Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

August 22, 2010

Canada: Green Party votes down polygamy law repeal

Toronto Sun

The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) is preparing to have its say in the upcoming court case to test Canada's anti-polygamy law, which is written so broadly that it criminalizes polyamory too. (The law reportedly has not been enforced in 60 years, but the British Columbia government is bringing a test case with Fundamentalist Mormon polygamist leaders in mind.)

Meanwhile, this morning (Sunday August 22) the convention of Canada's Green Party considered and voted down a proposal that would have committed the party to repeal of the law. From CNews:

Greens defeat polygamy motion

OTTAWA – The Green Party voted down a motion that would force the party to push to decriminalize polygamy Sunday morning.

The vast majority of members voted against the motion, with 82% against and 18% in favour.

The motion called for the party to push to decriminalize “polyamorous” relationships where people are intimately involved and living with more than one partner.

Party members in a workshop session on Saturday voted to send the idea to the full party plenary where everyone could debate and vote on it.

Speakers in the workshop [had been] careful to define polygamy as a marriage between multiple spouses. They made a clear distinction between polygamy between consenting adults and a polygamist sect in Bountiful, B.C., where domestic abuse has been alleged, though a judge has thrown out charges against two alleged sect leaders.

Several Green members argued that polyamorous relationships are impossible to sell to voters and could mean losing support at a time when they hit record numbers in the last election....

Read the whole article (Aug. 22, 2010). I can't tell whether the confusion between polygamy and polyamory here is the reporter's or the Greens'.

Photo of the vote.

Previous story, from the Toronto Sun:


Last Updated: August 21, 2010 8:26pm

The Green Party of Canada will consider a motion Sunday on whether or not they will push to decriminalize polygamy.

Party members in a workshop on Saturday evening voted to send the motion to the full-Party plenary, where they'll debate and vote on it.

Speakers in the workshop were careful to define polygamy as a marriage between multiple spouses. They made a clear distinction between polygamy between consenting adults and a polygamist sect in Bountiful, B.C., where domestic abuse has been alleged, though charges were thrown out in 2009.

“It's a human rights issue,” said Trey Capnerhurst, a Green Party candidate in Edmonton East, noting that she is polyamorous.

Polyamory is the process of having more than one intimate relationship at the same time, according to the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association.

Capnerhurst says in cases where police suspect domestic abuse against multiple wives and children, that should be the subject of criminal charges.

“We should be not be charging people with polygamy,” she said.

Several Green members in the workshop argued the policy is impossible to sell to voters and could mean losing support at a time when they hit record numbers in the last election....

Green Party leader Elizabeth May says the party is open and democratic, allowing any motion with enough support to be discussed.

“It certainly isn't a motion I voted for,” she said. “It's something I continue to oppose.”

A spokeswoman for May says she doesn't expect the motion to pass the full party plenary on Sunday.

Capnerhurst says there's a bias against those in polyamorous relationships, of which she estimates number in the tens of thousands in Canada....

Read the whole article. And here's a blog post by the reporter on How did the polygamy motion make it so far?

The Green Party of Canada is small but growing; it received 6.8% of the national popular vote in 2008. Under a parliamentary system, like Canada's, small "third parties" can have a small but meaningful role in politics and governance. In particular, the large party closest to them may need to invite them to form a coalition government. This is unlike under a strict two-party system such as in the United States, where the only effect a third party can have, when it begins to attract votes, is to spoil elections for the large party that's closest to it — thereby alienating the people who might be most drawn to it in the future, and thus cutting its own throat. Any third party that begins to succeed under a two-party system automatically kills itself off this way. For example, where is the Ralph Nader party now?

Update later in the day: Trey Capnerhurst, a poly activist who was in the Green Party convention workshop in question, explains more of the story in three of the Comments below (under the name Treasach).

Update August 24: Here's the reporter's discussion of what happened, and people's comments on why polyamory is not ready for rational discussion in electoral politics.

This episode damaged the Green Party not just by making it look fringy but, more importantly, by hijacking public attention away from the Green convention's actual statements, platform and proposals — the main reason to hold a political convention.

At least the episode got some decent discussion going on the Ottawa Citizen's editorial board's blog.


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Blogger Polly said...

Because the belief that polyamory is "impossible to sell to voters" is more important than civil rights?

Good grief.

August 22, 2010 4:14 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The confusion was the reporter's as well as those who sponsored the motion. The York students who presented it did not, in fact, discuss this with any community members beforehand and so originally had "decriminalize polysexual" as the title of the motion, which is another thing entirely. I did my best to correct the language in the workshop, but the education curve was just too darn high for one session. The sponsors of the motion will be re-presenting it as soon as possible, and I will of course be directing them to this august body for final polishing and editing. We as a community didn't have time to prep this, and I did my best, unprepared as I was, and I think did as much as I could in this 24 pinch.

The Greens deserve our support and help as much as possible, as so many ppl are members of both communities. The motion was largely voted down due to language, along with many other motions with the same problem. With a far more polished and accurate presentation, I believe the Greens will be the first party to recognize poly as part of the policies.

Trey Capnerhurst
reluctant martyr / national poster girl

August 22, 2010 7:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Folks in canada are free to live with as many people as they want..they just can't claim to be legally spouses of more than one at a time. This also protects marital type property of persons who are spouses from other "phoney spouses" who may wish to claim "marital" type rights associated with more than one spouse at a time.

