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CANADA: Authorities investigating case involving possible child brides of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs

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Affidavit says a 13-year-old female from Bountiful was "celestially married" to Jeffs "for time and eternity."

Parents of girls as young as 12 years old smuggled their daughters across the Canadian border into Utah to become child brides of polygamist leader Warren Jeffs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SALT LAKE CITY -- Parents of girls as young as 12 years old smuggled their daughters across the Canadian border into Utah to become child brides of polygamist leader Warren Jeffs. That's the latest allegation to emerge in a long-running legal saga that already has Jeffs facing sex charges in Texas.

"Yes, it really shocks me that the young girls are married so young," British Columbia resident Linda Price said in a 2004 interview with KSL News.

That interview took place as KSL was investigating rumors of cross-border trafficking of child brides. Some of the suspicions raised six years ago now seem to be supported by a court filing Feb. 18 in Vancouver.

The allegations

The attorney general of British Columbia alleged in a court affidavit that the parents of two 12-year-olds and a 13-year-old smuggled them out of Canada in 2004 and 2005. Later, the affidavit says, all three girls were "celestially married" to Jeffs in the FLDS border town of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.

One wedding was allegedly conducted at an FLDS member's home on the Arizona side of town. It's not clear if the other two ceremonies were conducted in the Utah or Arizona portion of the community.

The affidavit says a 13-year-old female from Bountiful was "celestially married" to Jeffs "for time and eternity" in the home of James Allred in Colorado City. FLDS Patriarch Leroy S. Jeffs performed the ceremony in 2004, the document says, and the girls' parents participated.

Similarly, two 12-year-olds were "celestially married" to Jeffs in 2005 after allegedly being driven to the ceremonies by their fathers. The weddings took place in "Short Creek," according to the document. Short Creek is the historic name used by FLDS members when they refer to the entire twin-town that straddles the Utah-Arizona border.

Later, the girls were moved to the FLDS property in Texas known as the Yearning for Zion Ranch. Part of the evidence for the bride-smuggling accusation was uncovered three years ago during a law enforcement raid on the Texas ranch.

The Canadian court affidavit refers to evidence found in FLDS church records seized during the raid. Texas authorities brought the evidence to the attention of Canadian authorities when they requested birth certificates for the three girls in question.

With the girls' ages now established, British Columbia Attorney General Barry Penner has referred the evidence to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to determine if the girls' parents can be charged with crimes.

History of FLDS polygamists in Bountiful, BC

The girls were residents of the rustic community known as Bountiful. It's in British Columbia, less than a mile from the U.S. border crossing at the northern tip of Idaho. For decades Bountiful, BC, has been an FLDS outpost. Shortly after Warren Jeffs took control of the sect a decade ago, a leadership struggle tore Bountiful apart. About 1,000 FLDS members in Canada are thought to still revere Jeffs as a prophet.

In a story broadcast by KSL-TV in November 2004, Linda Price spoke on behalf of a group of anti-polygamy activists centered in nearby Creston, BC. She alleged that young brides were being smuggled in both directions between Utah and Canada.

"They're smart enough to realize that interbreeding isn't a good idea," Price said. "So they have the gene pool, they move them back and forth between the two."

At that same time, FLDS member and Bountiful resident Joseph Blackmore denied the allegation. "In this day and age do you really think people can smuggle back and forth across the border?" Blackmore said. "I don't think so."

But a U.S. guard working at the nearby border crossing told KSL he frequently saw cars with Utah plates carrying underage brides across the border.

How the case will proceed in court

The new affidavit was filed in a Canadian court case that has no exact equivalent in the United States. It's known as a "constitutional reference" case. The purpose of the proceeding is to determine whether Canada's polygamy laws are constitutional or whether they conflict with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The judge in the constitutional reference case recently concluded the evidentiary phase of the proceeding. Now, British Colombia's attorney general has asked to reopen the case and present new evidence about the 12- and 13-year-old brides. The filing also asks the court to keep the girls' identities secret.

Chief Justice Robert Bauman of the Supreme Court of British Columbia is expected to hold a hearing Friday on the attorney general's filing.

It's not clear in the Canadian court filing whether the Bountiful girls are identified as victims in the criminal cases pending against Jeffs in Texas.

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