2 min

Polygamy leader sues BC for unlawful prosecution

Blackmore and his family were put under 'extreme stress and anxiety,' says statement of claim

Southeastern BC polygamous leader Winston Blackmore is suing the province of British Columbia for unlawful prosecution after charges of polygamy were quashed last year.

BC Supreme Court Judge Sunni Stromberg-Stein ruled in September that former provincial attorney general Wally Oppal had no authority to appoint a second special prosecutor in the cases of Blackmore and James Oler after the first special prosecutor recommended against charging the two fundamentalist Mormons from Bountiful, BC.

Stromberg-Stein ruled the appointment of the second was “unlawful” and quashed the appointment.

As a result, any decisions in the charging made by the men were also unlawful.

Blackmore’s lawyers called the situation one of “prosecutor shopping.”

Now, in a suit filed in BC Supreme Court the week of Jan 10 by lawyer Joe Arvay, Blackmore says he suffered loss of business and other economic costs as well as pain and suffering, mental distress, anxiety and public embarrassment.

“He and his family were put under extreme stress and anxiety,” the statement of claim reads.

Blackmore has admitted to having multiple wives.

He is seeking general damages, aggravated damages, punitive damages, special damages and costs for the suit.

The suit maintains Blackmore should receive damages since the case, which caused the suffering, was ruled unlawful.

The original case has spurred a constitutional reference before the BC Supreme Court to determine the legality of the anti-polygamy law.

Current Attorney General Mike de Jong called for the reference, telling Xtra West “we believe polygamy is against the law and should remain against the law.”

Members of Canada’s polyamorous community are expected to take part in the case.

The reference to determine if Section 293 of the Criminal Code violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will be heard by BC Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman. No date has been set.

Arvay was the lawyer who took the Little Sister’s bookstore case against Canada Customs book seizures to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Blackmore’s former lawyer suggested the men might use Canada’s legalization of same-sex marriage as part of their defence. Parliament extended full marriage rights to same-sex couples in 2005.

Blackmore was long known as “the Bishop of Bountiful” until he came into conflict with now-disgraced and jailed Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) “Prophet” Warren Jeffs.

Blackmore runs an independent group of about 400 people in the hamlet, only hundreds of metres from the US border.

He once ran the Canadian wing of the Utah-based FLDS but was ejected by Jeffs.

Oler is the bishop of Bountiful’s FLDS community and is one of Jeffs’s followers convicted by a Utah jury in 2007 on two counts of first-degree felony rape as an accomplice.

FLDS members practise polygamy in arranged marriages, a tradition tied to the early theology of the Mormon Church. The mainstream church renounced polygamy in 1890, but several fundamentalist groups left the main church in order to continue the practice.