On the EDge: Was justice served in Canadian polygamy case?

Composite image, St. George News

OPINION – Friday’s sentencing of a Canadian couple that gave their then 13-year-old daughter to polygamist prophet Warren Jeffs is likely to do little to curb the culture of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints community residing in Bountiful, British Columbia.

Read more: 2 members of Canadian polygamist sect sentenced to jail in child-bride case

As we have seen, these judgments do little to end the enslavement of children forced into a life of abuse when trapped within this cult.

It didn’t happen when the law raided the Short Creek community of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, in the 1950s; it didn’t happen when Short Creek cop Rodney Holm was convicted in 2003 for having sex with a child he took as his third wife; it didn’t happen when Tom Green was convicted in 2001 on four counts of bigamy; and it didn’t happen in 2011 when they put Jeffs away for life plus 20 years in a Texas prison after being convicted of aggravated sexual assault of two girls – one 12, the other 15 – he had taken as spiritual wives.

And, I can pretty much guarantee not much will happen now that a couple of Jeffs’ followers have been sentenced to prison time in Canada.

It’s just not how it works.

In this February 2017 file photo, Gail Blackmore, right, and James Oler, left, arrive at the courthouse in Cranbrook, British Columbia. Two former bishops of an isolated religious commune in British Columbia, Blackmore and James Oler were convicted July 24 of practicing polygamy after a decades-long legal fight launched by the provincial government. The court found James Oler married five women in so-called “celestial” marriages involving residents in the tiny religious community of Bountiful, British Columbia. Photo taken in Cranbrook, British, Columbia, Feb. 3, 2017 | Photo by Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP, File, St. George News

Brandon James Blackmore, 71, and his estranged wife, Emily Ruth Gail Blackmore, 60, were sentenced Friday. He will serve a year in prison plus 18 months probation. She will serve seven months in prison and 18 months probation.

They were convicted on charges of removing a child from Canada for unlawful purposes.

It wasn’t just any child, it was their child.

She was only 13 at the time.

And, she wasn’t the first child the Blackmores had given to Jeffs for a spiritual marriage. They had previously given Jeffs another daughter who also became a so-called “spiritual wife.”

How did this all happen?

What provoked them to do so?

How could they do such a thing?

Because Warren Jeffs placed a phone call, invoked God’s name and told them that the 13-year-old “belonged to him,” according to court records.

And that was it.

Within hours they had packed the girl into a car and crossed the border, entering the United States to deliver her to their self-proclaimed prophet. Their eternal salvation, they were told, was on the line.

They drove the 860 or so miles from the small FLDS community of Bountiful, an outpost in southeastern British Columbia, where in 1946, fundamentalist Mormons ran to clandestinely practice their polygamous lifestyle, to Colorado City, an outpost in northwestern Arizona where, in 1913, fundamentalist Mormons ran to clandestinely practice their polygamous lifestyle.

Just days after they arrived, the child was placed in marriage to Jeffs.

Several months later, Jeffs sexually assaulted the girl. He made a recording of the act. Jurors in a Texas courtroom gasped when they heard him giving sexual instructions to the child and her frightened, timid responses.

In this April 2008 file photo, Winston Blackmore, the religious leader of the controversial polygamous community of Bountiful located near Creston, British Columbia, Canada, shares a laugh with six of his daughters and some of his grandchildren. Blackmore has been convicted of practicing polygamy after a decades-long legal fight. Blackmore was found guilty Monday, July 24, 2017, by British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Sheri Ann Donegan, photo taken near Creston, British Columbia, Canada, April 21, 2008 | Photo by Jonathan Hayward, The Canadian Press via The Associated Press, St. George News

The Blackmores got off light.

Knowingly handing over a 13-year-old girl to a sexual predator like Warren Jeffs is inconceivable to most people with humanity in their hearts.

To do so in the name of religion is unfathomable and perverts every notion of faith or religion or spirituality.

But, that’s what happens when a group of people are brainwashed from cradle to grave, when they are told that their eternal salvation lies in adherence to the word of the prophet, guru or whatever their so-called religious leader demands.

And, that is why the sentences handed down in this case, and the sentences still awaiting in the conviction of Winston Blackmore and James Oler last month on charges of polygamy, will have little impact on the future of polygamy in Canada, Arizona, Utah or anywhere else.

“I’m guilty of living my religion and that’s all I’m saying today because I’ve never denied that,” Winston Blackmore told reporters after his conviction in a Canadian court. “Twenty-seven years and tens of millions of dollars later, all we’ve proved is something we’ve never denied. I’ve never denied my faith. This is what we expected.”

Canadian officials could have pressed for more prison time. It’s on the books.

But, they didn’t because there is almost no precedent for this sort of thing in that country.

I grudgingly give them credit for their vigorous prosecution, something that is rare in the United States, where a blind eye, particularly in Utah, has been turned toward the issue of polygamy and its inherent abuses, offering merely a sordid wink and a nudge.

