Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day Four - Attorney General of Canada

Daphne Bramham gave good coverage to yesterday's proceedings.  She wrote in the Vancouver Sun:

The lead lawyer for the B.C. attorney general closed his arguments Wednesday, and said 'the harms caused by polygamy cannot be easily addressed through the enforcement of child exploitation, sexual assault, procurement or other laws.

If the prohibition on polygamy cannot be supported by the evidence presented over the past few months in B.C. Supreme Court, it could never be supported.

With that, Craig Jones – the lead lawyer for the B.C. attorney general – ended his closing argument Wednesday in the constitutional reference case to determine whether the polygamy law is valid.

He took three days to review more than two months of evidence, legal precedents and answer the written arguments that the court-appointed amicus George Macintosh will make later in his closing submission.

Jones rejected suggestions by Macintosh and others that the harms of polygamy could be addressed by implementing stricter child-exploitation or trafficking laws or even more vigorous enforcement of the existing laws.

“It is a nice idea that the harms that go hand-in-hand with the practise of polygamy could be addressed if only the practise would be brought into the sunlight through decriminalization,” Jones told Chief Justice Robert Bauman of the B.C. Supreme Court.

“But there is no reason to believe that this would happen. Polygamy needs insularity to hide the abuses that it requires to sustain itself through generations. It requires insularity to shield the methods of of control and indoctrination that will guarantee the next generation of willing child brides.”

He pointed to evidence – some of which has been filed and some which has yet to be filed – of a pattern of criminality by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Church marriage records, birth records and diary entries by FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs indicate that 31 under-aged girls were trafficked between Canada and the United States for arranged marriages with church leaders.

In exchange for their sisters or daughters, some of the men – including James Oler and Winston Blackmore, two former bishops of Bountiful – were given child brides of their own.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 3 - Final arguments

The day began with BC lawyer Craig Jones continuing his final argument before Judge Bauman. 

He finished by quoting from the testimony of Truman Oler, the "lost boy" from Bountiful who managed to make a life for himself outside that community, and who is now happily married with three young children. Truman's words, as he expressed his awakening to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, brought tears to my eyes when I first heard them several weeks ago in Courtroom #55 in Vancouver.   They brought tears to my eyes again today.

Once again, the CBC live stream made it possible for those of us who live hundreds of miles away to hear everything that was said.   

Today the Globe & Mail published the James Keller piece below:

A B.C. government lawyer says polygamy isn't illegal because it's a religious practice — but he says religion certainly makes it worse.

The B.C. Supreme Court is examining whether Canada's law against polygamy is constitutional, and the provincial and federal governments are arguing in closing submissions that the practice is inherently harmful and the law should be upheld.

Final Arguments - Day 2

It is gratifying to be able to watch the proceedings at home on my computer.  For the first time, not only do viewers get to see the faces of the lawyers, but we can actually hear every word that is uttered.  (So different from sitting in Courtroom 55, where the walls are padded with sound-reducing fabric, and where the lawyers and judge are some 25 feet in front of the public seating.)   I have always believed that justice should be seen to be done, but in Courtroom 55 something should be done to ensure that justice can also be heard while it is being done!

Yesterday's final arguments by the AGBC produced some interesting newspaper comments.  In the Globe and Mail this morning, James Keller wrote:

In late 2005, the now-jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs called two men in Bountiful, B.C., and told them to bring their 12-year-old daughters to the United States to be wed, according to passages from Mr. Jeffs’s diaries presented in a B.C. court Tuesday.

Mr. Jeffs, who was in his late 40s or early 50s at the time and already married to dozens of women, told the men the girls would become his new wives.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The first day of final arguments

I spent several hours today in front of my computer, watching the live stream put out by the CBC.  What an interesting session!  Craig Jones, lead lawyer for the Attorney General of BC set about refuting arguments presented by the challengers, and the final twenty minutes of his presentation were absolutely riveting.  (Please forgive my prejudice in his favour!)

Daphne Bramham wrote in today's Vancouver Sun

Lawyers for the BC government began their closing arguments Monday in BC Supreme Court in the constitutional reference case to determine the validity of Canada's polygamy law.

