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
151st Cowichan Exhibition includes new category: best home-grown pot
VICTORIA — One of Canada’s oldest fall fairs is putting a new twist on its annual showcase of local livestock, produce and fruit by adding a new category for best home-grown marijuana.
The Cowichan Exhibition in Duncan, B.C., which dates back to 1868, has created a best cannabis category to embrace legalization and celebrate local pot growers, said exhibition vice-president Bud James.
The fair starts Friday and the cannabis entries will be on display in the main hall at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds along with the region’s top vegetables, fruits and baked goods. First prize is $5, second is $3 and third place gets a ribbon.
“We just decided this year, because it’s an agricultural product, and it’s been grown in the valley for years, and now that it’s finally legally grown, we would allow people to win a ribbon for the best,” said James.
He said fair officials believe the Cowichan cannabis category is the first of its kind in Canada.
An official at the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, a non-profit organization representing rural and urban fairs, said she had not heard of any other cannabis judging contests prior to the Cowichan Exhibition, but couldn’t confirm it was the first.
A fall fair in Grand Forks, B.C., is also judging local cannabis, but the event starts Saturday, one day after Cowichan’s fair. Those who enter the competition in Grand Forks can compete for best indoor- and outdoor-grown cannabis.
James said fair organizers contacted the local council and RCMP prior to adding the cannabis category. The mayor and council did not oppose the contest and the RCMP referred organizers to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, the agency monitoring retail sales of non-medical cannabis, he said.
Organizers decided to go ahead with the event after its plans were not rejected, James said.
“Our interpretation of the rules are you can’t make it attractive to people under 19 years and we are not making it attractive,” he said.
James said the cannabis entries will be placed in a glass display case and the individual entries will be sealed in clear zip lock plastic bags.
“It’s being judged to the same standard of judging garden and field produce,” he said. “It’s done by uniformity. You want all three buds to be the same size, same shape, same colour. It’s also the dryness, texture and smell. It’s exactly the same way you would judge apples or carrots or hay bales. It’s all done the same way.”
James said the contest doesn’t involve sampling the product.
Bree Tweet, the manager of a medical cannabis dispensary in nearby Ladysmith, will judge the marijuana entries, said James.
The exhibition received 18 cannabis entries and James said the contest created a buzz at the fair.
“The enthusiasm of the entrants, the people bringing their entry forms, they are so enthusiastic it’s unbelievable,” he said. “They are so thrilled that it’s happening, that we’re doing it because they’ve been waiting for years for legalization and now, they finally got it and now they have a chance to show what they can do.”
James, who has entered his prized Dahlia flowers at past fairs, said the addition of the cannabis category has exceeded expectations with the 18 entries.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
School board defends book pictured on principal’s desk after online uproar
A Toronto-area Catholic school board says an online firestorm that erupted after a book on how to teach black students was photographed on a principal’s desk stems from a misunderstanding over the book’s contents.
The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board says the book, titled “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys,” has a provocative title but is actually a helpful resource on tackling racial and cultural oppression in education.
Michelle Coutinho, the board’s principal of equity and inclusive education, says such materials are a particularly useful reference given how diverse the student population is in the district and at that specific school.
The controversy emerged this week after a Brampton, Ont., high school, Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School, posted a photo of its new principal on Twitter.
The photo, which shows the book on her desk, set off heated debate, with some suggesting it was a sign of racism or incompetence, or a prop meant to bolster the school’s image.
The image was also shared on instagram by 6ixBuzzTV, a popular account with roughly 1.2 million followers.
“LOOOOL. No principal should make it this far while subsequently needing a book like this,” one person wrote on Twitter. “She a bad principal,” wrote another.
Some defended the book, however, and the principal’s efforts to educate herself. “She’s making an effort to connect with her students, it’s more than most principals do,” another tweet read.
The board said it was surprised by the uproar and hoped people would look up the book before jumping to conclusions based on its title.
The principal intends to address the photo in a public announcement and invite any students with lingering questions to see her, said Bruce Campbell, the board’s spokesman.
The book, written by three researchers and published in 2017, aims to improve outcomes for black students by helping teachers create learning environments in which they feel nurtured and engaged. The title references the fact that white women make up the bulk of the teaching force in the U.S.
Coutinho said the book asks educators to challenge the biases they may bring into the classroom.
“We know that we’re steeped in a colonized kind of world view and how do we break out of that in our everyday practices?” she said, noting it has been used in the board’s anti-oppression training in the past.
Cardinal Ambrozic’s new principal was involved in a book study at several schools that delved deeply into the text last year, Coutinho said.
“If we’re going to make any changes to the education system, we have to start talking about these things and talking about them openly and honestly without shame or blame.”
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
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