Vancouver Canada seems to have become a haven for polygamists. Increasingly, polygamists are migrating to Canada, due apparently to the relative safety it affords them from possible prosecution.
Polygamy is illegal in Canada, but authorities in British Columbia to date have chosen not to take any meaningful action against polygamists, despite their sordid history and recent criminal prosecutions in the United States.
According to anti-polygamist Debbie Palmer of the advocacy group Eye on Polygamy, ''The word is out there that B.C. is a safe place for polygamists." The group held a public forum recently in Vancouver. Palmer said, "There are many polygamous families coming to Canada looking for a safe haven.''
Another anti-polygamy activist Carmen Thompson, director of the U.S. Center for Public Education and Information on Polygamy stated, ''It's not prosecuted because it hasn't been. It's much easier just to let it go.'' Thompson explained why polygamist wives are often reluctant to seek help from authorities. She said, ''Many are trapped in polygamy with nowhere to turn for help since Americans and Canadians alike have no idea what is needed to assist refugees of polygamy,'' Thompson herself spent 15 years as a polygamist ''sister-wife.''
Though polygamists claim they are simply excersising their freedom to practice religion, anti-polygamists say the practice of polygamy is actually destructive and a form of abuse. ''This is not about religion. It's about power and greed and sex,'' Thompson said. ''They hide behind the veil of religion.''
Thompson and Palmer are deeply concerned about minor children who have been shipped across the border to become wives of men old enough to be their fathers. They say at least 45 teenage girls have been sent to Canada to marry polygamist men. Some 15 Canadian girls have likewise been sent in the other direction to marry U.S. men. One girl was 13 the rest were 14 to 16. ''No one ever looks at what happens to the women, they never see the heartache or the inward soul of the women who are dragged into it,'' said David Leavitt, a Utah attorney who successfully prosecuted polygamist Thomas Green, whose fifth wife was also his 13-year-old step-daughter.
Ms. Palmer herself was born into polygamy and raised in the Bountiful community in Canada. Her father was one of its founders and she was married at age 14 to Ray Blackmore, a colony leader. She had eight children, but later fled the group and became an advocate for the victims of polygamy.
Though the mainstream Mormon church also known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint (LDS) officially forsook polygamy in 1890, many Mormons refused to do so and created their own communities such as the Arizona 10,000 member group the "United Effort Plan" led by Rulon Jeffs. The Bountiful community in Canada, established in 1946 is a branch of that group. These supposed "fundamentalist Mormons" are not part of the LDS and see themselves as the "true Mormons." Such groups are often controlled by absolute authoritarian who have little if any meaningful accountability.
Notes: This article was largely based upon "'Word is out' Canada is a safe haven," By Stewart Bell The National Post July 12, 2002