Both the provincial and federal attorneys-general contend that the law is constitutional.
But this is challenged by a court-appointed amicus, the BC Civil Liberties Association and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

"A polygamous society consumes its young," lead lawyer Craig Jones said. "It arms itself with instruments of abuse and shields itself behind institutions of secrecy, insularity and control."

Jones went on to say that is is "anti-democratic, anti-egalitarian, anti-liberal and antithetical to the proper functioning of any modern, rights-based society."

He summarized the challengers' positions and began what is expected to be a two- to two-and-a-half day argument and refutation of those views.

The closings will also summarize key testimony from more than two months of evidence.
Jones dismissed the amicus's written submission as notable for its "haughtiness" and "over the top rhetoric." He said that belittled the suffering of polygamy's victims.

Jones said the amicus also demeaned the serious issues by caricaturing the attorneys- generals' lawyers of being discriminatory and prejudice.

The BCCLA's view that the law be struck down because there is not sufficient social harm to merit a criminal prohibition, Jones said, does "not standing up to scrutiny."


Further information became available today of the cross-border trafficking of young girls from Canada to the United States.  For more information on this, see Bramham's article in the Vancouver Sun at

At Last - The Link!

The final arguments in the Polygamy Reference begin this morning.  To watch the livestream on your computer, go to and scroll down until you see the black, grey and red screen on the right side.

There will also be segments on news broadcasts on CBC television.

I believe that proceedings will begin at 10am. (or 9:30), and there will be a ten-minute time delay in case something goes wrong in court.  It is expected that all the final arguments will be covered in this way - a first for a BC court - and they will probably take up to three weeks.

Good Luck!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Thoughtful Summing-Up

Daphne Bramham has offered a thoughtful summing-up  of the decision-making process confronting Chief Justice Robert Bauman.  On March 26th she wrote in the Vancouver Sun:

Ever since the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enshrined in the Constitution in 1982, there has been a fundamental tension in Canada over competing rights and between individual rights and societal values. 

The Charter makes it clear that rights are not absolute. Section 1 says all of the rights and freedoms cited are subject to "such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society." 

That determination is left to the courts and it's up to Parliament to enact remedies.
Over the coming months, two court decisions -- one in British Columbia and the other in Ontario -- will highlight the chasm that can exist among competing rights and between rights and values. 

In British Columbia, the issue is polygamy with closing arguments in the case starting on Monday. 

Chief Justice Robert Bauman of the B.C. Supreme Court must decide whether having multiple, conjugal partners is so inherently harmful to individuals and society it overrides an individual's right to act on "sincerely held beliefs," the right to liberty and freedom of association. He must decide whether those individual rights trump the equality rights guarantee and he will, no doubt, be cognizant of the fact that the majority of Canadians oppose polygamy. 

In June, justices of the Ontario Court of Appeal will determine whether a lower court judge was correct in striking down the criminal prohibition on pimping, keeping a brothel and communicating for the purposes of prostitution. 

They will weigh the right to security of person, free speech and association against the perceived societal harms of prostitution. 

In the polygamy case, the court-appointed amicus curiae and his allies, which include the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, take the position that individuals' right to choose is paramount.

Final Arguments - Proposed Schedule

At the link below you will find a schedule of final arguments, which begin on Monday 28th March.  This is subject to change, so check the Stop Polygamy in Canada website for adjustments.

I still have not been able to verify a CBC Livestream link; it appears that we will have to wait until the 28th for that.

Friday, March 18, 2011

More Closing Statements

Closing statements are now available from the Amicus Curiae, the BC Civil Liberties Association, and the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association.  You will find them at:

For a summary of the BC Civil Liberties Association statement, see

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

AGBC's Closing Statement

Below is a summary of the closing statement submitted by the Attorney General of B.C. in the polygamy reference.


Legalized polygamy will lead to more victims, lawyer says

Multiple marriage society 'consumes its young'
A lawyer for the B.C. government says polygamy "consumes its young" and warns that there will be many more victims if the practice of multiple marriages is decriminalized in Canada.

The comments by Craig Jones, lead counsel for the B.C. Attorney-General's Ministry, are contained in a 163page written submission filed in B.C. Supreme Court.

