Canadian legal ruling coming November 23
The 1890s law, originally written to target the Mormon settlers of the time and unenforced for generations, provides five years in prison for more than two people in a marriage-like relationship, vaguely defined.1 The attorney general of British Columbia is seeking to revive the law as a means to prosecute leaders of an allegedly abusive cult of Mormon fundamentalists in the village of Bountiful, BC. See my previous coverage of the case; click backward on links from there.
The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA; logo at right) presented testimony that modern, egalitarian, non-exploitive group households, which exist across Canada, should not be criminalized or confused with abusive cults. The CPAA is gearing up its members to react to the announcement. Its lawyer, John Ince, will attend Chief Justice Robert Bauman's pre-announcement briefing that morning for the many attorneys in the case, which will allow Ince an extra 90 minutes or so to prepare an initial public statement.
Meanwhile: The activists of the CPAA have, in the two years since they came together, certainly raised Canadians' awareness that polyamory exists, that it can work well, and that healthy poly households exist in everyday society. The CPAA has been especially visible in the Vancouver area, where the case was heard. Its members have staged successful public forums, and they have become effective at mobilizing people to respond to items in news media (for instance, this confused and definitionally-challenged newspaper rant in Edmonton, Alberta, last week).
As an example of their visibility, this popped up in the Vancouver Sun's coverage of Vancouver's Pride Parade last July 31st:
A dapper cadre of polyamory supporters who held signs including “Love knows no limits” had the crowd reaching for their dictionaries, then contemplating their living arrangements.
A few weeks earlier on Vancouver.Openfile.ca:
Is polyamory “the new gay”?
By Peter Tupper
In early April, more than 100 people crowded into The Junction on Davie Street for an event billed as “What is Polyamory?” The majority of them were already practicing, or at least familiar with, polyamory, the practice of consensual non-monogamy, including relationship styles ranging from open marriage to swinging to multi-partner marriage to group families.
Presented by the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA), the evening's panel included Janet W. Hardy, co-author of The Ethical Slut, a book often cited as the bible of polyamory; Seattle's Terisa Greenan, creator of the "Family" web video series; John Ince, legal counsel for the CPAA and co-owner of the Art of Loving adult store; and Kiki Christie from Victoria's Poly 101 discussion group....
...“Polyamory really is the new gay. We, the polyamory community, are now really where the gay community was in the 60s," says Ince, director and legal counsel of the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association and a polyamorist himself. "They were facing a law that had been enacted a hundred years before. They decided it wasn’t acceptable anymore to live in the closet, they started to create community. This is exactly what is happening with the polyamory community in the 21st century."
Robert, a 40-year-old polyamorist architect from Vancouver, was one of the panel's attendees. “We’re not the stereotypical Mormon polygamist situation where children are at harm and women are at harm, which the law is technically directed towards," he says. "But unfortunately the law is so vague that it puts us into that category and the court case, now that we’ve brought ourselves forward as part of the court case.”
Like many polyamorists, his family relationships requires a bit of explanation. “Right now I have a wife but she has a co-partner. We live together. We have two children. I have another partner that I’m seeing,” he says. “My wife has her partner and he’s not seeing anybody. Then she’s with me, I’m with my partner and she’s got her husband. It just keeps going in this chain like that.”
...Robert and his wife evolved from seeing other people to including them into their household and family life. “There’s lots of love in the house. There’s a lot of communication, and I think it’s brought us all closer together. I get a lot of happiness and joy from seeing my wife happy with her partner. I like how my kids have embraced all three of us. There’s benefits to co-parenting.”
Robert suggests that many more people live in poly arrangements than those who identify themselves by the term. “I think that polyamory is not as much a fringe behaviour as I think we think it is. I think a lot of people don’t even know the term. A lot of people, I think, feel this way," he says. "I think that part of the task here is to become strong within ourselves and then to help other people explore and see if this is what they think will work for them.”...
Read the whole article (May 27, 2011).
From a Canadian website called The420.org:
...The CPAA provided affidavits of five polyamorous families from BC, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec telling about their egalitarian family situations and their fears with respect to this overbroad, vague criminal law. The CPAA has also filed extensive evidence in support of polyamory, showing that it is much more than a “fringe” movement, is not harmful and, it also has something of value to offer to people and society in communication and mediation techniques alone....
Read the whole article (May 15, 2011).
Last June the CPAA received donations collected during the North-America-wide Poly House Party Weekend. In thank-you letters, Carole Chanteuse of CPAA wrote,
The litigation seems to be having a salutary effect for polyamory everywhere. I see that it is cited in the Kody Brown case in the US, and I hope that our American polyamorous friends will be able to benefit from the work and research we have pulled together, as we have benefited from your advice and the support of other American polyamory activists.
Locally, in my own area of Canada (Vancouver) we are finding that the combination of the litigation — with all the discussion about polyamory that hit the local and national press — and our local hosting of a polyamory forum (with some emphasis on engaging under-30's who are already exploring polyamory for themselves) have led to a huge increase in interest in polyamory and the creation of a number of new local meets (men's, women's, queer, and a "Poly 101" group, as well as the existing Vanpoly group).
1 The law in its entirety (Section 293 of Canada's Criminal Code) reads:
(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.