NEWS
11/23/2016 14:43 EST | Updated 11/24/2017 00:12 EST

A timeline of the history of polygamy in Canada

CRANBROOK, B.C. — The start of trial this week against a British Columbia trio accused of taking girls to the United States for sexual purposes is the latest development in Canada's history with polygamy. Here is a timeline:

1890: Wilford Woodruff, president of the Mormon church, ends the religion's long-standing practice of plural marriages, paving the path for Utah to become the 45th American state in 1896. Canada passes legislation outlawing polygamy, with specific language targeting Mormonism.

1947: A religious commune is established in Creston Valley near Lister, B.C., reportedly by three men expelled from a nearby Mormon church for refusing to renounce polygamy. The settlement is later named Bountiful — after a locale in the Book of Mormon — when Winston Blackmore becomes its leader in 1985. The community is connected to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, led by Warren Jeffs, which condones plural or "celestial" marriage.

October 1991: The RCMP complete a 13-month investigation into Bountiful by recommending polygamy charges against Blackmore and Dalmin Oler. B.C.'s attorney general opts not to lay charges because of uncertainty over whether the law is unconstitutional on the grounds of religious freedom. The federal government asks the province reconsider its decision.

1993: Immigration Canada confirms it is aware of U.S. girls arriving into Bountiful from Utah and Arizona but says it hasn't taken action because of the conflict in legal opinion between the federal and provincial governments.

September 2002: Jeffs excommunicates Blackmore and installs James Oler as the church's leader. Blackmore splits with the fundamentalist church, bringing nearly half of the 1,000-member community with him to start his own religious faction.

2008: A U.S. investigation brings to light documents seized from the fundamentalist Yearning for Zion Ranch in Texas, revealing that more than two-dozen girls have been ferried across the border between polygamous communities. The records are used to prosecute Jeffs for sexually assaulting underage girls, and also show that at least three girls from Bountiful — two 12-year-olds and one 13-year-old — were allegedly taken to the U.S. by their parents and married to the church leader. Three years later, Jeffs is sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years, with no eligibility for parole for 35 years.

2009: A special prosecutor recommends polygamy charges against Blackmore and Oler. But the charges are thrown out after a judge concludes the province had gone "special prosecutor shopping" to get the outcome it wanted.

November 2011: The B.C. Supreme Court upholds Canada's polygamy laws in a reference case, ruling that a section of the Criminal Code banning plural marriages is constitutional. The court's chief justice finds that the harm against women and children outweighs concerns over protecting religious freedom.

January 2015: The B.C. Supreme Court bans the province's polygamous groups from posing as mainstream Mormonism by calling themselves the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has strongly distanced itself from any polygamous offshoots. The ruling also prohibits the use of the words "Latter-day Saints and "Mormon" and compels Blackmore to change his group's name to the Church of Jesus Christ (Original Doctrine) Inc.

August 2014: With the constitutional question answered and new evidence from U.S. court proceedings, B.C. appoints a third special prosecutor. Peter Wilson approves polygamy charges that accuse Blackmore of marrying 24 women between 1990 and 2014, and Oler of marrying four women between 1993 and 2009. An attempt by Blackmore to quash the charge fails. The pair is scheduled to appear in B.C. Supreme Court on April 10, 2017.

November 2016: Brandon Blackmore, Gail Blackmore and Oler are in court, each charged with taking girls from Canada into the U.S. for sexual purposes. Wilson told the court in Cranbrook, B.C., that the trial would hear that the sect's beliefs about sex and plural marriage would prove the trio's intent to transport girls across the United States border for sexual purposes.