A timeline of polygamy in Canada

By The Canadian Press

CRANBROOK, B.C. – 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 after a locale in the Book of Mormon. Winston Blackmore becomes its leader. The community is connected to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, led by Warren 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 — two 12-year-olds and one 13-year-old — 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.

February 2017: A B.C. Supreme Court judge finds two people guilty of taking a girl into the United States for a sexual purpose. Justice Paul Pearlman found that former couple Brandon Blackmore and Emily Ruth Gail Blackmore took a 13-year-old girl over the border and days later she was married to Jeffs. Emily Ruth Gail Blackmore appeals the decision.

August 2017: Brandon Blackmore is sentenced to a year in jail while his ex-wife, Emily Ruth Gail Blackmore is handed a term of seven months. Both are ordered to serve 18 months of probation.

July 2017: Two former bishops of the religious commune are found guilty of practising polygamy. The court finds Winston Blackmore had 24 wives and James Oler had five wives.

June 26, 2018: Winston Blackmore is sentenced to a six-month conditional sentence to be served under house arrest that allows him to go to work and attend to medical emergencies, followed by a year of probation. James Oler term is three months of house arrest, followed by 12 months of probation.

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