Two top leaders of a fundamentalist plural-marriage sect living in a commune-style compound called Bountiful in British Columbia have been arrested and charged with practicing polygamy. The criminal charges against the men are a first in Canada.
Canadian laws banning polygamy date back decades, though no one has previously been prosecuted for breaking them. Winston Blackmore, 52, and James Oler, 44, leaders of rival factions in the sectarian community, were arrested and charged January 7 with one count each of practicing polygamy.
Legal experts say the case promises to pit Canada’s antipolygamy law against the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees freedom of religious expression.
The Bountiful community, composed of members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), is Canada’s sole polygamous sect.