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Accused polygamist offers online advice Add to ...

Winston Blackmore, who faces criminal charges for having 19 wives, is offering online advice to women in abusive relationships.

Five months after he advised his blog readers that he would remain silent until his court case is finished, Mr. Blackmore posted answers on his website sharethelight.ca to a series of questions that he says he has been asked.

First, he states the question: What advice would you give a woman that is locked in an abusive relationship?

"This sounds like a question for the Ann Landers column," he responds.

However, Mr. Blackmore says, he will treat the question as a general inquiry, not a personal problem.

He also says he decided to limit his response to physical abuse, although critics of polygamy say all women in polygamous marriages are in abusive relationships.

Report any incidents of "hitting, hurting, bruises, hair pulling and so on" to police, Mr. Blackmore says in a posting. He suggests the woman should put some distance between herself and the abuser, find a counsellor to fix the relationship and find help for children who may have seen the abuse happen.

"Make a big effort to help the abuser get some help," Mr. Blackmore also says. "Who knows what they are going through? A good counsellor will help get this resolved."

Nancy Mereska, who for the past six years has headed an e-mail campaign to stop polygamy in Canada, was startled by Mr. Blackmore's posting.

"I consider all polygamous relationships abusive," she said yesterday from her home in Two Hills, Alta., 100 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.

"I mean, all polygamous relationships. I don't care how modern they try to appear," she said. "Every aspect of a polygamous relationship is abusive."

A notice on Mr. Blackmore's website on March 1 stated that he had been advised to remain silent until his court case is completed. Despite his legal advice, occasional postings have appeared on his blog in the following months. Most of the items refer to religious matters.

Mr. Blackmore also posted a four-minute video on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=URsC2YXHZbw&feature=related.

The video shows several photos of him with unidentified women and children, as well as photos of the southeastern B.C. farming community in which he lives, outside Creston. A monotone rendition of the song On the Wings of a Dove accompanies the photos.

The website identifies the singer as Mr. Blackmore.

On his website in July, Mr. Blackmore recounted his trip to the U.S. to testify in a civil court case over a controversial sale of property owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

He does not say how he was allowed to cross the Canada-U.S. border, while facing criminal charges, to attend a court case in Utah.

"It was a process to even get there," he writes without elaboration.

In August, Mr. Blackmore responded to 10 questions, including the one about abusive relationships.

Among the questions he tackles is whether tithing, or donating funds to a church, should continue when the religion's bishop is "two-timing on his wife and spending lots of money on the other woman," and whether the religion prohibits drinking coffee.

Mr. Blackmore did not respond yesterday to phone and e-mail requests for an interview. The administrator of his website replied that Mr. Blackmore might not be available. A lightning storm had struck close to his home and killed his new computer, the administrator stated. "I do not think he has replaced it yet," the administrator said.

Mr. Blackmore is a religious leader of a polygamous group that broke away from the U.S.-based Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

He was charged in January with being in a polygamous relationship with 19 women. A B.C. Supreme Court judge is currently considering a defence motion to quash the polygamy charges.

His defence team argued that former B.C. attorney-general Wally Oppal overstepped his authority by appointing a third prosecutor to pursue the case after two previous prosecutors declined to press charges against Mr. Blackmore. Madam Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein of the B.C. Supreme Court has not indicated when she will release her ruling.

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