There has been no talk of reparations to the child in this case, by the way. She was just an unnamed piece of evidence, an unwilling actor in this wicked play.

How much damage has been done to this woman, who is now in her 20s, and who is going to fix it?

Or, for that matter, the countless other children who were abused in one way or another by this evil prophet and his slavishly devoted followers.

I’ve taken a lot of flak over the years from civil libertarians who argue that what takes place between consenting adults is none of our concern, which is true.

But, the polygamy story, the fundamentalist Mormon story, is of much greater context and must be viewed in a more critical light.

These are children being abused – sexually and otherwise.

Our welfare system has been abused on a large scale.

Our senses of morality have been offended on an even grander scale.

And, the only punishment is a veritable slap on the wrist.

Is this justice?

I think not.

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.


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  • Sedona August 12, 2017 at 10:18 am

    Me thinks that every time there is some Plig getting busted for something , that there is some Mormon lobbyists scrambling to the authorities, denouncing the crime but appealing to the rights of “religious freedom”.
    You wonder about these religious cults and the lack of justice that seems to surround their criminal penalties…..

    • Gcia August 13, 2017 at 5:34 pm

      Me thinks you don’t know your head from your butt. These weirdos are not Mormons!

  • comments August 12, 2017 at 11:06 am

    Canada is becoming very backwards, especially with all these hoards of moslems they keep importing in. Any day now they might start letting moslems rape 9 year olds as a matter of “respecting muslim culture”. Moslemism is a cult of its own, and canada has flushed itself down the toilet by allowing in these hoards. As far as Mormon polygamist cults and their tendencies towards pedophilia, I’m not sure what can be done as long as they have the protection that the LDS mormon church provides them, esp here in UT and in AZ. Strange thing, really.

    • Gcia August 13, 2017 at 5:39 pm

      Please remember that these weirdos are NOT Mormons. If you don’t know what you are talking about, then don’t talk. It gives others the wrong idea!

      • ladybugavenger August 14, 2017 at 9:20 am

        I suppose the church will always be connected (they read the same Book of Mormon)

        I suppose the separation of the LDS church from polygamy will never truly be separated in the eyes of the people (other than Mormons)

        The LDS church will never be able to draw that line of separation. Y’all read the same book. And y’all use to be one in the same.

        I can see the Mormons are fighting hard to draw the line but the religion was founded and made based on polygamy. To separate from it is to change the religion. There is so much confusion in the Mormon religion.

        • ladybugavenger August 14, 2017 at 1:18 pm

          That’s why it went from FLDs to LDS duhhhh Ladybug. That was the change in religion, one letter and denounce polygamy. I suppose if the FLDS could be dismantled and lots of people charged with child endangerment and abuse there would be a great separation. But the people on the inside would have to report it for the people on the outside to do anything about it….it’s disheartening.

          Anyone else watch escaping polygamy?
          I watch it. I see their struggle with leaving.

  • Foxyheart August 12, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    Why are they not charged with child sex trafficking? I think that people here in the US are charged and convicted and sent to prison for YEARS for giving their children to others for sex. Why is this different? Does Canada not have a sex trafficking law?

  • DRT August 12, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    Good article, Ed! You ask the question, “is this justice?” And we all know the answer to that question.
    But we have never had a “Justice System” in this country. We do have a “Legal System,” (which is broken,) but there’s no such thing as Justice. If there were, you wouldn’t see inner city blacks being given long prison terms for the exact same crimes that rich folks, (of any color,) just buy their way out of.
    Just what could actually be considered “Justice,” for the child victims of any sexual abuse? Not for the abusers, but for the victims. No matter what the legal system does to the offender, (and I believe death would be appropriate,) the victims have been summarily sentenced to a lifetime of anguish. A lifetime of seeking counseling, if they can afford it. A lifetime of wondering what they did wrong, (nothing,) of believing it’s their own fault, even though it isn’t. A lifetime of being unable to have a normal relationship.
    What actually would be “Justice,” for the individuals responsible for all this?

    And for the folks who are pointing fingers at Canada, just look at the USA’s abysmal record.

  • hoaganp August 12, 2017 at 10:35 pm

    With it being highly questionable whether these recent convictions in criminal court have done much to change the practices in polygamist communities, I wonder if pursuing justice in civil court might. If we had some of the victims of polygamist sexual abuse that were to sue and win damages in civil court to the extent that the financial awards were devastating for the abuser, my guess is this might be more effective than serving jail time in getting them to reevaluate their so called religious beliefs that promote the sexual abuse of children.

  • riccie August 12, 2017 at 11:28 pm

    Your correct ED. I don’t approve of the problems they have caused. However would you be singing a different song if they were illegals from another country doing the same thing? Many Muslim & Hindu countries have the same multi wives and child brides.

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