Two men from the Mormon community known as Bountiful have been found guilty of practicing polygamy.
BC Supreme Court Justice Sherri Ann Donegan delivered her verdict in a Cranbrook courtroom Monday, proving Crown Counsel proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Winston Blackmore and James Oler deliberately married multiple women over a stretch of several decades.
Donegan said Blackmore made many indications in a conversation with RCMP in 2009 that he intended to enter in plural marriages and did not deny to officers that he was a polygamist.
Blackmore is said to have at least 24 different wives.
In the case of Oler, Donegan pointed to comments he made in 2006, where he confirmed he also had several wives.
Oler married five different women between 1983 and 2005.
Marriage records, personal records and expert testimony, including a former wife of Winston Blackmore were relied heavily on by Donegan during the 12-day trial this Spring.
Donegan said she found Ms. Blackmore to be a highly credible witness who was honest, impartial and provided reliable evidence.
The precedent setting decision follows a decades long legal battle after RCMP first looked into the isolated community of Bountiful in the 1990s.
It marks the first time in Canadian history someone has been convicted of practicing polygamy and adds clarity to our country’s laws around religious freedoms.
Court was adjourned until August.21st when the parties will meet to set a sentencing date.
The maximum sentence for practicing polygamy in Canada is five years.
– Josh Hoffman