British Columbia

No sex charges in B.C. polygamy investigation

There's not enough evidence to proceed with sexual assault charges against anyone in the polygamous community of Bountiful, B.C., according to the province's attorney general.

Court to be asked to decide if anti-polygamy law is constitutional

B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal said Wednesday in Victoria there's not enough evidence to proceed with sexual assault charges against anyone in the polygamous community of Bountiful, B.C.

A family enjoys a stroll on Wednesday in Bountiful, B.C., which is home to a sect that continues to practise polygamy, which is illegal in Canada. ((CBC))

The RCMP investigated allegations of abuse inside the secretive commune in the province's southern Interior, where men have been alleged to marry several women, many of whom are still teenagers.

But in a report released Wednesday, special prosecutor Richard Peck, who was appointed by the B.C. government to make recommendations on charges, has concluded there is not a "substantial likelihood of conviction."

Many of the young women from the community insisted they were the aggressors and initiated sex with the older men, said Oppal.

The B.C. Court of Appeal may now be asked to rule on the validity of Canada's law against multiple marriages, said Oppal.

Special prosecutor reviewed evidence

In his report,Peck reveals the RCMP recommended criminal charges against men in Bountiful in 2006.

Those charges recommended by the RCMP included "sexual exploitation charges" which prohibit an adult from having sex with anyone between 14 and 18 years of age, if the adult is in a position of trust or authority.

The polygamous community of Bountiful, located in southeastern, B.C., has close ties to other polygamous communities across the border in the United States. ((CBC))

Peck reviewed the evidence and concluded it was insufficient to make a conviction likely.

Peck also reviewed a number of other possible charges, ranging from trafficking in persons to parents procuring sex.

Again he concluded there was not a "substantial likelihood of conviction."

But Peck did advise the Crown to go to court for a clarification of Canada's anti-polygamy law.

In 1990, the Crown counsel decided against pursuing polygamy charges, saying the polygamy ban might be struck down by the courts as "an unjustifiable infringement on religious freedom."

But Peck is not so sure. "Religious freedom in Canada is not absolute," he wrote, and he believes the polygamy ban may be upheld by the courts.

Peck has advised the Crown to refer a legal question to the B.C. Court of Appeal, asking whether Canada's ban on polygamy, which dates back to 1892,is constitutional.

With files from the Canadian Press