Countdown to Canada's polygamy/polyamory ruling
We'll post news here ASAP, along with the official response from the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) — whose activists and Chief Counsel plan to be in the thick of the media scrum at the Vancouver courthouse.
Their key point: Although attention has focused on the group of Fundamentalist Mormons in Bountiful, BC, that prompted the case, the vast majority of people criminalized by the law are the thousands all across Canada living in healthy, modern, egalitarian, polyamorous relationships.
Already they're having some success. This just went out on the Canadian Press wire service:
Polygamy decision extends beyond isolated B.C. commune, say polyamorists
The Canadian Press
November 22, 2011 - 16:16
VANCOUVER - A group of so-called polyamorists say they're being ignored in the debate over Canada's polygamy law, and they say an imminent court decision will have implications beyond a tiny religious group in B.C.
The B.C. Supreme Court will rule on Wednesday whether the Criminal Code section banning polygamy is consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The trial focused almost entirely on the small commune of Bountiful, B.C., where about 1,000 self-described fundamentalist Mormons practise multiple marriage.
But among the interveners in the case was the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association, which says the current law also makes criminals out of consenting adults in relationships that happen to involve more than two people.
John Bashinski, who provided an affidavit in the case, says his group believes there are far more polyamorists across Canada than the polygamists in Bountiful, and he says the law should be struck down.
Bashinski, who lives in a household with a wife and another husband, says he's worried harmless relationships such as his are covered under the Criminal Code, and he says other laws should be used to punish abuse.
See an original.
Bashinski got a chance to say more in another Canadian Press article a few hours later:
...And then there are the polyamorists, who are in relationships with more than two people but describe them as consensual, egalitarian and often secular.
The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association was among the interveners in the B.C. case, and they argued the law as it's currently written — prohibiting any conjugal union involving more than two people — wrongly makes their relationships a crime.
John Bashinski, who provided an affidavit in the case, said his group has identified more than 100 families that fit his description of polyamory, and he believes there are many more than that.
Bashinski said the focus on Bountiful ignores a larger number of relationships that will always be afraid of being targeted if the law is not struck down.
"Given that people like me, who practise egalitarian polyamory, are actually by far the numerical majority, it's a little annoying to see ourselves constantly ignored and to see this presented as something about patriarchal systems," Bashinski said in an interview.
"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that S. 293 (of the Criminal Code, which prohibits polygamy), as written, applies to my family."
In response to that argument, though, the governments point out that polygamy prosecutions are incredibly rare.
Before 2009, when the B.C. government attempted, and failed, to charge to men from Bountiful with polygamy, the most recent charges were in 1937. The last convictions were more than 100 years ago.
Bashinski said that just shows why the government should abandon the polygamy law and focus on cases of abuse.
"They want this to be a prosecutorial tool at their discretion to use against people they feel are abusive, but it concerns me that any prosecutor in Canada has the discretion to apply that tool in a different way,"
"If I were drafting the laws, I would draft laws against abuse, coercion, using pastoral authority to threaten somebody into marriage, those sorts of things. Those abuses can be addressed directly."
He noted that the RCMP launched a new investigation earlier this year into allegations that young girls from Bountiful were spirited across the border to marry much older American men.
In a Vancouver Sun story today:
...Those favouring striking down the law included the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, polyamorists and civil libertarians, who argued that Section 293 of the Criminal Code is overly broad, criminalizing consenting adults whose conjugal relationships are benign and even beneficial for all involved....
Yesterday on the CTV site:
...Robert Wickett, a lawyer who represents the Bountiful faction that follows James Oler, said his clients are anxious for Wednesday's decision, but he acknowledges it could be years before the case is finally settled.
...Wickett said outsiders watching the case should also remember that Bountiful residents aren't the only Canadians in polygamous relationships.
The court heard evidence of polygamous marriages elsewhere in the country, as well as so-called polyamorous relationships involving more than two people who may not necessarily claim to be married.
"The issue of polygamy is far broader than simply the people who live in fundamentalist Mormon communities. The way the Criminal Code section is drafted, depending on how the court interprets it, could have an impact on a lot more people in diverse personal relationships," he said.
"So it's not just about Bountiful."