August 23, 2010 1:10 PM  
Blogger conflictfree said...

Sure Anon, but it also prevents poly groups from sharing benefits, and unfortunately also leaves them open to all sorts of legal issues (especially surrounding children). Legislation can be worded to protect against phoney spouses, while still protecting poly-folk.

August 23, 2010 4:10 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

Anon, the issue is that although "folks in Canada are free to live with as many people as they want" IN PRACTICE, the federal law that's on the books says they are criminals liable to 5 years in prison. See

...where the entire law is given in the footnote.

Just because a law is unenforced (at present) doesn't mean it's harmless. For instance, it can be used to justify discrimination that would not be allowed for the same behavior if it were non-criminal. At least that's how such unenforced laws are sometimes used by malevolent officials here in the U.S.

August 23, 2010 4:49 PM  
Blogger Desmond Ravenstone said...

At least the Greens are willing to debate it, and hopefully poly Greens will respond by organizing and educating within the party.

August 23, 2010 5:49 PM  
Blogger freewomansholyinheritance said...

Alan, I live in Canada and I completely agree! Laws against something restrict access and create a harmful environment (and that inCLUDes the police, even here) for those that wish to exercise their rights.

But, is it possible to separate Polyamoury and faith-based polygamy the same way Church and State are separated in the States, withOUT infringing on the rights of one or the other? Is it possible that this can be addressed by laws that prohibit faith-based (as opposed to personally-decided) religious marriages from profiting from State regulated laws?

August 23, 2010 8:12 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Your Update of the 24th is highly inaccurate. The reporter's outsider viewpoint was coloured by rumours, and certainly not facts. I have posted what I saw happen on my own blog.

Since apparently the record actually does need clarification from the drama queens...


August 24, 2010 12:06 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Long version with links is here: http://gifts-of-nature.blogspot.com/2010/08/what-really-happened-with-poly-motion.html
The Greens are fiercely democratic, and any small group can put
together a motion for us all to vote on and discuss. If you really want to make a difference in Canada, become card-carrying Greens! I can say that with utmost confidence...

The resolution was submitted by a small group of well-meaning studentsfrom York University, who had heard of the criminalization of poly and wanted to do something about this obvious discrimination. They did not consult with the poly community ahead of time in a motion that concerned it, nor did they clarify the language in their motion. They were, in essence, completely clueless to the implications of their
motion to the community they wished to protect and the Party itself.

I have been a polyactivist long before I was a Green Party candidate,and therefore felt it was my duty to attend the workshop for this motion, since I was one of the few people who could speak reasonably to the problems at hand. However, the resolution was so badly worded that the original motion was "decriminalize polysexual", which is something else entirely. I was able to work with them enough to clarify the language somewhat, but in an hour and half, the learning
curve was just too great to iron out all the flaws in the wording. I did my best to ensure that the sponsors of the motion had some grasp of the issues involved, as well as the implications for the Party. They went with "Decriminalizing polyamoury", which is still correct, but not what they really intended. Polyamory is only illegal if it's in a committed relationship, and usually living together. The more
committed, the more illegal. I'm pretty confident that the intent of the motion was to protect poly families, so the wording rather failed in that...

A few reporters arrived during the lively, if small, debate, and we voted on whether they should be there. I saw nothing unusual in that, but this was my first BGM, and didn't know that it was not common. The Sun reporter asked me for an interview after the session, and I took the hit, since I was one of the most experienced members on this issue...

When this motion was presented for plenary, obviously, now that my head was in the noose, it behooved me to speak. In for a penny and all... When it was my turn, I don't even remember which of the facts that I usually use in my improvised speech. I have so many that I often discuss. I don't remember if I pointed out that nearly all Native cultures were almost entirely poly in some form or another before the imposition of Christianity and its enforced monogamy. I know I was passionate about the impact on children who are taken from
their homes or where custody is altered due to a parent's poly
lifestyle, but I don't think I brought up other legal issues like family health insurance, estates, or who gets to visit in hospitals; the very same issues that the LBGT community had up until a very few years ago…

Since we had voted down many motions that weekend already whose
language were not adequate to the intent of the resolution, I knewn that this one would also in all probability suffer the same fate, and I was not mistaken. The point may soon be moot, however, as the Charter challenge has been undertaken by the poly community, but by the time it makes it to the Supreme Court of Canada, it should nicely coincide with the next BGM...

The dialog will not be stopped now, and I am deeply honoured to have played my small part in these events by helping to move forward the conversation of poly rights in Canada. It has been a great strain on my family and our relationships, but my work with the Greens has always been the most rewarding and effective work I have ever done.

Trey Capnerhurst
still federal Green Party candidate, as far as I know...

August 24, 2010 1:45 PM  
Blogger freewomansholyinheritance said...

It's interesting to note that many polygamous sects often DON'T have their children taken away, then....

August 24, 2010 9:23 PM  
Blogger freewomansholyinheritance said...

It would be interesting to discover if, in the link I provided under the latest topic, rather than religious-based restrictions, they could use kyriarchically privilege based restrictions that could be expanded to include monogamous relationships, as well.

August 26, 2010 1:02 AM  

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