Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

June 9, 2010

"A right to live with the people we love": Polyfamilies file statements in Canada court case

Vancouver Sun

The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) took a big step forward on Tuesday when five of its members, representing five polyfamilies living in what they consider to be "conjugal unions," filed affidavits with the court in British Columbia that will test the legality of Canada's 19th-century anti-polygamy law. The law, long ignored and forgotten, outlaws not only polygamy but anyone living in a household with two or more other people in a "conjugal union" (even if they don't have sex), as well as anyone who assists in forming or sanctioning such an arrangement.1 The penalty for everyone involved is five years in prison.

The government of British Columbia is bringing the case as a "reference" (meaning there are no defendants) to try to establish the law's validity, after the BC attorney general failed in his attempts to bring polygamy charges against two Fundamentalist Mormon leaders in Bountiful, BC. The two are alleged to abuse women and girls and force them into plural marriages. Catch up on the case starting here.

The CPAA, with volunteer legal help, has gotten its ducks in a row very professionally. So far it has been the most visible of more than a dozen "interveners" who'll have a chance to testify for or against the law.

"We’re here because we have a right to live with the people we love, and Canadian law doesn’t seem to recognize that," says the group. "Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada purports to outlaw polyamorous people living together as families. It penalizes us as soon as we make a serious commitment to one another."

In their affidavits, the CPAA members describe living in healthy, egalitarian, committed multiple relationships, and they demand not to be considered criminals under the law for doing so. Read their affidavits here (if a link fails, try reloading).

The group has been seeking publicity, and today it got it. The Vancouver Sun published a long article summarizing the affidavits and naming everyone.

Many of the people are unhappy with the article. It garbled some things (starting with the meaningless headline), and the writer, columnist Daphne Bramham, seemed to some to express a chilly or dismissive attitude. She is deeply invested in the Fundamentalist Mormon angle, having researched and written extensively about the polygamy and alleged abuses in the Bountiful community. She wrote a book on the topic titled The Secret Lives of Saints.

My guess is that she resents the polys for showing up and complicating things.

Me, I don't think the article is so bad. It accomplishes the CPAA's main goal — telling the world that modern, egalitarian polyfamilies exist, are out and proud, and refuse to be denied.

Anti-polygamy case gives rise to all kinds of family forms

By Daphne Bramham

Forrest Glen Maridas is a polyamorist who believes that it is her constitutionally guaranteed right to freely express her sexuality in any form that that might take.

...Maridas and Osborne and their two young children live in a home in Edmonton with Drew Thompson and Katy Furness. For the past two years, Maridas has been in "an intimate and conjugal relationship" with Thompson.... "Russell and Katy's relationship with one another -- as well as myself with Katy and Drew to Russell's relationship to one another -- are roommates and friends," says Maridas.

Maridas generally sleeps with Russell, but when "sleep schedules" permit, she and Drew sleep together, often with the baby. "On more rare occasions, Drew, Katy and myself sleep together or Drew, Russell and myself sleep together at night."

Drew and Russell do not have a sexual relationship, which is described as a triad or a "polyamorous V." But all of the adults are free to date outside the family. "Being bisexual assisted in having a psychological framework for the ability of multiple relationships to make sense," says Maridas.

...Maridas explained all of this in an affidavit filed Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court. It was one of six filed by the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association, which is intervening in the case [that will] determine whether the anti-polygamy law is valid.

...And what they have to say in their affidavits about how they live offers a glimpse of just how far some Canadian families diverge from the tradition of Mom-Dad-kids or the more recent "traditional" families of two Moms or two Dads and kids.

And this peek behind normally closed bedroom doors is a hint of what's to come in November, when Chief Justice Robert Bauman begins hearing the case....

Since these affidavits represent only the views of those who believe the anti-polygamy law should be struck down, it's no surprise that they provide a rosy snapshot of domestic life as told by a single member of a family....

...Bashinski worries that Kaia might be taken away by child-protection authorities. He fears prosecution, conviction and punishment.

He also fears the prospect of being denied permanent residency in Canada. And in saying that, Bashinski raises the question fundamental to this court case: What kind of country do Canadians want?

Read the whole article (June 9, 2010).

It was reprinted in the Ottawa Citizen on June 14th with the title "Polyamorists Fight to Share Love".

Kudos to all these people for putting themselves on the line! As far as I recall, this is the biggest and best-organized public legal action that the poly movement has undertaken since 1998-99, when Loving More took up the April Divilbiss child-custody case in Tennessee. (That one ended inconclusively when the mother conceded the case in midstream.)


