Apr 28, 2017

Polygamy trial now to include a constitutional challenge of the law

Winston Blackmore, who is accused of practising polygamy in a fundamentalist religious community, returns to court after a lunch break in Cranbrook, B.C.
Vancouver Sun
April 27, 2017

CRANBROOK, B.C. – Two weeks into the polygamy trial of fundamentalist Mormon leaders, Winston Blackmore’s lawyer is making an application to challenge the law’s constitutionality.

Blair Suffredine suddenly gave notice Thursday he would be making an application to argue that his client had a religious right to practise polygamy under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If he’s successful, Suffredine says he is seeking to have the single count of polygamy against Blackmore quashed.

The notice has yet to be filed and it comes after weeks of Suffredine saying he would not be making a Charter argument.

The Criminal Code section has already been the subject of a constitutional reference case. In 2011, the Supreme Court of British Columbia determined that the law was valid and that the harms of polygamy were enough to limit the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom.

Making a constitutional argument requires lawyers to give 14 days’ notice both to the other lawyers involved in the case at trial as well as to the federal Crown counsel’s office.

Suffredine said he hoped to have his application filed later Thursday or before the weekend.

Until then, provincial Crown prosecutor Peter Wilson said he couldn’t comment. But since he has had no prior notice, it’s likely that he will ask Justice Sheri Donegan for an adjournment to give him time to prepare for the constitutional arguments.

The case is set to resume in B.C. Supreme Court on Monday when the judge will rule on the admissibility of evidence, following a two-day voir dire.




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