VANCOUVER, British Columbia British Columbia's top lawyer on Monday appointed a special prosecutor to look into allegations of sexual misconduct within a Canadian polygamous community.
Attorney General Wally Oppal said the prosecutor will assess the likelihood of criminal convictions in the community made up of about 1,500 people who are members of the Fundamentalist LDS Church. The community includes about 500 U.S. citizens.
Oppal said Robertson will examine if there should be charges for polygamy, sexual assault, sexual exploitation or a combination of charges.
"There is evidence of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse," Oppal said. "The problems we had in the past is that we had a reluctance of witnesses to come forward."
At least one teenager from the community of Bountiful, in western Canada, was apprehended by U.S. authorities in April when another polygamous community of the Fundamentalist LDS Church in Texas was raided.
Oppal said in April he planned to order a polygamy charge arrest or ask the courts to weigh in on Bountiful's legal standing within the month. The issue is complicated because although polygamy is banned, religious freedoms are strongly protected in Canada.
"I think that what's going on in Bountiful, or what we are told is going on in Bountiful, is something that the criminal law should look at," Oppal said Monday. "The evidence is there regarding polygamy. The question is whether it's constitutional or not."
Oppal said the province's attorney general's office has had a file on the community for two decades. Bountiful was previously investigated in a three-year review that was launched in 2004. Detectives spent three months investigating the community, but no charges were brought.
Oppal said he wants to ensure the Bountiful investigation is done correctly.
"We saw what happened in Texas," Oppal said. "The authorities moved in quickly and then they found out they'd proceeded improperly."