Civil rights group urges B.C. to probe sect

Oak Bay News, Canada/June 15, 2007

The B.C. government has appointed Vancouver lawyer Richard Peck as a special prosecutor, the latest step in a lengthy investigation of the polygamous community of Bountiful in southeastern B.C.

Attorney General Wally Oppal said Peck will review a charge assessment done by four ministry lawyers, after a lengthy police investigation of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints commune near Creston.

The investigation dates back to 1990, with advocacy groups and former residents alleging that male community leaders not only have multiple wives, but sexually exploit young girls in the community.

"As far as the allegations of sexual impropriety are concerned, we've had some difficulty over the years in obtaining the co-operation of witnesses, and regarding the ages of the various people in Bountiful," Oppal said. "As far as the polygamy charges are concerned, we want to ensure we are on a sound legal basis, given the fact that there are some legal opinions out there that the offence of polygamy may be contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

Among those pushing the B.C. government to prosecute community leaders are the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the B.C. Teachers' Federation, both of whom criticize the way provincially funded private schools in the community are run.

"The high and early dropout rate from these schools indicate Bountiful students are not receiving an education that will allow them to function outside the community or to be knowledgeable about their rights as citizens," said John Russell of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association in a 2004 letter to the Premier.

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