Polygamy charges approved against Bountiful leaders
Published Wednesday, August 13, 2014 6:03PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 13, 2014 10:00PM EDT
Members of two fundamentalist sects in Bountiful, B.C., face charges of polygamy and the unlawful removal of children.
A special prosecutor approved the charges Wednesday.
Winston Kaye Blackmore and James Marion Oler face charges of polygamy, and Oler also faces a charge of the unlawful removal of a child from Canada.
The two men lead separate religious sects in the community that follow a fundamentalist version of Mormonism which holds polygamy as a tenet of faith.
The mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints renounced polygamy more than 100 years ago, and has no connection to the Bountiful sects.
According to court documents released Wednesday, it is alleged that Winston Blackmore "practiced a form of polygamy" or a kind of "conjugal union" with 24 different women.
It is also alleged in the documents that Oler practiced a form of polygamy with four different women.
Two more Bountiful members, Brandon James Blackmore and Emily Ruth Crossfield, face charges of the unlawful removal of a child from Canada.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
The first court appearance for the accused is set for Oct. 9 in Creston, B.C.
The special prosecutor, Vancouver-based lawyer Peter Wilson, was appointed in January 2012 to look at whether charges could be laid in the Bountiful investigation.
Wilson was appointed after polygamy charges against Winston Blackmore and Oler were thrown out in 2009 over a technicality, prompting a landmark constitutional reference case.
In November 2011, the B.C. Supreme Court upheld the country's anti-polygamy law.
Neil MacKenzie, a spokesperson for the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch, said Wednesday that the charges of polygamy are similar to charges that were previously before the court.
The charges of unlawfully removing a child from Canada are new, stemming from information that came to light during an investigation in the U.S.
B.C.'s former attorney general, Wally Opal, had fought to bring charges against the Bountiful leaders in the past. He told CTV Vancouver that he was "encouraged" by the approval of the charges.
"I felt that in light of the activities that were ongoing in Bountiful some criminal charges ought to be laid, and that's now been done," he told CTV Vancouver.
With a report by CTV News' Jill Macyshon and files from CTV Vancouver and The Canadian Press