Saturday, February 26, 2011

Diaries Witness to Depravity

While sickening to read, the diaries of Warren Jeffs are essential to an understanding of the workings of the Prophet and celestial marriage in the "Church" of Fundamentalist Latter Days Saints.  Jeffs's diaries, introduced before Judge Bauman as evidence in the Polygamy Reference, detail the seamy side of under-age children being taken from Canada to the United States for sexual purposes, i.e. to be sealed in time and all eternity as wives to Warren Jeffs.

Lawyers for the Attorney-General of B.C. hope soon to have leave to use all the new evidence, discovered only recently, as part of their closing arguments before Chief Justice Bauman of the B.C. Supreme Court.  (That is, provided that no other lawyer raises objections during the 7-day grace period afforded by the judge.)

And so the lid on the sleazy practices of polygamy is slowly, inexorably being raised.


In Saturday's Vancouver Sun, Daphne Bramham expounds on the diaries and depravity of the polygamouspractices taking place at Bountiful.  She writes:
The ugly, depraved face of polygamy that some academics and civil libertarians refuse to acknowledge is laid bare in the detailed diaries of North America's most notorious polygamist.

The dictated ramblings of Warren Jeffs, prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, coldly describe how he demanded Canadian fathers and brothers bring him their daughters and sisters as young as 12 to be married, and how they conspired to get the girls to him undetected by law enforcement officers.

It's proof that B.C. government lawyers are anxious to get into evidence as part of the constitutional reference case to determine the validity of Canada's polygamy law.

In March 2004, Jeffs described how Brandon James Blackmore brought his 13-year-old daughter from Bountiful to marry him in Arizona. Twenty minutes after he married the Blackmore girl, Jeffs -49 at the time -married a 14-year-old American girl.

Earlier that same day, Bountiful's bishop James Oler had delivered his two 17-year-old sisters to be married to two other FLDS men. Oler had also witnessed the marriage of a 16-year-old American to Brandon Seth Blackmore. While she was still a teen, the American girl gave birth to a child in Canada.

This information comes from Jeffs' dictations, which came to the attention of B.C. government lawyers only a few weeks ago when Texas authorities asked for the birth dates of the two 12-year-old daughters of MacRae Blackmore and Spencer Blackmore, who were Jeffs' brides in 2005.

B.C. lawyers have combed the diaries and found details of eight Canadian child brides and one American one. It's evidence they wanted considered in the constitutional reference case to determine whether Canada's polygamy law is valid.

Aside from the ages of the girls and the parents' complicity in their exploitation, what's startling about Jeffs' dictations is the banality with which he talks about these girls and young women.

Mixed amid his recollection of marrying the 13-and 14-yearolds, Jeffs recounts a conversation he had with Oler where they talked about log and metal lathes and whether they could be sent across the border without taxes or duty on them.

He then muses, "These young girls have been given to me to be taught and trained how to come into the presence of God and help redeem Zion from their youngest years before they go through teenage doubting and fears and boy troubles. I will just be their boy trouble ..."

Now, I have a quorum of seven young girls."

Friday, February 25, 2011

RCMP Investigating Child Trafficking - The Floodgates Opening?

Today in the B.C. Supreme Court, lawyers for the Attorney General of B.C. won their appeal to have evidence entered into the record of the Polygamy Reference concerning the trafficking of young girls from Bountiful to the United States.

In her latest account, Tiffany Crawford of the Vancouver Sun confirms that the RCMP is investigating 8 cases of such activity (the penalty for which can be up to ten years imprisonment for the traffickers).  She writes:

The RCMP has launched a new criminal investigation and is preparing to visit Bountiful following disturbing new evidence that eight young teenage girls, some as young as 12, from the polygamist community near Creston were taken to the U.S. to marry older men.

"Obviously we can't discuss what we are doing in the context of the investigation but eventually we will have to attend [Bountiful.] But as it stands we are not there right now," RCMP Cpl. Annie Linteau said on Friday.

Linteau, a spokeswoman for the RCMP, said investigators received the evidence last week and confirmed they have launched a criminal investigation.

