2 min

Strike down anti-poly law: intervener

'It's to the poly movement what the sodomy law was to the gay movement,' lawyer says

The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association's affidavit contrasts polyamory and "patriarchal polygyny."

The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association will push for Canada’s polygamy law to be struck down when it speaks as an intervener in the constitutional reference brought by the BC government as a result of failed charges against members of a polygamous community in Bountiful, BC.

Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leaders Winston Blackmore and James Oler were charged with polygamy under Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada. 

Last fall, however, a BC Supreme Court judge quashed the charges, agreeing with the religious leaders’ lawyers that then-attorney general Wally Oppal had gone “prosecutor shopping” in order to lay the charges.

That move led current BC Attorney General Mike de Jong to ask for the reference to determine if the Code section is constitutional.

And, it opened the doors for interested intervener groups to state their reasons for supporting or overturning the law.

Among the interested groups are the polyamorists.

“We want to see the legislation struck down,” says the association’s lawyer, John Ince. “It’s to the poly movement what the sodomy law was to the gay movement.”

In an affidavit filed by Zoe Duff on behalf of the association, the group defines polyamory as “the practice of relationships within groups of three or more people, where at least one person in the group has more than one intimate relationship at a time and where all members of the groups formally or informally adopt these principles.”

It contrasts that against “patriarchal polygyny” which it defines as a situation “where men have the right to marry or live with several women, but women have no right to marry or live with several men; and where homosexual relationships are highly stigmatized.”

The association intends to present evidence about the extent of polyamory in Canada, reasons why people engage in it and its importance to their dignity and self-worth, the social stigma against it and how it differs from “patriarchal polygyny.”

The group says the law as written prohibits group-conjugal polyamory and violates fundamental Charter rights such as conscience and religion; freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression; freedom of peaceful assembly; and freedom of association. It also argues it violates rights to life, liberty and security of the person, and to equality.

While no dates have been set for the case to be heard before BC Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman, arguments about status in the case have been ongoing.

Blackmore wants full status in the case, giving him status on par with the governments.

And he wants public funds to pay for it.

Adamantly against Blackmore will be Stop Polygamy, REAL Women and the Christian Legal Fellowship.

Arguing for the rights of children will be BC Teachers’ Federation, Beyond Borders, the Catholic Organization for Life and Family, Canadian Coalition for Rights of the Child and the David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights.

And, in the middle are West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) and the Civil Liberties Association. They believe the law is poorly worded and may well be unconstitutional.

The case is expected to be so populated with lawyers that Bauman is looking at moving the hearings to the large federal courtroom where retired justice Thomas Braidwood heard the inquiry into the Vancouver International Airport Taser death of Robert Dziekanski.

The room seats dozens of lawyers and has a large public gallery space.