British Columbia

B.C. polygamists Winston Blackmore and James Oler sentenced to house arrest

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has sentenced Winston Blackmore to six months of house arrest and James Oler to three months of house arrest for practising polygamy

Blackmore found to have taken 2 dozen wives, Oler found to have married 5 women

Winston Blackmore, left, and James Oler were each charged with one count of polygamy, accused of marrying multiple times. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has sentenced Winston Blackmore to six months of house arrest and James Oler to three months of house arrest for practising polygamy.

Justice Sherry Anne Donegan handed down the sentence in Cranbrook Tuesday morning. 

Blackmore will be under house arrest in his Bountiful area home, with allowances to go to work and attend to medical emergencies, while Oler will be able to serve his time where he works and lives in Alberta.

Both sentences will be followed by 12 months probation.

Blackmore has also been ordered to perform 150 hours of community work service, while Oler must do 75 hours. 

Blackmore, religious leader of the polygamous community of Bountiful, near Creston, B.C., shares a laugh with six of his daughters and some of his grand children in April, 2008. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

As she handed down her decision, the judge noted both men were hard working, respected members of their communities with no prior convictions. 

These convictions are a first for polygamy in Canada in more than a century.

Special prosecutor Peter Wilson recommended three to six months in jail for Blackmore, 60, and one to three months for James Oler, 53.

The two former religious leaders were convicted last July of practising plural or "celestial" marriage in the community of Bountiful, B.C.

Blackmore's lawyer had asked the judge to consider all possible sentences, including an absolute discharge for his client.

Blackmore was found to have taken two dozen wives, while Oler was found to have married five women.

Oler did not have legal representation in court, but a lawyer who acted as a so-called friend of the court to ensure a fair trial said Oler is hard working and imprisonment may not be necessary to deter and denounce polygamy.

There are only two other convictions for polygamy in Canadian history, but because those cases took place in 1899 and 1906, Wilson told the judge they didn't set a precedent in determining sentences for the men.

With files from The Canadian Press