruling the ban on polygamy infringes on some sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but also that the criminalization of polygamy is justified, in December 2011.
Bauman spent several months hearing testimony and legal arguments about whether the 121-year-old ban on multiple marriages is constitutional.
The constitutional test case was prompted by the failed prosecution of two men from Bountiful, Winston Blackmore and James Oler, who were charged in 2009 with practising polygamy.
Many residents of Bountiful follow the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS, which, unlike the mainstream Mormon church, holds polygamy as a tenet of the faith.
Blackmore and Oler, leaders of two factions of the FLDS, were charged with one count each of breaching Section 293 of the Criminal Code — which bans polygamy — by entering into a conjugal relationship with more than one individual at a time.
The charges against Blackmore were linked to his alleged marriages to 19 women, dating back to May 2005. The charges against Oler were linked to his marriages to three women, dating back to November 2004.
The RCMP investigation into allegations of polygamy in the isolated, rural community in southeastern B.C. began in 2005 and included interviews with 90 people in B.C., Utah, Idaho and Nevada.
But after the investigation, B.C.'s Crown prosecutors remained reluctant to lay polygamy charges for fear they would be declared unconstitutional on the basis of religious freedom.
Former attorney general Wally Oppal then appointed special prosecutors Richard Peck and later Len Doust, who both recommended the government get a court ruling on the constitutionality of Canada's anti-polygamy laws before trying to press charges against men in the polygamous community.
In September 2009, a B.C. court threw out the polygamy charges against the two religious leaders, ruling Oppal was wrong to ask a third special prosecutor to take the case after the first two prosecutors decided the men should not be charged.
The government then asked the B.C. Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the polygamy ban, and in December 2011 the court upheld the polygamy ban and the B.C. government appointed Wilson as the next special prosecutor for the case.