Abbott calls for charges against Bountiful

Kootenai Valley Press News/February 24, 2005
By Mike Weland

Saying it would give an opportunity to test the constitutionality of Canadian law, Kootenay-Columbia Member of Parliament Jim Abbott, Cranbrook, recently said charges against the alleged polygamist community of Bountiful, situated near Creston, British Columbia, should be filed, though he confessed that he doesn't think Canada's federal law banning polygamy will stand under such a test.

The RCMP in Creston have had an on-going investigation, but to date, no charges have been filed, much to the chagrin of many in the area who say they've long been concerned about the possible exploitation of children in the closed community, formerly led for many years by Fundamental Latter Day Saints Bishop Winston Blackmore, "The Bishop of Bountiful," who was ousted soon after current sect leader Warren Jeffs assumed "prophet" status in the sect following his father's death in 1998.

It is believed that a splinter group of the church has followed Blackmore to Boundary County, where he owns property near Porthill.

Not only is polygamy against the law in Canada, it is specifically forbidden by the Idaho Constitution.

Allegations against the sect, based on the principals of the Mormon Church but continuing to hold to the tenets of founder Joseph Smith, which were renounced by the church in the late 1890s, include young women, some no older than 13, being forced into illegal marriage with older men who have multiple wives, of women and children being "trafficked" to other FLDS communities, mainly in the southwest, and of children being denied adequate education in schools operated by the church but paid for by Canadian citizens. Under Jeffs leadership, there is also growing concern of young men being excommunicated after a lifetime under the teachings of the church so as not to deprive older church leaders young women for their harems. These "lost boys" are thrown into a world they don't have the social skills or education to handle, and often run into problems with drugs, alcohol and the law.

Abbott, who has been a member of Parliament since 1993, has received harsh criticism for his lack of action on the Bountiful issue, but he counters that the anti-polygamy laws of Canada are federal, not provincial, and that the RCMP must complete their investigation and bring the charges.

British Columbia attorney general Geoff Plant has approached the Canadian federal government about tightening the anti-polygamy statutes so they can withstand challenges under the freedom of religion clause of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and until the law is amended, Abbott believes, charges leveled now won't be successfully prosecuted.

While much controversy has raged over the allegations at Bountiful, which was established over 50-years ago, Abbott told Cranbrook Daily Townsman reporter Gerry Warner that there are times to be political and grandstanding, and times to attempt to resolve issues so they don't create more unrest.

"And that's where we are on this issue," he said.

Calls regarding the state of the RCMP investigations have not been returned.

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