Crown wraps up closing arguments in British Columbia child bride case

CRANBROOK, B.C. — The Crown wrapped up its case Monday against a former member of a fundamentalist sect who is charged with the alleged removal of a girl from Canada in 2004 to marry a man in the United States.

Special prosecutor Peter Wilson argued that the Crown doesn’t have to prove that sexual activity took place between the girl and the man she married.

“The Crown only has to prove that at some point during the unfolding of the events, that the accused intended or subjectively foresaw that (the girl) would be subject to sexual contact,” Wilson told a B.C. Supreme Court judge in Cranbrook.

James Oler is charged with removing the 15-year-old girl from Canada to marry a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which practises polygamy in Bountiful, B.C., and the United States.

He was acquitted in 2017 by a judge who was not convinced Oler did anything within Canada’s borders to arrange the girl’s transfer to the U.S. But the B.C. Court of Appeal agreed with the Crown that proof of wrongdoing in Canada was not necessary and ordered a new trial.

Wilson argued that Oler should have known the girl would be subject to sexual activity following her marriage based on the nature of church doctrine and the role of women in the faith.

Women do not have financial assets and need permission to travel or pursue post-secondary education, former church members told the trial. They were taught that their role within the religion was to be a celestial wife in polygamous marriages and to bear children.

The court has heard the 15-year-old girl’s marriage was documented by priesthood records kept by Warren Jeffs, the church’s president and prophet. The records were seized after U.S. law enforcement raided the Yearning for Zion ranch in Texas a decade ago.

One priesthood record describes a phone call that Jeffs made to Oler, allegedly asking him to bring the girl to the United States to be married.

Oler, who is self-represented, did not call any witnesses or mount a legal defence.

Joe Doyle, who is serving as a friend of the court to ensure a fair trial, will present his closing arguments on Tuesday.

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