Polygamists' wives defend commune life
`We're happy and we're not abused' Woman welcomes probe
WESTERN CANADA BUREAU
VANCOUVERWives at a British Columbia polygamist
commune say they welcome a police probe into allegations of
child abuse, forcible marriage and sexual exploitation.
"As far as I know, we don't have anything to hide,"
Marlene Palmer, a 45-year-old mother of six, said in an
interview yesterday from the community of Bountiful in
"We're happy and we're not forced and we're not abused.
"We feel like we're very content in our lifestyle."
B.C. Attorney-General Geoff Plant announced last month
that the RCMP was forming a team to investigate the
allegations in the community of about 1,000 near Cranbrook.
For years the group at Bountiful, a breakaway sect of
the Mormon Church known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter Day Saints, has been accused of making
teenaged girls concubines or "celestial wives" of much older
men who have other wives.
Although polygamy is illegal in Canada, Victoria has
been reluctant to act against the commune because it has
obtained legal opinions that the group could successfully
launch a constitutional argument that such a move violates
their right to freedom of religion.
Palmer, who has lived her entire life at Bountiful and
is in a polygamist relationship, said about 80 women from the
community will meet this weekend to draft a news release. They
plan to send it to the media to explain how they feel about
life there and what's happening, "and try to dismiss some of
the myths, some of the lies that are going around," she said.
"Words don't really hurt us a lot," Palmer said. "But
it is kind of frustrating when so many lies are spread about
"We're just normal people."
Bountiful was established in the ruggedly beautiful
area north of the Idaho border in the late 1940s, and has
flourished despite an RCMP probe more than a decade ago that
recommended charges be laid. The B.C. crown ignored the
Palmer said allegations that dog Bountiful come from
people "discouraged and frustrated" with their religion who've
decided to leave it behind.
"And, of course, when they're upset at that religion
they say all kinds of horrible things about it," she said.
"It's a sad situation.
"I would not hide abuse if I knew of a case with
children or women or men."
Former Bountiful resident Debbie Palmer, 49, said she
"was not surprised at all" to hear some women in the community
were vigorously defending it.
"To them, it's everyday life, they don't know any
different," said Palmer, who was married to the same man as
Marlene Palmer when she fled the community in 1988. She had
eight children from three assigned marriages including one
where she became, at 15, the sixth wife of a 55-year-old man.
"Years ago, I would have been one of the most
passionate defenders of what was going on," she said from her
Saskatchewan home. "It's understandable when you're caught up
RCMP Corporal Cate Galliford said police are still
deciding how to approach the probe, which will involve
provincial ministry of children and families staff.
articles by Daniel Girard
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