1 The complete law in question (Section 293 of Canada's Criminal Code):

(1) Every one who
        (a) practices or enters into or in any manner agrees or consents to practice or enter into
               (i) any form of polygamy, or
               (ii) any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time, whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage, or
         (b) celebrates, assists or is a party to a rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction a relationship mentioned in subparagraph (a)(i) or (ii),
is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

Evidence in case of polygamy

(2) Where an accused is charged with an offence under this section, no averment or proof of the method by which the alleged relationship was entered into, agreed to or consented to is necessary in the indictment or on the trial of the accused, nor is it necessary on the trial to prove that the persons who are alleged to have entered into the relationship had or intended to have sexual intercourse.


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Anonymous FlyingFree333 said...

It's a ridiculous law and their attempted use of it here is pointless. If they want to go after Mormons who are abusing their wives/children then use abuse laws, that's what they are for! The government has no business telling anyone who they can or can't live with, love or marry.

June 10, 2010 8:23 AM  
Blogger Sophie said...

The case being made against the Mormon polygamists should stand on the grounds that young girls and women are being subjugated and forced into marriage. The fact that these men have multiple wives is really besides the point. Polygamy is not the problem. Abuse of power in a patriarchal society is.

June 10, 2010 9:01 AM  
Anonymous JeninCanada said...

"What kind of country do Canadians want?" is a dangerous question. This isn't about what country I want, it's about what's RIGHT and FAIR for everyone living here. The majority cannot tell the minority what to do or how to live or who to love. Look what happened in California with Prop. 8. The courts are supposed to protect the minority from the majority as things come up, and it looks like this is the time for this issue. As a Canadian in Ontario who loves and is friends with some polyamorous people but is not polyamorous herself, I'll be keeping an eye on this.

June 10, 2010 2:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reality of Canadian polygamy is that people are free and will not be charged when they live together communally or in any other manner. They just can't claim to have more than one same time spouse in provincial family court type of applications. There can be multiple spousal obligations (prior, current), but not multiple SAMETIME spouses under the laws of canada. There can be prior spouses and current spouses. The property and divorce and related laws of Canada are protected by the one spouse at a time polygamy law.
It is also illegal under section 293 to "assist" with the "formal" or "authorative" creation of multiple conjugal unions in the same time period. A person MUST be divorced before they can become anothers spouse. In the case of common law marriages persons MUST be divorced first before provincial time element countdowns begin. i.e if a person becomes divorced on a day..then they wait for 2 years (or whatever the timeframe per province is) before becoming a legal common law spouse. (in other words a married person cannot be sanctioned by anyone to have a subsequent simultaneous spouse under any laws). If common law persons can also have another married spouse at the same time, then ,married persons could also have other married spouses at the same time.
Anyone who contravenes this law is guilty. To reiterate, the polygamy laws to not dissallow multiple persons living together.. they can only claim to have one spouse at a time though. Any others are not legal conjugal unions, that being subject to property and related laws.

June 10, 2010 2:27 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

Any others are not legal conjugal unions,

No. Whether the unions claim to be legal marriages or not is irrelevant to what the law criminalizes. Read the law (it's right there in the footnote to the article):

"...any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time, whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage"

This means that even an informal, non-binding multiple union is supposed to get you 5 years in prison.

The C of E people who wrote the law back in the 19th century, who were horrified of Mormonism, wrote it extremely broadly to leave polygamists no escape clause if they just practiced polygamy informally.


June 10, 2010 2:58 PM  
Anonymous Lucius Scribbens said...

Although the article does raise some needed awareness of the stupidity of not allowing consenting adults to live as they wish, I do feel Daphne Bramham throws around and mixes-up the terms "polyamory" and "polygamy" a little too much. Polygamy has such negative issues attached to it and should not be confused with the consenting nature of everyone involved in a polyamorous relationship.

June 12, 2010 11:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bramham's article wasn't *so* bad, you're right on that part Alan. But I'm not sure it's a very stunning representation since she seems to dismiss the viewpoints mid-way through the article with the "it's no surprise that they provide a rosy snapshot of domestic life as told by a single member of a family." comment. She does this sort of thing in other articles where she mentions the poly-families and overall it's not a good picture she paints I wouldn't say. It's her subtle use of language that does it in and leaves a sour taste in my mouth, because while on the surface it seems positive the nuances of the language she uses makes it otherwise.

But at the very least it did give the CPAA the publicity they wanted and needed. I'm currently in the middle of writing an essay on the subject for a course in university I'm taking so perhaps I'm just over analyzing it.

July 03, 2010 4:46 PM  

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