"We're aware of the affidavits filed by the attorney-general's office," she said. "We initiated an investigation into those allegations and the investigation is ongoing."

Linteau could not say what charges the RCMP might look at in this new investigation.
On Friday, Attorney-General Barry Penner said the polygamy case was one of his top priorities.

Trafficking of Under-Age Girls to Warren Jeffs

Excerpts from FLDS Prophet Warren Jeffs's diary reveal that two members of the Blackmore family in Bountiful delivered their young daughters clandestinely to the United States, to be "sealed for time and all eternity" to Jeffs.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lost in the Shuffle (of Government Paperwork)

It has come to light only recently that three under-age girls were taken by their parents from Bountiful to Colorado City/Hildale, to be sealed in all eternity in “marriage” to the Prophet Warren Jeffs. Two of the the children were 12 years old, the third was thirteen.

Apparently a fax from the US government went astray once it reached Canada, and B.C. Government lawyers working on the Polygamy Reference were blind-sided by the news of this child trafficking when they learned of it only recently. They immediately set about appealing to the Chief Justice for the inclusion of this evidence in the testimony gathered so far. They went before Judge Bauman this morning with their appeal.

In an article in today's Vancouver Sun, Daphne Bramham wrote:

On Sept. 24, 2008, a government social worker in Creston got a fax outlining how four years earlier a 13-year-old girl from Bountiful had been taken illegally to the United States by her parents and married to Warren Jeffs.

Jeffs, who is the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was 48 at the time and a fugitive running from charges related to having had sex with minors.

The fax was sent to Wendy Wiens, team leader for the Ministry of Children and Family Development, from Angie Voss, a child protective services supervisor in Texas, five months after Texas authorities had raided the FLDS's Yearning for Zion ranch and taken into care close to 400 women and children.

But Voss wasn't asking for help. She was providing information and offering to answer any further questions that Wiens might have.

In her fax, Voss quoted from a document labelled the Record of President Warren Jeffs that was seized during the raid.  In it, Jeffs names a man from the FLDS community of Bountiful, B.C., his 13-year-old daughter and his wife.

"I sat down with [redacted] and his wife and his daughter, gave a training on the redemption of Zion in brief, in summary, and this girl was called on a mission; and they received it joyfully. And there [redacted] was sealed to Warren Steed Jeffs for time and eternity."

Attached to the fax was a copy of the marriage record for the unidentified girl and Jeffs dated March 1, 2004.

According to Jeffs' record, both parents attended their child's marriage ceremony, which was performed by Jeffs' brother and the FLDS Patriarch LeRoy S. Jeffs in Colorado City, Ariz., at the home of James Allred. It's not clear what, if anything, Wiens did with that information.

But what is certain is that Wiens, the ministry and then minister Tom Christensen must have known about allegations of child sexual abuse in Bountiful, Jeffs, the FLDS and even the Texas raid, which had been widely reported on.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Trafficking female children from Bountiful to the United States

In today's Vancouver Sun, Daphne Bramham tells of the discovery of child bride trafficking between the polygamous communities of Bountiful and Colorado City/Hildale in the United States.

She writes:

In 2005, two fathers from the fundamentalist Mormon community of Bountiful, B.C. drove their 12-year-old daughters across the U.S. Border.  They went separately and, in one case, the girl’s mother went along.The purpose of the trips? Marriage, according to documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court Friday. The girls were “sealed for time and eternity” in religious ceremonies to Warren Jeffs, the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Jeffs was 49 at the time.

The ceremonies took place in the FLDS-controlled twin towns of Colorado City, Ariz. and Hildale, Utah. In one case, both the girl’s mother and father participated in the ceremony. Both girls were subsequently driven by an FLDS official to Texas where the church have a compound called Yearning for Zion ranch.

A year earlier, the documents say that a 13-year-old Bountiful girl was also taken by her father and mother to Colorado City where she was “celestially married” to Jeffs at a ceremony in James Allred’s home.

No one is certain how many wives Jeffs has, although it’s commonly estimated to be more than 80.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

High Teen Pregnancy Rate at Bountiful

Today's Globe and Mail contains information on teen pregnancy rates in the community of Bountiful, B.C.


