Former polygamous leader found guilty of removing a child from Canada

James Oler found guilty of removing an underage child from Canada to marry a U.S. man in 2004

A former leader of a polygamous community south of Creston has been found guilty of removing a child from Canada knowing she would be subject to sexual offences, according to the presiding judge.

James Oler was found guilty of taking a 15-year-old girl from Bountiful, a fundamentalist Mormon community in the Creston area, to the U.S. in order to marry an American fundamentalist Mormon in 2004.

Justice Martha Devlin agreed with Crown arguments that Oler should have known the marriage would facilitate sexual activity based on the religious teachings of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which demand obedience to the priesthood head — the father or husband — as a representative of God’s authority.

Justice Devlin ruled that Oler would have known that the marriage transferred the priesthood head authority to the husband.

“As a result, Mr. Oler foresaw with certainty, or substantial certainty, that as an FLDS wife to whom obedience to her Priesthood head husband was the sine qua non of her FLDS identity, [she] would be dependent on her husband for every aspect of her life just as she had been on James Oler as her father.”

READ: Two of three people found guilty in B.C. child bride case

A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for July 15 in Cranbrook Supreme Court.

Crown’s evidence inlcuded marriage and priesthood records seized at an FLDS compound in Texas a decade ago, testimony from current and former members of the FLDS community and religious experts.

According to the records seized by Texas law enforcement in 2008, Warren Jeffs, the FLDS leader and prophet, had called Oler on June 23, 2004 and ordered him to bring the 15-year-old girl to the United States to be married. A marriage record confirmed a ceremony occurred two days later that was peformed by Jeffs in Mesquite, NV.

It was one of 18 ceremonies that day, one of which inlcuded a polygamous marriage between Oler himself and aother woman.

While there wasn’t any direct evidence of Oler crossing the Canada/U.S. border with his daughter, a trial witness testified she travelled from Bountiful over to northern Idaho in the early morning hours of June 24, 2004, and met up with Oler and his daughter.

The witness, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, said she crossed from Canada into the United States with her parents in a van and stopped at a highway pullout shortly afterwards. After going into the woods to relieve herself, she came back out and saw another van had arrived which contained Oler and his daughter

They all piled into the newly-arrived van, except for one person, and continued to Cedar City, UT.

“While not a private area, it was certainly situated some distance from the highway,” said Devlin. “I find that the rendezvous of these two vans at this isolated spot was not a conincidence. Indeed, I find that it was the result of Mr. Oler’s implementation of Warren Jeff’s direction which Mr. Oler received the night before.”

Further testimony from another witness placed Oler’s daughter in Bountiful a week before the wedding at a church function, while school records also confirmed her attendance up until February 2004.

Former members of the FLDS testified about their experiences growing up in the faith, which involved consistent religious instruction requiring strict obedience to the priesthood head. Women were taught that their role was to submit to their priesthood heads, be married into polygamous relationships and bear children.

Documentaion submitted by Crown showed that Oler’s daughter gave birth just over a year after the wedding when she was 17 years old.

The case was tried by Peter Wilson, a special prosecutor appointed by the Attorney General in 2012, and his colleague Micah Rankin. Joe Doyle served as an amicus curiae, a friend of the court, to ensure a fair trial.

Oler was self-represented but didn’t participate in the proceedings.

READ: Prosecutor appealing Oler acquittal

He was previously acquitted in 2017 of the same charge after the presiding judge was unable to determine if Oler did anything within Canada to remove the underage girl. However, the B.C. Court of Appeal overturned the acquittal on appeal from the Crown, and awarded a new trial.

Two co-accused, Brandon James Blackmore and Emily Ruth Gail Blackmore, were found guilty of the same charge three years ago and sentenced to 12 montsh and seven months, respectively, in jail.

Oler was kicked out of the community following his involvement in polygamy proceedings a decade ago in Vancouver. He was formerly the bishop of Bountiful, assuming the role after Winston Blackmore, the former bishop, was excommunicated following a a power struggle against Jeffs for church leadership.

Jeffs remains the leader of the FLDS, however, he is currently serving a life sentence in a Texas prison after being arrested and convicted of sex assault against a child.

Oler was also charged and found guilty of polygamy alongside Blackmore in 2017 after nearly three decades of police investigations and litigation involving members of the Bountiful community. Following the polygamy conviction, Oler was sentenced to three months house arrest.



trevor.crawley@cranbrooktownsman.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

RDEK calls on province for clarity, stronger measures for inter-community travel

The Regional District of East Kootenay has passed a resolution urging the… Continue reading

Vehicle parades celebrate birthdays, recognize workers on COVID-19 front lines

Melissa Young started the parades in Cranbrook as a way to mark her son’s 12th birthday

City of Cranbrook seeks public cooperation with provincial COVID-19 mandates

City Bylaw will be monitoring, educating public around orders set by the province

Education, not enforcement: B.C. bylaw officers keeping a watch on physical distancing

A kind word, it turns out, has usually been all people need to hear

Canadian cadets to mark 103rd anniversary of Vimy Ridge April 9 virtually

Idea of Captain Billie Sheridan in Williams Lake, B.C. who wondered what to do in times of COVID-19

Emergency aid portal opens Monday, cash could be in bank accounts by end of week: Trudeau

Emergency benefit will provide $2,000 a month for those who have lost their income due to COVID-19

B.C. VIEWS: Pandemic shows need for adequate care home staffing

Seniors in B.C. care homes face challenging times

QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Take this test and find out how well you know Canada’s most popular winter sport

Researchers look at humidity as a weapon in the fight against airborne viruses

Regular hand washing, physical distancing and PPE for health care workers remains best line of defense

Two inmates found positive for COVID-19 at federal prison in B.C.; other tests pending

15 staff self-isolating waiting results, refusal to work notice sent, says correctional officer

Critic, workers’ group ‘disappointed’ Trudeau chose Amazon to distribute PPE

Amazon Canada said in an email to The Canadian Press that it is working with Canada Post, Purolator

Most Read