Polygamy In Canada

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Polygamy in Canada: Is It a Crime or a Protected Religious Freedom?
Canada’s polygamy law, particularly as it relates to a sect of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), in Bountiful, British Columbia, has recently been the subject of much controversy. A case in the Supreme Court of British Columbia will soon determine whether Canada’s polygamy law is constitutional, or whether it violates section 15 of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms that guarantees “freedom from discrimination based upon religion, race, and country of origin” (Harvie 31). Currently, under section 293 of our Criminal
Code, the practice of polygamy is prohibited, and is punishable by a maximum five-year prison sentence (Harvie 30). On one
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While these are the opinions of lawyers, who have an obvious interest in the outcome of the case, simple mathematics and probabilities reinforce their claims as feasible. In contrast, some argue that society would be better served by legalizing polygamy. A recent research paper, funded by the Justice Department and Status of Women Canada, argues that this practice should not be singled out for criminal punishment. Instead, laws that address the problems that women and children face in polygamous relationships, such as support and inheritance rights, would be more beneficial. The paper also contends that Canada has existing laws in place to deal with any child or sexual abuse allegations that sometimes accompany this practice (Cheadle). However, Utah attorney-general Mark Shurtleff, who has considerable prosecution experience, asserts that simply prosecuting the problems associated with polygamy would be unlikely to result in any convictions; prosecutions of this type would rely mainly on witness testimony, and in these segregated polygamous societies, witnesses would be unlikely…show more content…
Many people feel that it is not the place of the law to decide which religions or religious practices are worthy of protection under the Charter. Pierre Trudeau was famously quoted, in December of 1967, as saying, “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation….[W]hat’s done in private between adults doesn’t concern the Criminal Code”
(Harvie 31). In contrast, the opposing perspective argues that religious freedoms should not be an excuse to restrict the fundamental human rights of others (Cheadle). A recent complaint filed with the B.C. Human Rights Commission argues that “the practice of polygamy reduces Canada to the same shameful level as third-world countries where polygamy is common and women are children are regarded as chattels” (Mansbridge). Surely, Canadians cannot equate these violations of human rights with the religious freedoms provided for in the Charter. Rebecca
Cook of the International and Reproductive Health Law Program at the University of Toronto agrees, contending that there is “a distinction between religious beliefs and religious

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