Canadian Press NewsAlert: B.C. judge rejects challenge in polygamy case


CRANBROOK, B.C. — A judge has rejected a challenge of Canada’s polygamy laws that was launched after two men were found guilty of the offence in British Columbia.

Winston Blackmore and James Oler were found guilty in B.C. Supreme Court last July of having multiple wives, but a lawyer for Blackmore argued the law infringes on the charter right to freedom of religion and expression.

Justice Sheri Ann Donegan dismissed all arguments today that the charges should be stayed, including a claim that the prosecution was an abuse of process.

Both men have been leaders in the small community of Bountiful in southeastern B.C., where court heard residents are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which condones plural marriage.

Blackmore was found guilty of marrying two dozen women, while Oler was found to have five wives.

Donegan did not set a date for sentencing in the case, but registered the convictions against the two men, which had been delayed while the constitutional arguments were made.

In December, Blackmore argued that he believed he was allowed to practice polygamy because he wasn’t charged when police investigated allegations about his multiple wives in the 1990s.

His lawyer, Blaire Suffredine, argued the unions were never legal marriages, but common-law relationships sanctioned by Blackmore’s church, which carry no legal weight.

Special prosecutor Peter Wilson argued Blackmore was always at risk of prosecution, even though Canada’s polygamy laws have in the past been constitutionally vague.

Wilson said the B.C. Supreme Court ruled in a 2011 reference case that it is not unconstitutional to charge someone with polygamy.

“The release of the polygamy reference was a sea change in the legal landscape,” he said during legal arguments in December. “Nothing could have been more significant to a charging decision, in the circumstances of this case, than that.”

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Source:: Nationalpost


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