One of the men facing polygamy charges in the British Columbia community of Bountiful said Thursday he’s being persecuted for his religion.
Winston Blackmore, who allegedly has more than 20 wives, told reporters in Creston, B.C., that he was being charged for political reasons. He said the timing of the charges was intended to help the current B.C. government “grandstand” ahead of this spring’s provincial election.
Polygamy is illegal in Canada, a ban that Blackmore claims violates his religious freedom as guaranteed by Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Nancy Mereska, co-ordinator of Stop Polygamy in Canada, said she “absolutely rejects” Blackmore’s claim.
“Polygamy is not about religion,” she said. “It’s about the power of men over women and children.”
She added that Part 1 of the Charter says the rights listed are subject to the laws of Canada.
“They can have whatever religious belief they want, but when they practice a belief that is against the law they are committing a crime.”
Mereska said she believes that more charges are coming.
“Women who have escaped polygamist societies and the young men who were kicked out to make the ratio of multiple women for every man work are going to start contacting authorities now that the leaders have been charged,” Mereska said. “I can see this going the Supreme
Court of Canada in about seven years and I’m confident the Supreme Court is going to uphold our laws against polygamy.”
The other man facing polygamy charges is James Oler, the leader of a rival faction in Bountiful who allegedly has two wives.