Two Polygamist Leaders With 29 Wives and 160 Kids Sentenced to House Arrest

Two former polygamist leaders who together have a combined total of 29 wives and 160 children have been sentence to house arrest.

Winston Blackmore, 61, and James Oler, 54, were sentenced this week by British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Sheri Ann Donegan to house arrest after pleading guilty to charges of polygamy last July, the AFP reports, making them the first Canadians to be found guilty of the charge since 1906.

Blackmore, who had been convicted of having 24 wives and 149 children, was sentenced to a six-month conditional sentence to be served under house arrest and a year of probation, while Oler, who was convicted of having five wives, was sentenced to three-months of house arrest and a year of probation.

The two were also sentenced to 150 and 75 hours of community service.

Blackmore and Older had reportedly served as bishops in a branch of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, an off-branch of the Mormon church that supports plural marriages, in Bountiful, an isolated community in southeastern British Columbia.

Their marriages were reported to have been "celestial" marriages and said to be by Blackmore's attorney common-law relationships that carried no legal bearing.

Blackmore, who began entering into "celestial" marriages in 1975, is said to have wed multiple underage women, including 10 of his wives who were 17 at the time of their union, three that were 16, and at least two who were 15, according to Canada's Global News.

Oler, who also had "celestial" marriages, reportedly wed a 15-year-old and a 17-year-old.

Prior to their convictions, only two other Canadians had been found guilty of polygamy between the years of 1899 and 2006, and it took decades for Blackmore and Oler's cases to go to trial. While the cases drew mixed reactions throughout the country, Blackmore commonly spoke out about them.

"I'm guilty of living my religion and that's all I'm saying today because I've never denied that. Twenty-seven years and tens of millions of dollars later, all we've proved is something we've never denied. I've never denied my faith. This is what we expected," he said after his conviction last year.


The years-long political debate surrounding the constitutionality of polygamy ultimately came to an end in 2011 when the British Columbia high court ruled that the harms of polygamy justified setting limits on religious practices. That ruling made possible the 2014 charges against Blackmore and Oler.

Prior to their sentencing, Blackmore and Oler had been facing up to five years in prison.