British Columbia has been unable to win polygamy convictions against two southeastern B.C. religious leaders, but the province has played a role in a successful conviction of a man linked to multiple marriages south of the border.
B.C. Attorney-General Barry Penner confirmed his ministry shared information with prosecutors leading up to the life sentence imposed by a Texas court after Warren Jeffs was convicted of sexually assaulting two teenaged girls.
“We shared (information) with authorities in Texas and I am told that it proved to be useful in the recent prosecution and conviction of Mr. Jeffs,” Mr. Penner said.
The minister did not say exactly what details were offered to U.S. prosecutors but hinted that the information came to light fairly recently.
“We developed some information and evidence as we were preparing our court case this spring, asking the courts to rule on Canada's prohibition under the Criminal Code for polygamous marriages,” he said.
Mr. Penner said the evidence-sharing went both ways.
“Well, we did receive some information from Texas that I immediately had my deputy share with the RCMP,” he confirmed.
A new criminal investigation of B.C.’s polygamous community Bountiful was launched earlier this year.
It began after a constitutional case in B.C. Supreme Court examined Canada's anti-polygamy law and heard allegations of cross-border marriages in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Those marriages involved as many as two dozen girls sent from Bountiful to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS, in Texas where Mr. Jeffs is the self-proclaimed leader.
FLDS is same religion practised in Bountiful, a small commune just south of Creston near the Canada-U.S. border, where about 1,000 residents follow the fundamentalist offshoot of the Mormon church, which renounced polygamy more than a century ago.
During the recent B.C. case, court was told at least three girls from Bountiful became child-brides for Mr. Jeffs while other B.C. teens were married to men in Mr. Jeffs' sect.
Neither of the two victims Mr. Jeffs was convicted of assaulting were from British Columbia.
Word of the Canadian role in Mr. Jeffs' conviction came as lawmakers here await the ruling on the constitutionality of this country's polygamy laws.
Hearings wrapped up in April and a decision is expected in the coming months, although the case is expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.