The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have renewed investigation into possible polygamy within the Bountiful B.C. religious commune, a settlement of roughly 1,000 members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints located in southeastern British Columbia near the U.S.-Canadian border, the Canadian Press reports.
Shirley Bond, the attorney-general of British Columbia, issued instructions this week for special prosecutor Peter Wilson to consider filing polygamy charges against members of the commune, which was heavily investigated last year on allegations that underage girls were being moved across the border from the United States into Canada for the purpose of being entered into plural marriages with older men, the Globe and Mail reports.
Canadian authorities have been investigating the commune for polygamy-related crimes since the early 1990s, the Canadian Press reported in a separate article.
In 2009, two powerful leaders within the commune, Winston Blackmore and James Oler, were each charged with practicing polygamy.
But the judge dismissed those charges on grounds that government violated the men's freedoms when they chose a prosecuting attorney, prompting then-attorney general Craig Jones to request that the B.C. government take a look at whether the nation's 121-year-old anti-polygamy law was consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, according to CBC News.
After much review, Canada's Supreme Court issued a 355-page decision in November 2011 upholding the anti-polygamy laws as constitutional as long as they were not used to prosecute minors who end up in polygamous marriages.
"I have concluded that this case is essentially about harm," B.C. Chief Justice Robert Bauman wrote in the decision. "More specifically, Parliament’s reasoned apprehension of harm arising out of the practice of polygamy. This includes harm to women, to children, to society and to the institution of monogamous marriage."
Now authorities are renewing steps to crack down on the practice, a decision that comes one week after Wendell Loy Nielsen, former president of the FLDS's legal department, was found guilty on three charges of bigamy, though he was alleged to have 30 bigamous wives .
During the trial, Nielsen was also accused of playing a role in 326 mostly bigamous marriages, 50 of which involved girls 12 to 18-years-old, according to the Standard Times.