Emily Blackmore leaves the Cranbrook Law Courts after being sentenced to seven months in prison for the removal of a child from Canada. Mike Turner photo

Polygamous wife appeals conviction in B.C. child bride case

Emily Blackmore was found guilty of taking her underage daughter to U.S. to marry church leader

A Bountiful, B.C., woman who was found guilty of taking her daughter to the U.S. to marry her to a fundamentalist church leader appealed her conviction on Wednesday in Vancouver.

Emily Ruth Gail Blackmore’s lawyer told the three-judge panel at the BC Court of Appeal that she had not known why her daughter was being taken across the border in 2004, and so shouldn’t have been convicted.

Blackmore, along with husband Brandon James Blackmore, is part of a polygamous sect in Bountiful in southeastern B.C.

They were found guilty last year of removing their daughter from Canada under a criminal code subsection that the removal would facilitate sexual interference or sexual touching. Emily Blackmore was sentenced to seven months in jail, while her husband received a one-year term.

She was not present in court for her appeal on Wednesday.

Lawyer Greg DelBigio argued the lower court judge had made a “leap of faith” in assuming Blackmore both knew and helped her husband take their underage daughter over the border to marry her off.

twitter.com

The daughter, whose name is covered under a publication ban, was eventually wed to Warren Jeffs, the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, in a March 2004 ceremony.

DelBigio acknowledged such a marriage was expected to lead to sexual relations with the underage girl.

But he said Blackmore would not have thought to question her husband when told they were going to the United States, as is custom in their fundamentalist community.

“Evidence showed that there are distinct rules between husbands and wives within that community. It’s not a relationship that is based upon equality,” DelBigio said.

“Evidence shows that men dictate what will go on and women follow without question.”

READ MORE: Former husband and wife get jail time in B.C. child bride case

Blackmore attending her daughter’s wedding was not enough proof to convict her, he added, as she needed to know about her husband’s plan, as well as aid and abet it, in Canada.

However, Crown argued: “Subservience shouldn’t be equated with silence.”

Lawyer Micah Rankin told the court neither the Blackmores’ fundamentalist sect, nor their own beliefs within the family, supported the notion that Brandon Blackmore would not tell his wife about plans to marry off their daughter.

Rankin pointed to prior testimony from the couple’s son that Brandon Blackmore held more egalitarian beliefs about men and women.

“There was some evidence that in this particular relationship between Emily Ruth Gail Blackmore and Brandon James Blackmore that things weren’t quite as hierarchical as things might appear to be,” Rankin said.

He also pointed to Brandon Blackmore asking another of his daughters, a 16-year-old, if she wanted to get married.

Further, Rankin argued the speed with which the family departed for the U.S., following a phone call between the husband and Jeffs, meant that Emily Blackmore couldn’t help but understand the importance of the occasion.

“They drop everything, they leave home on a 19-hour journey… and they do so in a context that’s very auspicious in their religion,” said Rankin.

“It’s like [the daughter] is being married to the Pope. More than the Pope. This was clearly a very significant event. [Jeffs] is the highest authority of God on Earth, in the view of the FLDS.”

Much of DelBigio’s argument centered around the fact that even had Blackmore been in the car with her daughter and husband as they drove to Texas, that was not enough to prove both the intent and action necessary for the mother’s conviction.

But Rankin said that the broad language under which Blackmore was found guilty could encompass even standing by and not interfering, as well as aiding and abetting.

The section of the Criminal Code under which Blackmore was convicted prohibits “doing anything” to take a Canadian from the country in order to commit a crime against them. The crimes in this case are sexual offences against a child under 14 years old.

In addition, Rankin said that as a parent, Blackmore was held to a higher legal standard to protect her child.

“[Emily Blackmore] could not just sit by if she knew that her husband were taking her 13-year-old daughter to be married to a man in his late 40s in the United States, and do nothing,” said Rankin.

“Parents can’t do that with their children. They can’t fail to take steps to protect them including against other parents.”

The appeals court reserved judgement.

A special prosecutor’s appeal of the acquittal of James Oler, another Bountiful man who was cleared of unlawfully removing his daughter from Canada last fall, was set to begin Thursday.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

“Huge disappointment” as BCVT learns Northern Sea Wolf will not sail this summer

The Nimpkish is arrriving near-empty as frustrated travelers can’t get to Bella Bella for transfer

Protection order issued after Bella Coola bear attack

Fruit trees to be removed after sow grizzly defended cubs and sent man to hospital

Bella Coola enjoys 33rd Annual Valley Ridge Riders Rodeo

Sunny skies on Monday added a welcome touch to an otherwise damp weekend

First Nation pipeline protesters erect ‘tiny homes’ in B.C. Park

Kanahus Manuel and Tiny House Warriors say more homes being constructed in park

France doubles up Croatia 4-2 to win World Cup

Played in Moscow Russia, latest Fifa World Cup marks the highest scoring final since 1966

VIDEO: Visual recap of Vancouver Island MusicFest

Walk Off The Earth, Passenger, Arlo Guthrie among highlights

Trudeau’s youth council divided over Trans Mountain pipeline purchase

A letter signed by 16 past and present members was made public today, asking the federal government to reverse course

Hulk Hogan reinstated into wrestling Hall of Fame

Hogan had used racial slurs caught on video when talking about his daughter sleeping with a black man

‘Lava bomb’ through roof of tour boat injures 22 in Hawaii

“An explosion occurred near the shoreline hurling hot lava rocks towards the boat and injuring several passengers”

B.C. teen meets Nicolas Cage

Filming mob movie in downtown Vernon, B.C.

Critics claim Trump “defended a tyrant”

Trump questions US intel, not Putin, on Russia 2016 meddling

B.C. MLAs choose new children’s watchdog

Jennifer Charlesworth has worked in government, social services

B.C. reporter calls out immigration photo on social media as fake news

A Vancouver reporter is calling out a British politician for spreading fake news

Hundreds of Arctic glaciers shrinking, disappearing

Out of 1,773 glaciers, 1,353 shrank significantly between 2000 and 2016

Most Read