The high number of teenage pregnancies in Bountiful, B.C., may be linked to the community's fundamentalist Mormon religion and its isolation rather than polygamy itself, a lawyer suggested in court Wednesday.

The court heard evidence Wednesday that of the births that B.C.’s Vital Statistics Agency was able to link to the polygamous commune, 10 per cent were to girls 18 and under. That’s much higher than the provincial figure of about 3 per cent.

But Tim Dickson, a court-appointed lawyer who’s arguing that the polygamy law is unconstitutional, suggested those statistics don’t prove polygamy itself leads to teen births.
Rather, he suggested other isolated religious communities could be also expected to have an increase in teen pregnancies.

“Another way that religion might be expected to increase teen births relative to other communities is by discouraging abortions.”

A landmark case examining the constitutionality of Canada’s law against polygamy has spent more than two months hearing experts, former residents and current plural wives debate whether polygamy is inherently harmful.

Much of that evidence has focused on life in Bountiful, where residents follow a fundamentalist form of Mormonism that, unlike the mainstream church, still encourages polygamy.

Among the alleged harms associated with polygamy are teenage pregnancies and marriage.
Mr. Dickson pointed to a U.S. study released in 2009 that examined teen pregnancy rates in U.S. states that are considered highly religious.

The study found states with large numbers of religious conservatives such as Mississippi had higher teen pregnancy rates, and the study’s authors suggested that was because those religions discourage birth control.

Mr. Dickson also noted provincial government data from other small, isolated communities in B.C., as well as aboriginal communities, indicate they, too, have high teen pregnancy rates.
In the tiny northern village of Hazelton, for example, teen births to mothers under 20 account for 22 per cent of all live births, more than five times the provincial figure.

Bruce Klette of the Vital Statistics Agency examined birth records for Bountiful and surrounding areas and identified births linked to mothers and fathers from the commune. He also attempted to single out cases in which one man fathered children with multiple wives.

Using a combination of birth certificates, education records and a list of surnames that appear to be specific to Bountiful, Mr. Klette identified 833 births to 215 mothers and 142 fathers.
Of those, 85 births – or about 10 per cent – were born to girls aged 18 or under. More than a quarter of the community's teen mothers had at least two children before they turned 19.
Mr. Klette cautioned that his data didn’t capture all of the births in the community, because he excluded records if he couldn’t be sure they were linked to Bountiful residents.

He also noted he wasn’t able to calculate the actual teen pregnancy rate, which would compare the number of teen births to the total number of teenagers in the community. He noted Bountiful may have a disproportionate number of teenagers, which would artificially inflate the percentage of teen births.

Mr. Klette was the final witness to appear at the hearings. The case is now on hold until the end of March, when closing arguments are scheduled to begin.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Education at Bountiful

Today the CBC website reported that:

The declining school enrolment in the polygamous commune of Bountiful can be explained by reasons other than a high drop-out rate, a lawyer for the community said Tuesday.

A judge is hearing arguments about whether the prohibition on multiple marriage violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He has spent more than two months hearing about the alleged harms of polygamy, including substandard education and poor graduation rates.

On Tuesday, an official with B.C.'s Education Ministry compared enrolment data from Bountiful's two schools with the same data from other B.C. schools and concluded Bountiful students appeared to be disappearing from class rather than progressing into higher grades.
For example, the community's two schools had 16 students enrolled in Grade 8 in the 2004-2005 academic year. Four years later, when they would be expected to be in Grade 12, just three of those students were still in B.C.'s education system.
But Matthew Siren, a lawyer for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), suggested there are many reasons why a student might not progress to subsequent grades. They could have dropped out, moved out of the province to finish their studies, graduated early or even died, he said.

Community has two schools

"So looking at this graph, you can't determine which of those reasons is the cause for these numbers, right?" Siren asked Brent Munro, who compiled the data for the ministry.

"No," replied Munro.

Siren didn't say which explanation is correct. He did note that many of the students on that list of 16 completed Grade 12-level provincial exams, suggesting they may have finished their studies early.

"If they had met [Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School's] graduation requirements after Grade 11, it would show them not continuing to Grade 12?" said Siren.

