CRANBROOK, B.C. — A special prosecutor is recommending up to two years in prison for a former polygamous leader in Bountiful, B.C., convicted of removing a child from Canada to marry a member of his fundamentalist sect in the United States.
Peter Wilson said that as an ex-bishop of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, James Oler is culpable for facilitating the directives of church leader and prophet Warren Jeffs, who ordered him to bring the underage child to the U.S. to be married in 2004.
Wilson said aggravating sentencing factors against Oler included the girl’s age at the time, his position of trust and his position as a bishop and religious authority in the community.
“He occupied the highest priesthood office in the community of Bountiful because he was the bishop and that office made him directly answerable to Warren Jeffs,” said Wilson, in front of Justice Martha Devlin in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
During Oler’s trial, court heard that church records seized by American law enforcement indicated that Jeffs called Oler on June 23, 2004, and ordered him to bring the 15-year-old girl to the U.S. to be married.
A trial witness, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, was also named by Jeffs in the directive to come to the U.S. and be married as a child bride.
The witness testified she travelled with two adults to the United States on June 24, 2004, crossing into Idaho at the Porthill crossing south of Creston and pulling into a rest area shortly after. She went into the woods to relieve herself, and when she returned, another van containing Oler and the 15-year-old girl had arrived.
All but one piled into the newly arrived van and headed to Cedar City, Utah, and later to Mesquite, Nev.
Church records indicate 18 marriages took place on June 25, as the witness, the 15-year-old girl, and Oler himself were all married in separate ceremonies.
Wilson suggested that the judge could exercise her discretion to consider Oler’s conduct in the removal of the trial witness even though she wasn’t included in his indictment.
“It’s my submission that no unfairness to Mr. Oler will result in the event you choose to exercise your discretion to consider his role in the removal of (the witness) from Canada,” Wilson argued.
However, Devlin questioned whether she could be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Oler was guilty of all the same elements of the child removal offence involving the trial witness, given that Oler may not have known she was under 16 at the time.
Oler does not have a lawyer. Joe Doyle, who is serving as a friend of the court to ensure a fair trial, suggested a sentencing range between six to 18 months in prison, drawing parallels to an earlier ruling against Brandon James Blackmore and Emily Ruth Gail Blackmore.
They were convicted and sentenced for the same child removal charge after being ordered to bring a 13-year-old girl to marry Jeffs. Brandon James Blackmore was sentenced to 12 months in jail, while Emily Ruth Gail Blackmore was given a seven-month jail term.
Oler, however, was acquitted because the presiding judge was unable to determine, based on the trial evidence, whether he did anything within Canada’s borders to arrange the girl’s transfer to the U.S. The acquittal was successfully challenged by the Crown and a new trial was ordered by the B.C. Court of Appeal.
Devlin found Oler guilty of the child removal charge in a new trial that was held in Cranbrook earlier this year.
The court has set Aug. 29 as a tentative date for sentencing.
The court heard that Oler is living in isolation in Alberta after being stripped of his bishop’s appointment and excommunicated from the Bountiful community nearly a decade ago for participating in legal proceedings examining the constitutionality of Canada’s polygamy laws.
He was also charged and convicted of polygamy alongside Bountiful leader Winston Blackmore and sentenced to three months house arrest in 2018.
(Cranbrook Daily Townsman)
Trevor Crawley, Cranbrook Daily Townsman, The Canadian Press
Three confirmed dead in fiery Alberta crash with semi trucks, passenger vehicles
CEREAL, Alta. — A Saskatchewan man says a well-timed pit stop may have helped him avoid getting caught in a fiery 10-vehicle crash in southeastern Alberta that killed three people.
Dore Germo and his wife left Kelowna, B.C., on Monday after a holiday visiting friends and, after a night in Calgary, were on their way home to Warman, Sask., on Tuesday.
They stopped for gas and a break in Hanna, Alta., about 80 kilometres from where seven passenger vehicles and three semi trucks collided on Highway 9.
The couple could see smoke as they continued east, but they thought it was just a grass fire.
Then they saw flashing lights and heard sirens and a police officer was running down the middle of the road yelling, “Get out!”
Germo says they were directed to a rural side road to get around the crash, and from there they could make out a tanker truck and burned vehicles amid the smoke.
“It was quite a sickening kind of empty feeling once you realized that — yes — those are people just going about their day and travelling somewhere,” Germo said in an interview Wednesday.
“It kind of looked like a bomb had gone off because there were these burnt out vehicles and it was very eerie.”
He said he’s praying for those involved.
“The first thing you think of is those poor families.”
RCMP confirmed Wednesday that three people were found dead at the scene of the crash between the small communities of Chinook and Cereal, about 300 kilometres east of Calgary. Ten people were injured, two critically.
One of the semi trucks that was carrying fuel ignited, causing several vehicles to catch fire, and another truck was carrying butane.
A stretch of Highway 9 was expected to remain closed until about mid-day, while crews clear the collision area and recover dangerous goods in one of the trucks.
The RCMP’s victim services unit is providing support to people involved in the crash.
“The investigation into this collision remains a lengthy process given the nature of the crash scene,” RCMP said in Wednesday’s release. “It is anticipated that it will take several weeks for the collision analyst to complete the investigation.”
— By Lauren Krugel in Calgary
The Canadian Press
Military faces calls to train soldiers to identify neo-Nazis, hate-group members
OTTAWA — The Canadian Armed Forces is facing calls to train its recruiters and other service members to identify and screen out members of hate groups.
The military is also being accused of failing to take the issue seriously by adopting what several experts say is a wait-and-see approach rather than actively weeding out such individuals.
The criticism follows an internal military report and several high-profile incidents linking some service members to right-wing extremists and hate groups.
That includes an investigation this week into a reservist in Manitoba who is suspected of being a recruiter for a neo-Nazi group.
The Defence Department says the military already uses interviews and background checks to screen recruits for hateful beliefs and behaviour and takes very seriously any reported incidents by current personnel.
But several experts tell The Canadian Press that is not good enough, and that the military must launch a campaign similar to efforts to stamp out sexual misconduct to truly root out extremist beliefs and behaviour.
The Canadian Press
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