Canada’s Polygamy Law to Be Tested for First Time in a Century
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
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Canada’s Polygamy Law to Be Tested for First Time in a Century

The BC Supreme Court has ruled that Canada’s polygamy law, even though it does violate the constitutional freedom of religion, is justified because the practice harms children and society.
Mack Lamoureux
Toronto, CA
April 18, 2017, 3:34pm

The BC Supreme Court in Cranbrook will test a little used Canadian law for the first time in over a century as two men fight two polygamy charges.

The case, which starts Tuesday, is centred on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) in Bountiful, British Columbia—Canada's most well-known polygamist outpost.

In 2014, Winston Blackmore and James Oler were both charged with polygamy. Blackmore is accused of having married 24 women in the last 25 years and Oler is accused of marrying four. In 2009, similar charges were dropped when it was successfully argued that the special prosecutor who laid the charges was improperly appointed.

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It is expected that the case will be centred around the idea of if someone should be punished for their religious beliefs and not the validity of the law. In 2011, the BC Supreme Court ruled that the law, even though it does violate freedom of religion, is justified because it harms children and society.

Founded by six men in 1946, the people of Bountiful have practiced polygamy for almost three-quarters of a century. The community in southern BC has a population of about under 1,000.

Blackmore, who used to be the bishop in Bountiful, has acknowledged that his multiple wives have given birth to 146 of his offspring. In the past Blackmore has admitted to marrying a number of his wives when they were underage. Some, he stated in an interview with CNN, were as young as 15 years old. The case isn't centred around the alleged age of his wives though but around the actual action of polygamy.

Recently, three members of the community, including Oler, were charged with "unlawfully removing children from Canada for illegal purposes" after taking a 13-year-old girl across the border to be a child bride. Two of them were found guilty but Oler was acquitted.

Blackmore and Oler will be tried together and the trial is expected to take several weeks.

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