"Correct," replied Munro.

Closing Arguments in the Polygamy Reference to be webcast

From the CBC's website today:
When lawyers have their last chance to convince a judge of whether Canada's anti-polygamy laws should remain or be thrown out, cameras will be there to record the historic courtroom debate.
A B.C. judge has decided television and web cameras will be allowed to film final arguments in the constitutional case which most observers agree will likely end up at the Supreme Court of Canada.

Lawyer Dan Burnett, who successfully argued for the access on behalf of CBC and Global TV, said the judge's decision Monday could impact the openness of the courts to the media.
"It's quite an exciting development because [the judge] has indicated that not only will cameras be allowed, which has almost never occurred before in B.C., but also web casting of the entire argument, which will be a first," Burnett said.

The CBC had originally asked in November to broadcast the proceedings of the case, but Chief Justice Robert Bauman rejected the request on the condition that the argument was made the same day as the opening of the trial and that a lawyer representing the federal government did not agree to cameras.

In Monday's decision, no party involved in the case objected. Bauman's ruling imposes conditions requiring the cameras to focus only on the judge and the lawyers.

The only court in the country that regularly broadcasts proceedings is the Supreme Court of Canada, while several others have allowed cameras on rare occasions requiring the approval of all parties involved.

10-minute delay

Burnett said while the chief justice noted that the case doesn't necessarily create a precedent, he is hopeful it will.

"In a case of great public importance, it's a very helpful step forward as far as the openness of the court and my expectation is that those involved will see how unobtrusive it is and that it will pave the way for greater electronic access in other cases down the road," Burnett said.

The case began after the provincial government asked the B.C. Supreme Court to decide whether the law against polygamy violates the guarantee of religious freedom in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The court has spent more than two months hearing from nearly three dozen witnesses, including academic experts and current and former residents of Bountiful, B.C., the small polygamous commune that is at the heart of the case. Some observers have suggested the case could end up at the Supreme Court of Canada.

The lawyers will present their closing arguments in the spring and at the request of the judge, there will be a 10-minute delay in the live coverage.

"The advantage of web casting ... is people can watch all of it if they want instead of what portion can fit on the evening news," Burnett said.


Closing arguments are set to begin on Monday 28th March.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Evidence is there - Prosecute Now!

In Her Vancouver Sun article on 31st January, Daphne Bramham produced a clarion call for prosecution of criminal polygamists.


How is it not sexual exploitation when one of the pillars of a community has sex with a child placed in his care? 

What is it other than sex slavery and/or human trafficking when that man had a 15-year-old brought across an international border to a country where she has no immediate family with the intention of having sex and impregnating her? 

And how can that unnamed man from the fundamentalist Mormon community of Bountiful, B.C., not have been involved in immigration fraud a few months earlier when he brought a 17-year-old "bride" into Canada? 

The girl was clutching a letter from her parents giving her permission to stay with a "friend." What nobody said was that the friend was the man -- more than twice her age -- who became her husband the previous day and with only 30 minutes' notice in a ceremony presided over by a prophet, who himself has been charged in three states with child sex abuse. 

These details are, presumably true since the 17-year-old, now 24, testified under oath to their veracity last week in B.C. Supreme Court. 

(Through some curious reasoning, leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and their lawyer thought that her testimony in a constitutional reference case would bolster the church's claim that the guarantee of religious freedom in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows them to practise polygamy.) Little more than a year after this man brought both of his American teen brides to Canada, each of them -- wives No. 4 and No. 5 -- had a child. 

Their church, their fathers, their mothers, their teachers and their community had groomed them to submit to these arranged marriages or face God's wrath in the afterlife. 

Still, it's appalling that this 24-year-old woman, who grew up in the United States and attended a publicly funded school in British Columbia, finds nothing wrong with what happened to her or her sister-wife. 

More appalling is that nobody in government did. 

What happened to these two girls is part of a long-established pattern that was also documented in the reference case by evidence through birth records, school records and immigration files. And it can all be confirmed with DNA samples collected by RCMP officers several years ago before they recommended that the B.C. attorney-general lay charges.