Polygamist sect on meeting agenda

Halifax Chronicle Herald (Canada)/August 1, 2006

Vancouver (CP) -- As legal action in the investigation into a B.C. polygamist commune looms, the province's attorney general will be meeting with his Arizona and Utah counterparts next week to discuss the situation in their jurisdictions.

Wally Oppal said the investigation into allegations of sexual abuse at the Bountiful commune in southeastern British Columbia is continuing and may yield results soon.

"We are optimistic that something will happen soon," Oppal said. "We are really concentrating on one area and that is the area of the apparent sexual abuse and the sexual exploitation."

But, Oppal said, that does not mean the province is not concerned about allegations of polygamy at the commune just south of Creston and only metres from the U.S. border.

People at the commune are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

There have long been allegations of sexual abuse at the commune and rumours of charges against leaders of the community such as Winston Blackmore have long been whispered.

"I don't think we're that far away actually. We've got our fingers crossed," Oppal said.

But, Oppal said, the community is tight and getting people to come forward and testify is a major stumbling block.

"Just when we think we're getting witnesses to come forward and testify we find out that they're not forthcoming," he said. "It is somewhat frustrating."

Oppal will be discussing common problems with polygamist communities with the attorneys general of Arizona and Utah at a meeting in Alaska at the end of next week.

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