Winston Blackmore and James Oler were found guilty yesterday of polygamy. The two are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Bountiful BC and have over thirty wives between them.
Blackmore has welcomed the verdict, arguing it opens the opportunity for him to challenge the constitutionality of the law.
Section 293 of the Criminal Code declares it a crime for anyone to enter into "any form of polygamy or any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time, whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage." The BC Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that the law was constitutional.
Writing for our newsletter before the verdict came down, BC Humanist Association Executive Director Ian Bushfield said:
This trial brings into conflict some of the values at the core of Humanism. On the one hand, the principles of liberty ask us to support the free association of individuals, including in non-traditional relationships (for example, same sex couples or polyamorous relationships). On the other hand, Humanists have a deep concern over how religious dogma leads to exploitation and violence against women and girls in this community. We have a duty to fight for the oppressed and to seek to reduce injustice in the world.
Before it convicts Blackmore, the court will hear his challenges to the law's constitutionality and another procedural question. If those arguments fail, the verdicts will be registered as convictions, although Blackmore and Oler will retain the right to appeal.
If their conviction stands, Blackmore and Oler could face a sentence of up to five years in prison.