Polygamist group 'not welcome here'
Saskatchewan officials oppose migration of fundamentalist Mormon splinter s=
REGINA -- The possibility of Saskatchewan becoming a second Canadian
stronghold for a fundamentalist Mormon splinter group that practices
polygamy isn't something government officials here are about to
welcome with open arms.
"Polygamy is against the law in Canada and, perhaps more importantly,
there are laws against the sexual exploitation of children and
minors," Frank Quennell, Saskatchewan's Attorney-General and Minister
of Justice, said yesterday.
"Those laws will be enforced in Saskatchewan and we certainly don't
have the welcome mat out for anybody who would break them," he added.
The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is led
by fugitive Warren Jeffs and teaches polygamy as its central tenet. It
is based in the twin border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City,
Ariz., where about 10,000 church members live.
Mr. Jeffs is wanted on a U.S. federal charge of unlawful flight to
avoid prosecution after allegations he arranged a plural marriage
between a 16-year-old girl and an older man.
Last week Bruce Wisan, a spokesman for the church, said Mr. Jeffs may
be creating a new colony in Saskatchewan and that as many as 40 per
cent of the church members may be moving to "a very remote, pristine
area to start over again."
Church members would move to the new communities by invitation only.
"It's the very righteous, the cream of the crop," Mr. Wisan said.
Followers of the same religion started a community in Bountiful, B.C.,
in the late 1940s where polygamy has been practised openly for
The B.C. government announced in the summer of 2004 that RCMP would
investigate allegations of child abuse, forcible marriage and sexual
exploitation in Bountiful. No charges have been laid.
The reluctance of witnesses to come forward and co-operate in the
investigation has made cracking the case difficult.
Saskatchewan's Justice Minister acknowledged it might be difficult to
prosecute for polygamy, but that wouldn't be the case with the sexual
exploitation of young women.
"The laws against sexual exploitation of children are ones we take
very seriously in Saskatchewan and what's being suggested is not
welcome here," Mr. Quennell said.
Don Morgan, the justice critic for the opposition Saskatchewan Party,
had a message for the church and its fugitive leader.
"He might be well advised to shop around elsewhere. There might be
other jurisdictions that might be more receptive to that lifestyle,"
Mr. Morgan said.
He suggested there's likely one key reason the polygamists are
considering Saskatchewan instead of other areas across the country.
"We've got lots of affordable farmland in this province right now, and
they may have looked at that as being an economic opportunity because
of depressed prices."
Utah officials are also looking for Mr. Jeffs so they can serve him
papers related to lawsuits filed against him. The church has been
under close scrutiny amid allegations of welfare fraud, sexual abuse
and forced marriages.