CRANBROOK, B.C. â€” A B.C. Supreme Court judge found two people guilty Friday of taking a girl into the United States for a sexual purpose. Justice Paul Pearlman found that former couple Brandon Blackmore and Gail Blackmore took a 13-year-old girl over the border and days later she was married to Warren Jeffs, the now imprisoned leader of a sect that practises plural marriage.
Here is a timeline of polygamy in Canada:
1890: Wilford Woodruff, president of the Mormon church, ends the religion’s long-standing practise of plural marriages, paving the path for Utah to become the 45th American state in 1896. Canada passes legislation outlawing polygamy, with specific language targeting Mormonism.
1947: A religious commune is established in Creston Valley near Lister, B.C., reportedly by three men expelled from a nearby Mormon church for refusing to renounce polygamy.
1985: The settlement in B.C. is named Bountiful â€” after a locale in the Book of Mormon â€” when Winston Blackmore becomes its leader. The community is connected to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, led by Jeffs.
1993: Immigration Canada confirms it is aware of U.S. girls arriving into Bountiful from Utah and Arizona but says it hasn’t taken action because of the conflict in legal opinion between the federal and provincial governments.
September 2002: Jeffs excommunicates Blackmore and installs James Oler as the church’s leader. Blackmore splits with the fundamentalist church, bringing nearly half of the 1,000-member community with him to start his own religious faction.
2008: A U.S. investigation brings to light documents seized from the fundamentalist Yearning for Zion Ranch in Texas, revealing that more than two-dozen girls have been ferried across the border between polygamous communities. The records are used to prosecute Jeffs for sexually assaulting underage girls, and also show that at least three girls from Bountiful â€” two 12-year-olds and one 13-year-old â€” were allegedly taken to the U.S. and married to the church leader.
August 2011: Jeffs is sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years, with no eligibility for parole for 35 years, for sexual assault.
November 2011: The B.C. Supreme Court upholds Canada’s polygamy laws in a reference case, ruling that a section of the Criminal Code banning plural marriages is constitutional. The court’s chief justice finds that the harm against women and children outweighs concerns over protecting religious freedom.
January 2015: The B.C. Supreme Court bans the province’s polygamous groups from posing as mainstream Mormonism by calling themselves the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has strongly distanced itself from any polygamous offshoots. The ruling also prohibits the use of the words “Latter-day Saints” and “Mormon” and compels Blackmore to change his group’s name to the Church of Jesus Christ (Original Doctrine) Inc.
The Canadian Press