Bountiful woman testifies society’s bias ‘affects my everyday life’
 
 
By Keith Fraser, The Province
January 25, 2011
 
 
 

A group of women who are members of the fundementalist Mormon sect that pracitices polygamy walk past protestors outside the recreation centre in Creston on April 19, 2005. A meeting was hosted by the colony that lives in Bountiful, in nearby Lister, to inform the public about how the group lives and dispell rumours about their religion.

Photograph by: Ric Ernst file photo, The Province

A polygamist woman from Bountiful on Tuesday said she had suffered bias and prejudice from mainstream society and called for Canada’s law against plural marriage to be decriminalized.

The woman, who cannot be identified due to a court order, was the first person practicing polygamy in Canada to testify at the polygamy trial being heard in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.

She testified from a separate courtroom, where only she, her lawyer, the judge and several court officials were present.

The main Vancouver courtroom where the trial has been held was packed with spectators who watched the proceedings on a video feed.

The camera angle cut off the witness box but the woman’s disembodied voice could be heard as she responded to questions from her lawyer.

The mother of nine told B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman that many people in mainstream society treat polygamists with bias and prejudice.

“That affects my everyday life. We’ve had to pay so much money to try and stay out of jail. It’s hard to come up with the money that we need.”

The woman, who is only identified in her court affidavit as “Witness #2,” said she was raised to believe in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), commonly known as fundamentalist Mormons.

She said she was born in Creston and now lives in Bountiful.

Her father had five wives, three of them being in the home in which she was raised. There were a total of 30 children. Her mother had 15 of those kids.

She said she married at the age of 16 at her parents’ suggestion, in order to have someone help support her while she attended college.

Her parents spoke to the Prophet and the word came back that there was a man available to be married, she said.

Contrary to evidence that has been heard at trial that women have no choice in such arranged marriages, the witness said she chose to marry the man.

“I felt good about him and I married him.”

Under questioning from FLDS lawyer Robert Wickett, she said that she has a sister wife, a woman who is also her biological sister.

She said she has good relations with the sister and added: “Conflicts arise, yes, but I feel we can deal with it in a reasonable manner.”

Though she married at 16, she said the current policy of the FLDS is to disallow marriages under the age of 18.

Notwithstanding that policy, her own daughter married at the age of 15, against her strong advice, she said.

The daughter married a 19-year-old man but after two years the daughter left the small FLDS community of 1,000 people and no longer practices the fundamentalist Mormon religion, she said.

Her 26-year-old daughter is still in a monogamous marriage and has two children.

“I see her once a month. I text her and call her on the phone.”

Asked by Wickett if whether she would have approved her daughter marrying an older man with multiple wives, she said she would not have allowed it.

One other family member, a stepson, has also left the FLDS due to the fact that he is addicted to drugs and alcohol, she said.

“Our values are that we don’t use drugs or alcohol.”

Under cross-examination from Leah Greathead, a lawyer for the attorney-general’s ministry, the witness described a split in the FLDS community.

She said she stayed with the group headed by Warren Jeffs, a controversial FLDS leader from the United States, while the other half of the community sided with Winston Blackmore.

Two other anonymous FLDS witnesses from Bountiful are also expected to testify.

The judge has been asked to decide whether the polygamy law is constitutional. The FLDS are arguing that the law violates their freedom of religion.

The issue was referred to the court after Winston Blackmore and James Oler, two religious leaders in Bountiful, had their polygamy charges stayed in 2009.

kfraser@theprovince.com

© Copyright (c) The Province
 
 
 

A group of women who are members of the fundementalist Mormon sect that pracitices polygamy walk past protestors outside the recreation centre in Creston on April 19, 2005. A meeting was hosted by the colony that lives in Bountiful, in nearby Lister, to inform the public about how the group lives and dispell rumours about their religion.

Photograph by: Ric Ernst file photo, The Province

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