A recent Canadian television documentary contained a chilling, real-life scene. A 13-year-old girl was struggling and screaming as her family attempted to deliver her into the hands of a man in his 40s. The man already had a dozen wives, and the hysterical child was to be the latest addition to his harem. The scene, captured on film, occurred in a Sudanese village, where the forced marriage of children is the prerogative of kings and tribal chiefs. What many Canadian viewers did not realise is that much the same thing (possibly without the overt coercion) may be happening in their own country; that the authorities know about it; and that they are doing nothing to stop it. It is happening in a British Columbian commune known as Bountiful where, according a sworn complaint, girls of 13 or 14 are married to polygamous men three times their age, and are having their babies. The local government is also allegedly funding a school that propagates 'sexist and racial' material. Two of the complainants are women who escaped the commune, situated near the American border. It is run by a sect known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) and has been described as a haven for American polygamists who can no longer get away with the practice in the US. The women say that the Bountiful lifestyle includes forced marriage, sexual slavery, abuse and the cross-border trafficking of girls and women. The children attend the school, funded by taxpayers' money, where they are taught that men rule, women bear children, and that 'negroes came from a war in heaven'. The British Columbia government tolerates this medievalism because, it says, the FLDS is a religion, and that attempts to outlaw it would violate Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, the criminal code says that it is illegal to have more than one wife. Indeed, the Mormon Church, to which the FLDS members used to belong, condemned polygamy 100 years ago. Nevertheless, the state's attorney-general, Geoff Plant, says that if the Bountiful case went to trial, the courts would declare the anti-polygamy law unconstitutional. And that, in effect, would make a distasteful practice legal. All this legal finessing infuriates the complainants, who say they have helped girls of 14 give birth, and that teenagers are shipped to the US as breeding stock. Some of the alpha males in Bountiful have had up to 30 wives and 80 children, and model themselves on the Old Testament polygamists like Abraham and Moses. But critics say it is only a matter of time before the law derails this sexist fraud disguised as 'old-time religion'.