In 2011, former bishop Ken Oler went to the Creston RCMP detachment to report that marriages of under-aged girls were being sanctioned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Days earlier, he had lost everything. He had been stripped of his position, his family, his home and forced out of the church by the FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, who still controls his flock despite being in a Texas prison.
Born into one of the founding families of Bountiful, B.C., Oler had never spoken out before. Oler had two wives of his own. His father, Dalmon, had been investigated for polygamy in the 1990s, but never charged. And, Oler must have known that 10 of the 26 wives that his brother-in-law Winston Blackmore had married had been under 18.
Last month, under oath in a deposition for a Utah civil case involving church-owned property, Oler acknowledged that he’d reported under-aged brides to the RCMP. And, in the deposition, he identified Canadian girls from a list of more than 70 names.
Two of the girls — Oler’s half-sisters — were only 15 and 16 when they were married. The third was 13 when she was taken illegally across the U.S. border in 2005 by her parents to become one of Jeffs’s 80 or more wives.
Three years later, that third girl was found at the Yearning for Zion Ranch during the raid that eventually led to Jeffs’s conviction for the aggravated sexual assault of a 12-year-old and the sexual assault of a 15-year-old.
Texas child protection services notified the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development about the Canadian teen. But the ministry did nothing to retrieve her. Oler believes the girl is now living somewhere in the United States with Jeffs’s son.
And, nearly three years after Oler reported to police and more than two years after RCMP handed its files to B.C. special prosecutor Peter Wilson, nothing has happened.
Eight months before Oler went to the RCMP, he had been appointed bishop for the 500 or so members of FLDS’s Canadian congregations in Rosemary and Cardston, in Alberta, and Bountiful.
He replaced his half-brother, James Oler, whom Jeffs had “sent away” because of a court action in B.C.
Ken Oler said that his half-brother had “not been given directives to action (sic) ... the way that he was doing.”
In November 2010, the B.C. Supreme Court began hearing a constitutional reference case to determine the validity of the Criminal Code’s anti-polygamy law. A year earlier, both James Oler and his predecessor, Winston Blackmore, had been charged with one count each of polygamy. Those charges were dropped because of a procedural error.
Oler doesn’t know what has become of his half-brother; his family has heard nothing from him and RCMP have been notified that he is missing.
Ken Oler said he was surprised when told that Jeffs wanted him to be bishop.
Did he take the role voluntarily, Oler was asked in the Utah case.
“I don’t know if I would use the word ‘voluntarily’