Polygamist Winston Blackmore married Lorraine Johnson when she was 15 years old. Ms. Johnson had a baby boy two weeks before her 17th birthday.
She was one of Mr. Blackmore's four 15-year-old brides, police say in an affidavit in B.C. Supreme Court released yesterday. He also married two 16-year-olds and three 17-year-olds. Four of the young girls had their first baby before turning 18.
The child brides were identified for the first time in an affidavit for a pretrial hearing in B.C. Supreme Court. Mr. Blackmore, 52, has been charged with being in a polygamous relationship with 19 women. His legal team is in court this week in a bid to have the charge dismissed on a procedural issue before the preliminary hearing begins next April. The court proceedings continue tomorrow.
The nine girls under 18 were among 25 wives that Mr. Blackmore has had since 1976, police say.
His wives had 101 children. The list of wives and children, drafted Sept. 27, 2005, was part of an affidavit by RCMP Constable Shelley Livingstone.
The police interviewed the women as part of an investigation into sexual exploitation and polygamy in Bountiful, a community of about 1,000 in southeastern B.C. Mr. Blackmore was the bishop of Bountiful until 2002, when he was replaced in an internal battle over leadership.
"The first interview was Janelle Fischer, and each person interviewed freely went to get another of Winston Blackmore's wives to attend the clinic to speak to us when her interview finished," Constable Livingstone states in the affidavit.
Mr. Blackmore came to the clinic and she showed him the list compiled by the police, Constable Livingstone said. "At that point in time, through information from a number of sources, we had compiled a list of individuals thought to be wives and his children. He reviewed our information and provided clarification and information."
In a brief exchange outside the court today, Mr. Blackmore denied that he married four 15-year-old girls. "That's wrong," he said before walking away.
The release of information about the age of the brides raised questions yesterday about why authorities did not pursue a charge of sexual exploitation, which involves sexual touching by a person in a position of authority over the victim.
Wally Oppal, who was attorney-general when Mr. Blackmore was charged with polygamy, said B.C. authorities had difficulty finding evidence. Special prosecutor Terry Robertson is in charge of the polygamy case, Mr. Oppal said. However, Mr. Oppal was aware of the hurdles that authorities confronted.
"We did not have any evidence with respect to sexual exploitation because of the unwillingness of people to come and testify," he said.
Also, the age of consent at the time of the marriages was 14. Girls who were old enough to say yes said they voluntarily agreed to the sexual activity. The federal government raised the age of consent to 16 in 2008. "When they changed it, at our urging, to 16, that would have made it easier to prosecute," he said.
Mr. Robertson said in an interview that the standard for approval of a charge of sexual exploitation had not been met. "There was not a substantial likelihood of conviction," he said.
The Bountiful community is affiliated with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, with headquarters in the United States. Former members have said women were often sent across the border into Canada for marriage to older men at Bountiful. The list compiled by Constable Livingstone shows that seven of Mr. Blackmore's wives were U.S. citizens and one was a landed immigrant.
Jane Blackmore was Mr. Blackmore's first and only legal wife, police say. They were married in 1976, when she was 18 years old, and they had seven children. They are now divorced.
Christina Gallup Blackmore was Mr. Blackmore first "plural" wife. She was 15 when they were married and 17 when their first child was born. She had 12 children.
Janelle Fischer, one of the first of Mr. Blackmore's wives to speak to police, married Mr. Blackmore at the age of 17. She is a U.S. citizen who came to Canada on a student visa in 2006. She had three children.
The formal criminal charge against Mr. Blackmore focuses on his polygamous relationships between May 1, 2005, and Dec. 8, 2006. Three of the wives on the RCMP list - Jane Blackmore, Shirley Black Jessop and Catherine Broadbent - were no longer part of the polygamous colony in Bountiful and not included on the criminal charge as one of Mr. Blackmore's wives.
Three women, who told police they had a "religious marriage" with Mr. Blackmore, were in their 50s and also excluded from the criminal charge. They said their relationship was "not like a real wife."