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Canadian police launch probe of polygamists

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Associated Press
Aug. 6, 2004 12:00 AM

SALT LAKE CITY - Authorities are investigating the alleged abuse of women and children in a Canadian polygamous community populated by an offshoot of fundamentalist southern Utah and northern Arizona Mormons.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is investigating the polygamous Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a Bountiful, British Colombia, church that practices polygamy as a central tenet, spokeswoman Cpl. Catherine Galliford said Thursday.

The Bountiful congregation is affiliated with the fundamentalist church that has its base in the twin border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., where an estimated 10,000 polygamists live.

"Finally," said Rowenna Erickson, a co-founder of the Salt Lake City-based Tapestry Against Polygamy. "They've been trafficking girls for a long time."

Messages left Thursday by the Associated Press with Rod Parker and R. Scott Barry, lawyers for the church in southern Utah, were not immediately returned.

Police in the RCMP's Vancouver, B.C., division decided last week to launch the investigation after numerous reports surfaced of the alleged abuse, Galliford said.

"There have been more recent allegations made through the media," Galliford said. "We decided as a police force, it's time to clear the air once and for all."

The most recent allegations of sexual abuse and forced marriage were reported Thursday in the Daily Telegraph of London. Women who have fled the community of about 1,000 residents told the newspaper of girls in their early teens forced to marry older men and of the routine trafficking of underage girls between Canada and southern Utah.

The RCMP is working with the British Colombian provincial government in the investigation.

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