Opinion: B.C. must act on criminal offences in Bountiful case

Constitutional reference trial lays out evidence of wrongdoing

Vancouver Sun

By Daphne Bramham

January 30, 2011

How is it not sexual exploitation when one of the pillars of a community has sex with a child placed in his care?

What is it other than sex slavery and/or human trafficking when that man had a 15-year-old brought across an international border to a country where she has no immediate family with the intention of having sex and impregnating her?

And how can that unnamed man from the fundamentalist Mormon community of Bountiful, B.C., not have been involved in immigration fraud a few months earlier when he brought a 17-year-old “bride” into Canada?

The girl was clutching a letter from her parents giving her permission to stay with a “friend.” What nobody said was that the friend was the man — more than twice her age — who became her husband the previous day and with only 30 minutes’ notice in a ceremony presided over by a prophet, who himself has been charged in three states with child sex abuse.

These details are presumably true, since the 17-year-old, now 24, testified under oath to their veracity last week in B.C. Supreme Court.

(Through some curious reasoning, leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and their lawyer thought that her testimony in a constitutional reference case would bolster the church’s claim that the guarantee of religious freedom in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows them to practise polygamy.) Little more than a year after this man brought both of his American teen brides to Canada, each of them — wives No. 4 and No. 5 — had a child.

Their church, their fathers, their mothers, their teachers and their community had groomed them to submit to these arranged marriages or face God’s wrath in the after-life.

Still, it’s appalling that this 24-year-old woman, who grew up in the United States and attended a publicly funded school in British Columbia, finds nothing wrong with what happened to her or her sister-wife.

More appalling is that nobody in government did.

What happened to these two girls is part of a long-established pattern that was also documented in the reference case by evidence through birth records, school records and immigration files. And it can all be confirmed with DNA samples collected by RCMP officers several years ago before they recommended that the B.C. attorney-general lay charges.

The best that British Columbia has managed until now was to charge two Bountiful leaders in 2008 with one count each of polygamy — charges that were overturned because the special prosecutor was improperly hired.

That led to the reference case where so much evidence of wrongdoing has been laid bare.

There was testimony about dozens of teen brides crossing the Canada-U.S. border in each direction; testimony about young boys being sent cross-border to work for a pittance at church-controlled companies, contravening immigration rules and minimum-wage laws in all jurisdictions.

There was testimony about water torture of babies, who are spanked, held under a running tap so many times that they’re too exhausted to cry any more.

Witnesses testified how they weren’t taught about sex and didn’t participate in work experience programs — both of which are mandatory at the community’s government-funded schools.

For nearly three decades, British Columbia has dithered, actively ignoring complaints and concerns about criminal offences, while officials in the attorney-general’s ministry fretted over the legitimacy of the polygamy law.

But that issue is in the hands of Chief Justice Robert Bauman.

And while he’s yet to hear the closing arguments, and it will likely be months before Bauman renders his decision, the province must act immediately on the evidence of criminal offences and breaches of labour regulations and school requirements.

There are no excuses left.




One response to this post.

  1. Posted by st0pp0lygamy on January 31, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    The opinion statements of journalists re the Reference are practically yelling at the authorities to take action on the crimes inherent in polygamy that have come forth in testimony at the court hearings. Activists have been yelling at them for decades. With all our voices together, perhaps, just perhaps someone will listen. But, please remember that polygamy itself is also a crime.

    Nancy Mereska, President
    Stop Polygamy in Canada


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