Thursday, December 16, 2010

Expert Witness Dr. Rose McDermott

 Journalist Keith Fraser (The Province) wrote today:

As the rate of polygamy increases, the lives of women and children and the conditions in the countries in which they live all worsen, a political-science professor testified Thursday.
Dr. Rose McDermott, a political science professor at Brown University in Rhode Island, told the polygamy trial that she had conducted a statistical analysis of polygamy around the world.

She told B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman that as the rate and degree of polygamy increases, the age in marriage of women declines, the rate of maternal mortality increases, life expectancy decreases and the birthrate increases.

The rate of births to women aged 15 to 19 increases, along with the rate of sex trafficking, female genital mutilation and domestic violence, she said.

“I remind the court that domestic violence includes marital rape and other forms of assault.”

McDermott said polygamy’s effect on children is that the rate of primary and secondary education for both boys and girls decreases, especially at the secondary level.

The practice of multiple marriages also has an effect on the nation state, said McDermott.
“As polygamy increases the degree of inequity in family law increases, meaning the degree to which women are not treated equitably before the law increases.”

The degree and number of civil liberties declines along with the degree and number of political rights, she said.

During McDermott’s cross-examination, George Macintosh, a lawyer appointed by the court to martial the forces opposing Canada’s polygamy law, pointed out some findings from a website the professor relied upon for her statistical analysis.

Macintosh pointed out that the website concluded that there was no evidence polygamy was a national issue in Canada, let alone a cultural or regional occurrence.  The practice of polygamy in Canada appeared to be extremely minimal or non-existent, he said.
“That would accord with your knowledge of Canada,” asked Macintosh.
“Yes,” replied McDermott.
“Monogamy (in Canada) is the rule and widespread?” said Macintosh.
“Yes,” said McDermott.

Asked by Macintosh how many people practice polygamy in Canada, McDermott said she was not aware of any credible numbers, but pressed for a figure she said there were 10,000.
Macintosh asked where she had got the figure and McDermott replied that she heard it from a media source.

My comment:  Dr. McDermott stated that she has been researching polygamy and polygyny for ten years, and to be fair, her mandate for this appearance was to present to the court a world view of the harms of these practices.  Her presentation on the global perspective was indeed persuasive.

After a week devoted to opening statements by all the parties involved, we have now had three weeks of testimony in this polygamy reference.  Witnesses have included experts on statistics, sociology, evolutionary psychology, anthropology - and people who have lived the polygynous experience for many years.  To this point, the proceedings have challenged me in many ways - intellectually, emotionally and physically.

We now take a break for the holidays, and Court reconvenes on Wednesday 5th January.  I send you all my good wishes for health and happiness in the New Year.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dr. Shackelford - expert witness for the Amicus Curiae

Men with multiple wives not the only ones who abuse: expert at polygamy trial

By Keith Fraser, The Province

A Michigan psychology professor on Wednesday told the polygamy trial that men with multiple wives have no corner on the market of violence against their spouses.

Dr. Todd Shackelford, a professor at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, made the comment while testifying for the forces that wish to decriminalize polygamy in Canada.

Under questioning from lawyer Tim Dickson, a so-called amicus curiae, or friend of the court, Shackelford told B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman that his specialty was evolutionary psychology.He said his research in the last 20 years has focussed on conflicts in monogamous relationships and in particular men’s aggression against their partners.

Shackelford told the judge that male sexual jealousy in monogamous relationships was a “very good predictor” of all sorts of consequences, including violence, psychological abuse and rape.

He said male jealousy was the “leading predictor” of men killing their partners.
He admitted he hadn’t done research into polygamy or polygyny, the latter of which is the practice of one man having multiple wives, but noted that all relationships have both conflict and cooperation.

“Polygyny doesn’t have the market cornered in the negative correlates and consequences” in relationships, he told the judge.Shackelford questioned some of the conclusions about the    social harms of polygamy drawn by a witness for the attorney-general of B.C., which wants to uphold the law.

The judge’s job is to decide whether the law, which has been in place for more than 100 years but seldom has been prosecuted, is constitutional.  The issue was referred to the court after two leaders in the fundamentalist Mormon community of Bountiful had polygamy charges against them stayed in 2009.

