Prosecutor wants jail time for two men in British Columbia polygamy case

CRANBROOK, B.C. — A special prosecutor is recommending two men who were leaders of a religious sect in British Columbia serve time in jail after being found guilty of polygamy.

Peter Wilson asked a British Columbia Supreme Court judge Tuesday for a sentence of between 90 days and six months in jail for Winston Blackmore, and a term of one month to 90 days for James Oler.

Wilson said the offences were motivated by “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

“They are both, by all accounts, law-abiding, hard-working citizens, honest men,” he said.

But Wilson said the sentences must denounce their crimes and deter others.

He told Justice Sheri Ann Donegan that there are only two other convictions for polygamy in Canadian history, but because those cases took place in 1899 and 1906 they do not help in determining a sentence for Blackmore and Oler.

Blackmore’s lawyer, Blair Suffredine, asked the judge to consider all possible sentences in the case, including an absolute discharge.

He said the unusual circumstances of the case need to be taken into account, including decades of investigations and court proceedings, as well as Blackmore’s positive influence in the community and his religious beliefs.

“None of this was done with the intention of breaking the law. All of it was done through legitimate religious beliefs,” Suffredine argued.

The courtroom in Cranbrook was packed for the sentencing hearing, mostly with members of Blackmore’s family. There were not enough seats to accommodate everyone and a video link was set up so dozens of others could watch the hearing from another courtroom.

Donegan found Blackmore, 62, guilty last July of marrying two dozen women, while Oler, 54, was found to have married five women.

Both men have been leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which condones plural marriage. They live in the small community of Bountiful in southeastern B.C.

Suffredine asked the court to stay the charges against his client after the guilty verdicts, arguing the law against polygamy infringed on Blackmore’s charter rights to religious freedom.

Donegan dismissed the arguments in March, saying both Blackmore and Oler knew that entering into multiple marriages is illegal in Canada.

The maximum sentence for polygamy under the Criminal Code is five years in prison.

Just Posted

Fire investigators comb through industrial fire wreckage looking for answers

Industrial building in north Red Deer was completely gutted in Wednesday morning fire

Time for a central Albertan in cabinet, says chamber of commerce

Central Alberta had no cabinet ministers in last government

Trump Russia probe finally delivers some answers

WASHINGTON — After nearly two years of waiting, America is getting some… Continue reading

Trans Mountain Pipeline deadline extended

OTTAWA — The federal government is delaying a decision on the Trans… Continue reading

WATCH video of Innisfail resident creating the world’s biggest caricature

Watch as Innisfail resident Dean Foster creates the world’s biggest caricature of… Continue reading

Lower price discounts to boost Q1 oil profits but uncertainty hangs over sector

CALGARY — Lower discounts on western Canadian oil prices have swollen producer… Continue reading

Local Sports: Hard training pays off for Red Deer runner Jared Howse

Jared Howse understands success doesn’t come easily. The 17-year-old has put together… Continue reading

CRA’s automatic benefit registrations give retirees reason to file on time

TORONTO — This is the time of year when procrastinators begin to… Continue reading

Study: Genetic test predicts middle-aged obesity risk

NEW YORK — Can a genetic test identify newborns at risk of… Continue reading

Downtown Red Deer Co-op Plaza Food store closing

Central Alberta Co-op is closing its downtown Red Deer Plaza food store… Continue reading

Earth, meet Polo: Ralph Lauren unveils plastic bottle shirt

NEW YORK — Earth, meet Polo. Polo Ralph Lauren on Thursday launched… Continue reading

Statistics Canada reports retail sales rose 0.8 per cent in February

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says retail sales rose 0.8 per cent in… Continue reading

Inflation rises 1.9% on higher prices for fresh vegetables, mortgage costs

OTTAWA — Canada’s annual inflation was up last month as price pressures… Continue reading

Most Read