Sect greets abuse probe
Polygamist leader says group will co-operate
July 27, 2004
CRESTON, B.C. -- Stating he
has nothing to hide, the spiritual leader of a polygamist sect says he will not
hamper an investigation into alleged acts of sexual exploitation, forced
marriage and child abuse by his group. In a rare interview, Winston Blackmore
told the Calgary Sun he welcomes a just-announced investigation by B.C.'s
attorney general into the sexual and marriage practices of the Mormon
Blackmore, while admitting he has up to 20
wives, says his community -- part of a breakaway sect of the Mormon Church --
is doing nothing wrong.
"I urge the attorney general to come
see us and (he) will find co-operation in the investigation," said
Blackmore, who is leader to about half the roughly 1,000 residents of
Bountiful, just outside Creston, about 520 km southwest of Calgary.
B.C.'s attorney general, Geoff Plant,
announced last week a special police task force made up of Mounties, a social
worker and a dedicated prosecutor will look into the allegations.
"All of these are crimes that need to
be investigated that don't relate to polygamy," said Plant.
This province's top law man said he's taking
action because he received a first-hand account from a woman who alleges she
was a victim in Bountiful and because of a "serious groundswell of public
However, Blackmore said the scrutiny is
"(The authorities) did this in 1990 and
there was three police officers there who wouldn't even let me go to the
bathroom by myself," he said.
"They were trying to prove I had more
than one wife so I said, 'Right, I do, now go away.'"
While it's been reported Blackmore has about
30 wives, he said that figure is high, but wouldn't reveal the exact number.
"It is less than 20," he said.
Part of the reason Blackmore -- who was
excommunicated by the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints about a year
ago and is involved in a power struggle for control of the community -- has
vowed to co-operate with the authorities is if the charges are found to be
true, he wants to act on them.
"If there are cases like that here,
(the accused) have to be rehabilitated," he said.
Blackmore would not comment directly on the
new allegations, but he did say his small community is like any other.
"For me to say there hasn't been cases
of spousal abuse and (other crimes), well, that's beyond reason," he said.
"Draw a circle around Calgary with 800
people in it -- or take 800 people anywhere -- and then tell me there is no
child or sex abuse or spousal abuse there."
Authorities here have not said when the new investigation
will officially begin.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day
Saints, the official Mormon Church, has outlawed polygamy.
- - -
THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD: HOW POLYGAMY CAME
* 1830: Twenty-five-year-old Joseph Smith,
Jr., publishes the Book of Mormon, in which the New York state farm hand claims
God is a polygamist.
* 1844: Years of anti-Mormon attacks
culminate when Smith and his brother Hyrum Smith are killed by a mob at
Carthage Jail, Ill. Smith is said to have had 48 wives when he died.
* 1847: Salt Lake City founded by Mormon
Apostle Brigham Young and 1,000 Mormon followers, who were seeking freedom to
* 1887: Forty-one pro-polygamist Mormons
leave Utah, amid controversy over 'plural marriage,' and arrive in Alberta,
where they found
. The Canadian government
responds by making polygamy illegal.
* 1890: The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-Day Saints, the official Mormon Church, bans polygamy.
became MP for Lethbridge in 1935.
* Late 1940's: John
son Harold, a family friend, Eldon Palmer, and
two other men settle with their families near Creston, B.C., calling the area
Bountiful. For years, the community quietly thrives.