Dr. Shackelford teaches evolutionary psychology at Oakland University in Detroit. His c.v. is impressive, and he is recognized as a world expert on male aggression in monogamous relationships. 
He is the editor of the journal Evolutionary Psychology, and is member of the editorial boards of several other academic publications. He gave his evidence in a clear and authoritative manner, and challenged some of the evidence given a few days ago by Dr. Joseph Henrich.

When BCAG counsel Craig Jones stood to cross-examine the witness, a spirited give and take of exchanges took place. Jones suggested that one could extrapolate behavioural characteristics of men in monogamous situations to include those of polygamous men. Shackelford reiterated that he had never studied polygamous communities. After careful questioning by Jones, however, he began to accept that perhaps evolutionary concepts were valid in polygamous communities as well as in the monogamous world. 

By the end of the cross-examination, most of the responses offered by the professor were “Yes”, “Indeed” and “Yes indeed.”

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dr. Lori Beaman

Not enough research done to determine if polygamy is harmful, professor says

There hasn't been enough research done on Canadian polygamous communities to draw any conclusions about whether the practice is harmful, according to professor Lori Beaman.
Beaman teaches classics and religious studies at the University of Ottawa and holds the Canada Research Chair in contextualization of religion in a diverse Canada.

She testified Monday in B.C. Supreme Court in the constitutional reference case to determine whether Canada's polygamy law is valid.

While she noted that there have been several autobiographical accounts of former members of fundamentalist Mormon communities, Beaman says in her affidavit that assessing harm from that would be akin to extrapolating harms of monogamy by taking the accounts of people who have had abusive marriages.

Among the problems she cites in assessing harm is that much of the research has been done in “social, political, religious, economic, legal and cultural contexts distinct from those of North America.”
Her affidavits goes on to say, “Cultural context, rather than marriage type, may be more important for understanding harm.”

Based in research done by Angela Campbell, a McGill law professor who testified earlier in the trial, and others, Beaman suggests that women in the fundamentalist Mormon communities have been wrongly stereotyped as having no choice or being brainwashed.  Brainwashing, she says, has “been   largely discredited as a valid way to see those who belong to minority religious groups.”

Beaman, who also has a law degree, suggests that rather than stereotyping, society ought to assume that all members of minority religious groups “choose to be or remain involved in religious groups.”
“Such a position does not negate taking seriously allegations of abuse or underage marriage, for example, but assumes that the religiously committed have capacity as agents to make decisions.”
Not doing that, she says, means taking “a patriarchal position which treats religious minorities as being without the ability to make decisions. It assumes that we have the right to impose a particular worldview 'for their own good' on an assessment of their religious practices that is not based on empirical fact.”


BCAG (B.C. Attorney General) counsel Jones spent two hours in cross-examination this morning and this afternoon, and ever so gently deconstructed her arguments one after another.   He ended with the question "Would you not agree that your research on this matter has been woefully inadequate?"  I did not hear a reply. 

Court will not take place tomorrow, since the Chief Justice has another engagement.  It will meet again on Wednesday morning at ten.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dr. Joseph Henrich

Today in court was taken up with the testimony and cross-examination of Dr. Joseph Henrich, a noted scholar who is a member of the departments of psychology, economics and anthropology at the University of British Columbia. He holds the Canada Research Chair in Culture, Cognition and Coevolution. His evidence was given with the aid of a Powerpoint presentation, and was extremely thorough – a clinical academic approach after the emotional testimony of yesterday.

His evidence lasted for almost three hours as he spoke to the harms of polygamy, and the societal problems caused by this practice. He pointed out that humans are heavily reliant on their culture for learning, and that marriage is a pair bond regulated by rules. All marriage systems reinforce the concept of pair bonding as an important element of human psychology. Marriage is about couples and couples are about marriage.

He spoke of the origins of the concept of monogamy, which took root in ancient Greek society at a time when equality and democracy were being developed. (Wealthy men in Greece, however, could still get around the rule by importing sex slaves.) From Greece it moved to Rome, and thence to Europe; it has more recently been adopted in much of the world. Eventually, monogamy was adopted by the Christian church, together with concepts of sexual purity, (although the kings and prophets of the Old Testament had been polygamous).