Last month, B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman heard the final witnesses in the trial to determine whether Canada's law is constitutional.

The parties in the case are now in the process of exchanging written submissions to be followed by final oral arguments March 28.

In his submissions, Jones said the evidence "inexorably" leads to two conclusions -that polygamy has "significant risk" to women and children and significant risks to society at large.
"This is what we know about polygamy, both in theory and practice: a polygamous society consumes its young," he said.

"It arms itself with instruments of abuse, and shields itself behind institutions of secrecy, insularity and control. It depresses every known indicator of women's equality."

Jones added that polygamy is "antidemocratic, anti-egalitarian, antiliberal and antithetical to the proper functioning of any modern, rightsbased society."

For more, go to:

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Texts Available

If you would like to read Warren Jeffs's diaries, go to 
and navigate through hundreds of pages of documents.  (It is indeed fortunate that Jeffs kept such detailed records.  They are coming back to haunt him and his followers.)

In the Polygamy Reference case, some of the final statements are now available here

Among them you will find statements of the Attorney General of BC, the BCTF and the Attorney General of Canada.  They make compelling reading.  

More should be available next week.  I shall be particularly interested in reading that of the Amicus.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It Never Rains but it Pours!

I have just finished reading the book Escape, written by Carolyn Jessop, who married Merril Jessop in polygamist Colorado City, and gave birth to eight children in the following fifteen years.  So dangerous were her later pregnancies, that after the final birth, doctors performed a hysterectomy to save her life.  She gives a harrowing picture of life in that polygamist society, and pulls no punches as she describes the impossible task of keeping sweet in her relations with her sister wives and her husband.  The daily grind of back-breaking work, the jealousies and depression in the household, the husband who ignored her except for occasional, perfunctory, clothed sex, are all described in painful detail.

Not long after the rise of Warren Jeffs to the position of FLDS Prophet, when he began to ramble on about the Apocalypse and the End Times, and introduced draconian measures into the daily lives of all his followers, Carolyn realized that she would have to leave.  She fled with her eight children in the middle of the night, and found friends and family members who were willing to help her make her way through the maze of social services in the outside world.  Merril Jessop pursued her, but Carolyn was able to obtain a restraining order, and was eventually granted custody of her children. 

A thoroughly good read about the way in which an intelligent woman was able to outwit the FLDS.


And today we learn of three more under-age girls transported to the United States in 2004, to be sealed in marriage for time and all eternity into the cult headed by so-called Prophet, Warren Jeffs.  

Daphne Bramham, who had done outstanding work throughout the investigation into polygamy in B.C. and the United States, wrote today in the Vancouver Sun:

Three more underage girls — including the 15-year-old daughter of Bountiful’s bishop — were transported in 2004 into the United States to become the brides of older men loyal to fundamentalist Mormon prophet Warren Jeffs, The Vancouver Sun learned Monday.

Last week, The Sun reported how nine girls — some as young as 12 and 13 — were secretly moved across the international border in 2004 and 2005 by their fathers and brothers to become “celestial wives” in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS).

The new information comes from Jeffs’[s] diaries, seized by a Texas law-enforcement officer in 2008 during a raid on the Yearning for Zion ranch and used in the convictions of six FLDS men on charges of child sexual abuse.

The voluminous diaries outline in detail how men such as James Oler, Bountiful’s bishop, were rewarded for handing over their daughters with underage brides in return.

“I called Jim Oler last night,” Jeffs writes in June 2004. “And [I] told him to bring his daughter ... that Jim Oler would receive a wife, that Brandon Blackmore [of Bountiful] should come and receive training and that Brandon’s daughter should come and be married.”

The FLDS prophet instructed the fathers to drive their two girls to Cedar City, Utah, stay there and await his call.

On Friday, June 25, Jeffs performed 18 weddings. The first started at 11:13 a.m., the last at 6 p.m.

At 1:23 p.m. Oler was a witness as his daughter was “sealed for time and all eternity” as the second wife of James Leroy Johnson.

Eleven minutes later, the 40-year-old Oler took a 15-year-old American girl as his plural wife — his second marriage in six months.

And, at 1:45 p.m., Blackmore witnessed his teenage daughter’s marriage to 67-year-old Merril Jessop.