Canadian law against polygamy upheld, but with no application to relationships outside of marriage

by on November 29, 2011  •  In Criminal law, Culture

The British Columbia Supreme Court has ruled that the Canadian anti-polygamy law is constitutional, on the ground that its violation of religious freedom is justified by the need to prevent harm "to women, to children, to society and to the institution of monogamous marriage." In Reference re Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada, the court excluded minors in polygamous marriages from prosecution and also ruled that there had to be an official marriage into which multiple partners were introduced in order for a prosecution to go forward.  The case was brought by the British Columbia prosecutor after a failed effort to prosecute members of a Mormom sect.

From CBC

[Chief Justice Robert] Bauman spent several months hearing testimony and legal arguments about whether the 121-year-old ban on multiple marriages is constitutional. The landmark hearings, which wrapped up in April, focused on the polygamous community of Bountiful, but the ruling is expected to have implications for polygamists in the Muslim community.

The constitutional test case was prompted by the failed prosecution of two men from Bountiful who were charged in 2009 with practising polygamy….

The court heard evidence that teenage girls in Bountiful were taken across the Canada-U.S. border to be married, prompting RCMP in January to announce a renewed criminal investigation into the community of about 1,000 people in southeastern B.C.

Anti-immigrant attitudes fueled the decision as well:

The statistical evidence shows that as levels of polygamy increase in a society, there is a corresponding decrease in political and civil liberties. It is reasonable to assume that the decriminalization of polygamy would make Canada an attractive destination for polygamists from other countries, and there is no evidence that Canada would be immune from the impacts of such an influx.

There has been no decision on whether there will be an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.



One Response to Canadian law against polygamy upheld, but with no application to relationships outside of marriage

  1. Johnathon B November 29, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    Actually, your article title is not true. Justice Bauman opined that “marriage” is a matter for bigamy legislation. He opined that a “conjugal union celebration” was the triggering factor for the applicable polygamy legislation. He further allows married people to have common law spouses as long as there is no celebration. He says a conjugal union is not a conjugal relationship. He seems utterly confused.
    He is saying divorce is not required before people can take more spouses, but they must be common law spouses and without a celebration.

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