Daphne Bramham: Ontario police investigate and lay polygamy charges, while B.C. dithers

Just like that, only a week after they had responded to a domestic dispute call and found a guy with a weapon and two wives, Ontario Provincial Police laid a polygamy charge.


In a single week, Ontario did what British Columbia hasn’t been able to successfully manage in the nearly 60 years since the fundamentalist Mormon community of Bountiful was founded.

Few details about the Ottawa-area man are available. His name, address and age are being withheld because the OPP say it is a domestic matter. OPP Const. Janice Sawbridge told me that officers who responded to the call determined that the man kept two separate homes – one for each wife.

The man, she said, is “not part of a cult.”

The OPP are investigating another polygamy case involving Fred King, a print-company owner and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ Restored, who is alleged to have multiple “church wives” including one whom former followers say was only 11.

It sounds all too similar to Bountiful, B.C. and the leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

King’s father, Stan, started his own church and community on the site of an old ski lodge south of Owen Sound.

King had left the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints, which is based on Mormon founder Joseph Smith’s teachings. Polygamy had never been practised within the Reorganized Church and was, in fact, the reason that its followers had broken with Brigham Young and the mainstream Mormon church in 1851. (The mainstream Mormon church didn’t renounce the practice until 1890.)

The OPP’s investigation began in November after Carol Christie told her story to Victor Malarek, a reporter with CTV’s W5. (www.ctvnews.ca/w5/allegations-of-polygamy-abuse-and-psychological-torture-within-secretive-sect-1.1041913)

Christie, now 59, was one of Stan King’s seven wives. Christie was 18 and King was in his 40s when she became one of his “church wives.” Not only did King have a fondness for group sex, Christie says his youngest ‘wife’ was only 10 when he first has sex with her.

After King’s death, Fred took his father’s wives as his own and added a few more including one girl who was only 11, according to Christie.

Christie recounted the physical, mental and emotional abuse she suffered at the hands of both father and son. She escaped four years ago. One of her two sons went with her; the other remains in the group.

Another former follower – John Knisely — told Malarek how he had been forced at 15 to leave school and go to work for King’s company for $10 or $20 a week, most of which was handed back to King and the church.

Similar stories have formed the basis of documentaries, hundreds of newspaper articles and several books written about Bountiful.

Yet, the B.C. government hasn’t done little for the women and children there.

Three times in the past couple of decades, RCMP have recommended polygamy charges be laid. Not once have lawyers in the attorney-general’s ministry approved those charges. Instead, they’ve made all kinds of excuses.

For more than two decades, lawyers working for the B.C. attorney general insisted that the criminal code sections were likely unconstitutional.

By early 2000, they piled on two other ‘reasons.’

They said they didn’t think pursuing the case was either in the public interest or had a substantial likelihood of conviction. This is despite Winston Blackmore, a former FLDS bishop, having publicly admitted several times to not only having multiple wives, but having ‘married’ a 15-year-old in a religious service.

In 2009, a special prosecutor did approve charges against Blackmore and James Oler (who was then the FLDS bishop). But those charges were thrown out because a judge decided that the prosecutor had been improperly appointed.

After that, the attorneys general for Canada and British Columbia launched the constitutional reference case.

Mountains of evidence were placed before Chief Justice Robert Bauman including documents used in the Texas conviction of the FLDS Prophet Warren Jeffs on child rape charges that detailed polygamous marriages of B.C. men as well as how they took their own daughters illegally into the United States to become plural wives of other FLDS men.

A year ago this week – Jan. 18, 2012 – Peter Wilson was appointed as special prosecutor to review all the new evidence.

What he’s been doing for the past year? Who knows? Wilson has never responded to my requests to speak to him. His assistant tells me that Wilson doesn’t talk to journalists.

All of which makes me wonder whether some of Bountiful’s polygamists wouldn’t already be in jail if police here could lay charges as their Ontario counterparts do.