Ex-member of B.C. polygamous sect tells court of struggles to become a nurse

The Canadian Press/November 24, 2016

By Lauren Krugel

A woman who broke free from a plural marriage told a trial Thursday that she had to repeatedly seek permission to go to nursing school, a pursuit she believed necessary to fulfill instructions from God relayed by the prophet of a polygamous sect.

Jane Blackmore testified for the second day at the trial of three members from the polygamous community of Bountiful, B.C., who are accused of transporting girls under the age of 16 into the United States for a sexual purpose.

Special prosecutor Peter Wilson said in his opening statements earlier this week in the B.C. Supreme Court that much of his case against James Oler, Brandon Blackmore and Gail Blackmore will centre around proving the women in Bountiful were required to be obedient to their husbands and fathers.

Ms. Blackmore reviewed her life in the polygamous community under cross-examination from Brandon Blackmore’s lawyer, John Gustafson, including her marriage to Winston Blackmore, who had 26 other wives, and the start of her nursing career.

Mr. Gustafson asked her about comments she made to the court about being “insistent” on getting an education past high school.

“You weren’t prevented from doing that?” Mr. Gustafson asked. She replied that she wasn’t.

Jane Blackmore testified that when she was 13 years old, the sect’s prophet told her it was God’s will that she care for the ill as the end of the world approached.

And while she was anxious to go to nursing school to carry out that role, there was reluctance from the leadership, she said.

She told the court she broached the topic with her husband numerous times and he took up the issue with the prophet, then Leroy Johnson, twice.

Initially, she was told that since the end of the world was so close, there was no point in beginning her schooling, the court heard.

“The end of times was always something that was imminently upon us,” she testified.

But, several dates for when it was believed the apocalypse would occur came and went. Eventually, she got the go-ahead she was seeking, Ms. Blackmore testified.

Mr. Gustafson asked about the steps she took to achieve that goal.

Ms. Blackmore, who is now 60, told the court that women in the community were not to pursue a post-secondary education until they were married and had children. Then their husbands were able to get permission on their behalf from the prophet.

Ms. Blackmore, who is also a midwife, was asked about detailed logs she kept of the babies she delivered during her time in Bountiful.

She testified earlier that she helped expectant mothers from the ages of 15 to 45 and it was common for them to be on the younger end of that range.

As Mr. Gustafson led Ms. Blackmore through the log’s pages line by line, he noted four out of more than 300 deliveries where the mothers were the age of 16 and none were younger.

Mr. Gustafson said that a number of entries were left blank or did not have the ages.

He asked repeatedly whether those incomplete columns were oversights or mistakes and Ms. Blackmore told the court each time that appeared to be the case.

“You weren’t leaving it blank to be deceptive?” he asked her at one point.

“That’s correct,” she replied.

The trial resumes Monday.

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