Wednesday, August 25, 2004


Underbelly of Vancouver
Downtown Eastside


Yes folks imagine a blog writer fom the Downtown Eastside, honing in on the hinterlands of British Columbia and writing an article on plural marriage with-in the Bountiful community of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Bountiful, is a commune of individuals, who reside in Lister, near Creston BC. Their religion is based on the Mormon faith. This group in Bountiful are set apart from the mainstream Church of the Latter Day Saints in part, because they are not following the exact doctrine of the Church of Mormon. These men and women of Bountiful practice a value system of Polygamy also known as plural marriage. Hence the Fundamentalist aspect of their religion and way of life has set them apart from the mainstream Mormon church who, in 1890 denounced plural marriage.

While others in society have adopted a more traditional approach in family and marriage, ie: one man for one woman and for the politically correct, one mate for one mate, this sect of the Mormon Church, has bucked the usual trend in modern society and opted instead for a system which allows them to honour their religious practises by adhering to a faith based governance model. And in this modern world, imagine how scandalous this must be. Yet we now permit same-sex marriage and common law marriage also has been recognized as acceptable. No doubt, times-are-a-changing. Will plural marriage be next?

What's interesting about Bountiful, is how its existed without drawing much attention to itself. Even more titillating, for outsiders, must be the working dynamics of this community. I suppose living in a communal type atmosphere where one can live with more than one mate must have its strengths and drawbacks. What they are though is probably only known to this community or others who live communally.

Now that the average citizen has become aware of Bountiful, mostly through a series of venomous attacks, by Sun reporter Daphne Bramham, who appears hell bent on exposing the supposed evil ways of this community. As a result perhaps our knowledge of Bountiful, if we read the Sun, may be tainted and never understood.

It seems to me that this community of Bountiful prefers to be left alone. They do not socialize with outsiders who don't share their simple beliefs, however, they have built homes, businesses and schools for their sustainability. And this in a doggie dog world seems admirable. Imagine caring for your fellow human being without desiring to get something in return. Imagine taking care of your neighbors,without expectation. Imagine a community, pitching in collectively, to realize their dreams, values and vision. Yet to the outside world this way of life has been presented as immoral.

But is it?

Well according to a few former members of Bountiful, there is abuse of children and young females being transported from other countries to be used as young wives for older men. Apparently this is a no go, as it smacks of arranged marriage, without consent. Having been reformed of their former ways, and coming to their senses, a few of these excommunicated members are joining forces with radical feminists, even union leaders and speaking out.

Comparing Polygamy to slavery, what these reformists and protectionists hope to accomplish, is the need for Bountiful to be investigated and then one assumes, corrected for its immoral and ungodly ways. There's a case to be made, if in fact, these young girls are being abused through adults engaging in abuses of power.

According to Canadian law, a young person under the age of 18, must have parental consent to marry. If this requirement of law is followed by Bountiful members, its questionable whether these Latter Day saints are breaking any laws, even if young girls are being married off to older men.

Also, on the horizon of Bountiful is allegations of incest happening with-in the walls of Bountiful. While this may be true and if this proves to be correct, a glaring question begs asking, and must be asked - why hasn't this issue surfaced before now? After all, Bountiful has been in existence for a very long time. A far worse scenario is whether these allegations had previously come to the government's attention and whether there was any appropriate investigation carried out? I think generally speaking,the public has a right to know this.

In fairness to Bountiful, there is no doubt its going through a hellish time. Allegations of abuse and incest are very serious matters. The law though protects individuals and groups under the Charter of rights and Freedoms, moreover, there is a presumption of innocence unless proven otherwise in a court of law.

Rising to the surface at Bountiful, is the thorny issue of public tax dollars funding their private school. Some naysayers, in fact, prominent union leader of CUPE BC, Barry O'Neill is making demands that the Bountiful school be closed. Throwing kids in turmoil by disrupting their lives by freezing funding for their school, to the best of my knowledge has never been a trade union principle. The kids probably are already traumatized by the fact that outsiders, like hawks circling above them, believe that these outside people don't accept their ways and are out to get them. Surely, the children of Bountiful must be frightened enough without the fear factor being mixed into the equation. Quite possibly, the children and even adults of Bountiful must feel a sense of foreboding dread.

Exacerbating problems at Bountiful, as Mr O'Neill's demands would surely do must be dismissed. Is this acceptable, considering that so far, these allegations, albeit serious ones, are still only allegations?

No doubt most people find it unusual that young girls can be married to older men so easily. No question, many people, if asked, would probably articulate that Polygamy is distasteful. Many more may even say plural marriage is immoral. Most progressive thinking people would say the protection of the children at Bountiful must be first and foremost, a top priority. Of course, due to the nature of allegations, a proper investigation must be carried out.

While certain people may find it necessary to judge the members of Bountiful and no doubt, the public may have already come to the conclusion that what Bountiful'ers are practicing is wrong. They may even have rendered a verdict of guilty as alleged. It seems like everyone needs to take a step back and assess the Bountiful situation in its full proper context. As former Premier of British Columbia, Dave Barrett once said, allegations have been made and no charges laid. I hope these words of Mr Barrett will resonate with the public and before the public acts as judge and jury of the people of Bountiful, let us all remember the late great Pierre Elliott Trudeau intelligent words - the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation.

I pray reason will triumph over emotion at Bountiful. At the end of the day, goodness and justice must prevail.

Jamie Lee Hamilton
(604) 781-3361