Polygamist leader Winston Blackmore to learn the result of his constitutional charter challenge on Friday in Cranbrook Supreme Court. Trevor Crawley photo

Ruling on polygamist leader charter challenge expected today

Winston Blackmore to learn fate of his polygamy prosecution in Cranbrook Supreme Court.

A judge will deliver a ruling on the constitutional challenge of a fundamentalist polygamy leader on Friday in Cranbrook Supreme Court.

Winston Blackmore was found guilty of practicing polygamy with over 24 women by Justice Sheri Donegan, who also found co-accused James Marion Oler guilty of the same offence with five women.

READ: Winston Blackmore and James Oler found guilty in landmark polygamy trial

However, at the conclusion of the Crown’s case during the trial, Blackmore’s lawyer indicated his intent to file a constitutional challenge to seek charter relief.

He is seeking a stay of proceedings or an exemption from punishment.

Blackmore, a fundamentalist Mormon leader from Bountiful — a small community south of Creston in the southern corner of BC — launched his constitutional arguments last fall, arguing that his prosecution has been an abuse of process since he was first investigated by law enforcement in the early 1990s.

It’s taken 27 years for the issue to go through the courts because government officials were convinced a prosecution of polygamy would fail based on a charter defence.

Crown officials believed that proceedings against Blackmore under Section 293 of the Canadian Criminal Code, the polygamy offence, would ultimately fail against a constitutional challenge.

That issue was settled in 2011 following a ruling from a constitutional reference case addressing Section 293, which determined that the harm associated with polygamy outweighs the individual right to religious freedom.

With that ruling in hand, the Ministry of Justice appointed Peter Wilson, a special prosecutor who approved the polygamy charges in 2014 and led the case for the Crown.

The crux of Blackmore’s charter challenge relies on the fact that since Crown lawyers never charged him with polygamy after an initial investigation in the early 1990s, he was essentially allowed to practice polygamy without fear of prosecution.

READ: Testimony wraps up in Blackmore charter challenge

READ: Blackmore took ‘calculated’ risk: Crown

Blackmore’s lawyer, Blair Suffredine, argued that a public statement from the Criminal Justice Branch detailing Crown’s fears that prosecuting Blackmore under Section 293 would fail serves as the basis for the challenge.

If prosecutors weren’t willing to charge Blackmore with polygamy after the initial investigation, then it essentially served as legal validation to pursue polygamous marriages, argued Suffredine.

During Blackmore’s challenge, Wilson argued on behalf of the Crown that Blackmore should have sought legal validation from the courts, instead of relying on public statements by government officials.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BC SPCA team helps discover new feline virus after outbreak at Quesnel shelter

Fechavirus is a kind of parvovirus, which makes cats and kittens very sick

COVID-19 highlights lack of connectivity in First Nations communities

Many don’t have access required to utilize online platforms, says First Nations Technology Council

Commercial salmon fisheries delayed for Bella Coola area

DFO notice says Area C gill net fisheries in Area 8 have been delayed until June 15

Pacific Coastal won’t open until community is ready

The company has suspended operations until further notice

VIDEO: A Vancouver Island black bear takes weekend nap in eagle tree

Videos captured by Terry Eissfeldt shows the bear arriving Saturday night and sleeping in on Sunday

George Floyd asphyxiated by sustained pressure: family autopsy

Death sparked a wave of protests across the U.S. and abroad

COVID-19: B.C. commercial landlords can’t evict if they decline rent assistance

Emergency order ‘incentive’ for federal program, Carole James says

Investigators probe death of CN employee at Surrey rail yard

Transportation Safety Board is investigating an ‘occurrence that took place during switching operations’

Trans Mountain starts B.C. leg of pipeline twinning project

Mostly finished in Alberta, Burnaby terminal expanding

NDP getting COVID-19 wage subsidy ‘indirectly,’ B.C. Liberal leader says

Andrew Wilkinson says he’s heard no concerns from public

Love flourishes at Peace Arch Park, but COVID-19 concerns loom

South Surrey park becomes only place for international couples to meet

Most Read