Keith Fraser wrote in the Province newspaper today:-
A polygamous mother from Utah on Wednesday agreed to lift an anonymity order and testify using her name at the polygamy trial in B.C. Supreme Court.
Alina Darger, who has seven children, spoke glowingly of her experiences growing up in a polygamous family and as one of three sister wives to her current husband. Darger, born in Salt Lake City in 1969, was initially one of a number of fundamentalist Mormons who agreed to testify only if their identities could be shielded.
She said that she had previously done press interviews but when she was offered anonymity to testify, she agreed because it was always a risk to use her name. “As the case proceeded and as I thought about it more, I felt that this would be just a historic case that may never come up again and an opportunity to present a voice that might not otherwise be heard,” she said.
“So I decided to drop the anonymity.”
Prior to the trial opening in November, B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman agreed to allow a number of fundamentalist Mormons to testify without identifying themselves. A number of those unnamed witnesses are to be heard next week.
To date, much of the evidence at trial has indicated that polygamy is associated with harms to individuals, families and society as a whole. But Darger, who describes herself as an independent fundamentalist Mormon who does not belong to a church, painted a completely different picture of her life.
She said her father had two wives and 32 children, with her own mother having 15 of those kids.
“Growing up, I lived in a plural family and I loved that experience and I thought it was really amazing,” she told the judge.“I always felt like I had somebody close to care for me.”
Court has heard that many polygamous communities have arranged marriages, but Darger said she does not believe in the practice. She said she and her two sister wives entered their marriages with her husband with free choice.
“From a religious perspective, what role does plural marriage play?” asked lawyer Robert Wickett, who is representing fundamentalist Mormons. “Obviously it’s a very sacred and deep principle to me,” she replied. “And I believe it with all my heart and I think it makes a better person of me. All of us come together on family holidays and we love one another.”
Darger said she married at the age of 20, the same age as her husband. She was the first wife and thus is legally married. There are 24 kids among the three sister wives, she said.
I must say I was surprised to hear a woman telling the court how much she loved her polygamous family, and describing it as 'an amazing experience'. She did talk of the sacrifice and commitment that polygamy demanded. But no coercion was involved in her marriage - she made her own choice - and she and her family did not belong to any specific polygamous group.
Two telling points - firstly, the affidavit presented to the Court in her name was written with input from husband and sister wives. She was able to identify only one passage specifically written by herself. Secondly, as the first (and therefore legal ) wife, Darger was asked if her name was on the title to her home. She replied that she wasn't sure but that she thought so. When asked whether the names of her sister wives were on the title, she paused, somewhat flustered, and said she didn't know.
She assured the Court that she would be able to leave her marriage without difficulty if she so chose.