Peck suggested the government seek clarification on
the issue with a reference question to the courts.
"We are in the process now of examining Mr. Peck's
opinion and we hope to have a final decision
rendered shortly," Oppal said Wednesday.
It's a difficult decision. If the law prohibiting
polygamy were struck down, it could open the doors
for a variety of other offences committed in the
name of religion.
Oppal does not believe Canadians would stand for
"There have been some opinions rendered by a
number of people that the freedom of religion would
trump any sections in the Criminal Code. I
personally disagree with that," Oppal said.
"My disagreement is based on the fact that I
don't think Canadians would condone polygamy. I
think that Canadians would find it abhorrent and
contrary to equal treatment for women."
RCMP recommended charges to the Crown in 2006,
after an investigation into allegations that members
of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints in the southeast B.C. community
were forcing underage women into arranged marriages
and motherhood with much older men.
The religious sect decrees men must marry
multiple wives to get into heaven. Winston
Blackmore, one of the B.C. leaders, has at least 26
wives and 100 children.
Four senior Crown lawyers reviewed the RCMP
report, concluding that charges should not be laid
because there was little likelihood of conviction:
few girls would testify against their husbands.
Polygamy has been illegal in Canada since the
country's first Criminal Code in 1892. But cases are
"The legality of polygamy in Canada has for too
long been characterized by uncertainty. The
integrity of the legal system suffers from such an
impasse, and an authoritative statement from the
courts is necessary in order to resolve it," Peck
wrote in his review.
"Polygamy is the underlying phenomenon from
which all the other alleged harms flow, and the
public interest would best be served by addressing
NDP MLA and attorney general critic Leonard Krog
said such action should have been taken long ago.
"There had been plenty of talk about this issue,
and it's time for action. It is absolutely
unacceptable for this situation to continue," Krog
said in a release.
"British Columbians do not believe that these
marriages are truly consensual, and they want
something done to protect children in Bountiful from
Jancis Andrews, a Sechelt anti-polygamy activist,
was upset by the lack of charges, but cheered by the
prospect of a court ruling.
"We have been howling for this. This has to be
done because this drift can not be allowed to
continue," said Andrews, who has been lobbying the
government to crack down on Bountiful since 2002.
"There are so many research papers now that say
polygamy harms women's equality rights and also
harms their children."
Nancy Mereska, an Alberta woman who runs Stop
Polygamy in Canada, said she was frustrated by the
constant delay of action.
"I'm not very happy. If they had the power to do
this reference appeal, why didn't (former B.C. AG)
Geoff Plante do this ages ago? They are passing the
polygamy buck once again to some other authority to
make a decision," said Mereska, a former Mormon
© CanWest News Service