Escaping polygamy: northern Ontario woman helps mom and kids escape fundamentalist Mormon sect

When Andrea Sacchetto decided to live off the grid in northern Ontario, she had no idea she'd eventually be helping a woman flee from the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints church in Utah.

Sacchetto said she has been living off-grid since 2016, when she moved out of the city and built her own house, touching base with other off-gridders through a Facebook group.

It was in that group Sacchetto met a mother who said she was leaving the FLDS and looking to build a self-sustainable home.

Sacchetto said once she understood the woman's situation, she extended an invitation to visit the property.

"She had essentially been judged non-worthy of being part of the community," Sacchetto said. "Where if you've committed any offences or gone against the church you're sent spend your time atoning for your sins, and trying to get back into the fold of the community."

The FLDS has at least 10,000 members across North America — including a 1,000-member community in Bountiful near Creston, B.C. It is a radical offshoot of mainstream Mormonism and believes polygamy brings exaltation in heaven. Members see convicted sex offender Warren Jeffs as God's spokesman on earth.

"It was very much a patriarchal environment, very misogynistic," Sacchetto said. "If one of his many wives displeased him, or was not following common practices, or was questioning too much, [the man] would be in a position to go to his bishop and establish a case where the wife could be sent away into a non-member community, as well as take any children to be raised by one of his other wives."

Return to get children

Sacchetto's new friend returned to Utah, where she packed up her children and fled back to northern Ontario.

"They stayed for five weeks on the property," she said. "I realized they needed to decompress coming from an environment that was incredibly strict. It was almost as if they were suffering from post-traumatic stress."

"They're lovely people, a lovely family," Sacchetto said. "It's rewarding to see her children laugh and run through the property and play with my chickens and dogs, and not feel like they were being constantly supervised or scrutinized for everything they do."

Once the family settled in, Sacchetto said the next decision was clear.

"After that we decided that it would be best with moving forward to becoming Canadian citizens."

Sacchetto said the family is now in a women's shelter, where they're completing the Canadian immigration process, and should know in a few weeks if they qualify.

In addition to helping the woman and her family through the paperwork, Sacchetto started a GoFundMe campaign to raise enough money to help the family get clothes and basic needs while going through the immigration process.