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Vancouver polyamorists to intervene in polygamy case

Those with multiple partners argue to nix dated poly law

CALLING ALL POLY PEEPS. Those interested in swearing an affidavit or in appearing in court to discuss their polyamorous lifestyle should contact ms.mellyn@gmail.com. Credit: Maurice Vellekoop illustration

Canadian polyamorists are asking for help intervening in a constitutional case resulting from a polygamy case in BC.

The upcoming case before the BC Supreme Court will determine whether Section 293 of the Criminal Code, which bans polygamy, is constitutionally valid.

The next date for the case is Dec 4.

In a statement to Xtra.ca, a group of polyamorous Canadians says Section 293 infringes on their constitutional rights of association, religion, equality, and the life, liberty and security of the person as outlined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

They say it is not appropriate for a law that criminalizes loving, committed, consensual relationships to remain in place. And, they want interested Canadians either to testify in court or swear affidavits to challenge the law.

In queer circles, terms like “open” and “polyamorous” are used to describe people who don’t think that relationships are for two people to the exclusion of all others. Polyamorists who engage in multiple romantic relationships often disdain polygamists, whose rigid sense of gender limits the possible permutations to one man and multiple women.

The BC government’s move to request the reference comes after BC Supreme Court Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein this fall quashed polygamy charges against two leaders of a fundamentalist Mormon polygamous community in western Canada.

Stromberg-Stein ruled that former BC attorney general Wally Oppal had acted improperly in securing charges against the pair.

As a result, she said, the second prosecutor’s appointment and recommendations were invalid, and she quashed the charges of polygamy.

In October, current Attorney General Mike de Jong said the government would ask the court to review the law.

The move is unusual as such cases are generally heard in appellate courts. The Supreme Court of BC, however, can hear evidence directly from interested parties and will do so in this case, both for and against retaining the law as it is written.

The group of polyamorists will be represented by Vancouver lawyer John Ince, past leader of BC’s Sex Party on a pro bono basis. Ince could not be reached for comment.

The proponents say the court needs to hear from Canadians who are currently in polyamorous relationships or have been in the past, and have a desire to live in conjugal relationships in the future. They are calling for Canadian polyamorists to come forward and swear an affidavit.

They say that while it is important to hear from all people who fit such a description, it is especially important to hear from those in a male-female-male grouping.

Participants would be required to give a statement, which would be made public in court. It would include their names and addresses, and they would need to swear under oath that the information in the document is true.

Those who cannot make it to Vancouver can have an affidavit sworn elsewhere for presentation to the court.

The intervenor group says polyamory is different from the alleged forced polygamy practised in religious communities such as Bountiful.

In Bountiful, the polyamorists allege, women do not have the same rights and privileges as men because the religious system itself prevents women from having multiple spouses. Polyamory, on the other hand is grounded in gender equality, self-determination and free choice for everyone involved.

The group says any polyamorist interested in being involved in the case should be prepared to make that distinction to the court. They believe the case could go as far as the Supreme Court of Canada.

Blackmore is represented by Joe Arvay, the same lawyer who represented Little Sister’s bookstore in the Supreme Court of Canada against Canada Customs’ book seizures.

Those interested in swearing an affidavit or in appearing in court to discuss their polyamorous lifestyle should contact
ms.mellyn@gmail.com.