Local trustee wants school closed
Thursday, June 24, 2004
School Trustee Bob Haslett is not afraid to stick his nose
in other people's business, as long as it means saving children from abuse,
whether that be in this area's school districts or in another.
After reading stories in The Vancouver Sun about a school
community of Bountiful, where
children are reported to be sexually exploited, Haslett decided he needed to do
something about it.
"I've been around for 20 years as a school trustee now
and I've seen a lot of things happen in British Columbia with regards to
education but I've never seen anything this brutal," Haslett says.
At the latest School District No. 54 meeting, he put
forward a motion that the district write letters to three provincial ministries
and to all school boards to garner support to put an end to the pubic funding
of this school.
The school in Bountiful is run by a sect of Mormons who
call themselves the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Media reports say the school received over $600,000 in public funding for the
2002-03 school year and over $400,000 in public funding for the 2003-04 school
One of Haslett's main concerns is that the school, which
teaches Kindergarten to Grade 12, has never graduated a student.
"If that happened at any public school district in
British Columbia we would have the board replaced instantly," he says.
"If those people are not completing their curriculum
to the standard of the Dogwood certificate, then they have absolutely no right
to receive funding whatsoever."
A number of women have escaped from Bountiful, where they
say girls as young as 14 are married to men as much as 40 years older than
them, and are willing to testify about the illegal polygamy that goes on there.
One of the Mormon leaders in Bountiful, Winston Blackmore, is reported to have
27 wives and nearly 100 children.
Community leaders in Bountiful contend that polygamy, the
practice of having more than one spouse, is part of their religion and their
it is protected by the Canadian
Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
So far the Crown hasn't prosecuted, though investigating
RCMP officers have recommended that charges be laid.
Haslett says he doesn't understand why the school has not
been shut down.
He says there are three provincial ministries that should
get involved. The Ministry of Children and Families should get involved to stop
the child abuse. While the Ministry of the Attorney General should get involved
because polygamy is not legal in Canada, regardless of religious freedom.
"(The girls) are basically being concubines. That's
not religious freedom. To me, that's abuse. That's all there is to it," he
He also says the Ministry of Education should be involved
because children are not completing their education, often beyond Grade 7 or 8.
Haslett says the government has acknowledged that these
"They've acknowledged that these problems exist but
they don't feel like they have a right to intervene," he says.
"My response to that is, you know, we've got Canadian
soldiers serving time in Taliban-controlled (regions) in Afghanistan, because
we simply didn't agree with the way they treated people, religious freedom or
Haslett says he's also concerned because this is
widespread problem than many people think.
"One school trustee from
told me that they had been up in the Peace River and there had been a commune
up there and it was basically the same thing as they are talking about in the
community of Bountiful. (The children) were taken out of school at a very young
age to become farm workers."
"To me that's ludicrous. That's criminal."
Haslett hopes that public outrage and pressure from public
school districts will cause the government to take action. But he says if
nothing happens by the fall he will bring the matter to the B.C. School
Trustees Association annual meeting, at which time he hopes more people will
The Interior News