Monogamy was a cultural evolution, and offered fertile conditions for gender equality. In polygamous societies there is low male investment in wives and children, whereas the opposite is true of monogamy.

Dr. Henrich made use of many graphs and diagrams during his presentation, far too many for me to discuss here, but he gave us many points to ponder in the ongoing discussion about Canada and polygamy.

I encourage you to go here for further information.

There will be no court session tomorrow. We begin again on Monday December 13th.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ex-FLDS Women Speak from the Heart

Tonight as I write, tears are trickling slowly down my cheeks, and I have a lump in my throat that a glass of water cannot remove. Why, you ask? Because today I have listened to an unrelenting stream of the most harrowing, horrifying and ultimately heart-warming testimony so far in the polygamy reference.

Usually I take my notes, assemble them into some kind of readable sentences and paragraphs, and send them off into the ether.

Tonight I am sending you a stream of consciousness – my notes as they dived headlong from the notebook to the computer screen – unedited and untidy. But I was so moved today by the testimony of four women, formerly members of the FLDS, that this, tonight, is only way for me to deal with what they said.

I give you no names. Here is an amalgam of the words of all four witnesses, since so much of what they all said was the experience of each one of them. I will only say that they came from the United States and Canada.


I come from a 4-wife house. We were called “The Saints” before we became Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints. The family had no belief in doctors – I lost the hearing in my left ear – I caught hepatitis from contaminated water in the well, and suffered for ten months until my grandma made my father do something about it. I learned to read from my grandma. We had to lie about Pa's surname after he was arrested in the '50s - “Lying for the Lord” they called it – we had to do it all the time to protect ourselves from the outside world. I kept my mouth shut at the local school. I have 31 brothers and sisters, and was ridiculed in school because of the way I spoke and dressed. I saw disparities between what we believed, and what was happening in our daily life. We were God's Chosen, but were taught to lie to non-believers. If we were the Chosen, why couldn't we let people know about it? We grew up with this unbalanced life. The FLDS raises liars.

I was molested by Pa when I was three years old – forced to perform oral sex. Pa took it as his right to use his children as he wished. As result I considered myself a very bad person, and grew up believing that women were responsible for men's bad behaviour. The molestation continued till I was 16, the year before I was married. The day before the wedding, Pa asked me if there was anything more I needed to learn from him, and I was terrified that he meant to molest me again – the day before my wedding!

I didn't want to get married at seventeen. The Prophet had a revelation about who was to be my husband, and he passed the news on to my father, who then told me. My mother could do nothing to interfere. I had three children in five years.

I had so many brothers and sisters that only negative behaviour on my part would make my parents notice me. My Dad didn't know my name and didn't recognize me as one of his children. I had my second child 13 months after the first was born, and the third two and a half years later. I was asked why there was such a big gap between the second and third – was I using contraception?  I got a divorce, and had to move to a small house opposite Pa's place. I refused an order to marry the husband of my sister. I was 22 and he was 55. I finally blew up and told the Prophet to go to hell and walked out. When I went for the children, Pa said I had no children, they were no longer mine. I was damned and should go away.I  tried for two month to see the children, but knew nothing about the kinds of help available to me in the outside world. The children had been told that their mother did not want them, and Pa told me he wished I had never been born. 11 months later, I was able to hand the necessary legal documents to Pa, and left with her children. It took a long, long time to rebuild a relationship with my mother.

Wives experience tension, jealousy, and a sisterly relationship dies when two sisters marry the same man. There's never any intimacy or relationship-building with a man. A competitive atmosphere prevails with regard to the children – who is the cutest etc. And each wife punishes another wife's children as she sees fit.

After polygamy, I had no clue how to function in the outside world. I found Gentiles (i.e. non-FLDS) much more accepting of me and kinder to me than my own family. I began drinking at 19, became a professional musician, did drugs and booze. Had a constant struggle for years, and am still finding out that I have choices, and that things are available to me.

Indoctrination was so prolonged and intense that I have to reject old thought processes and readjust. There is no more physical abuse of my kids, though I still suffer from depression and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

All polygamous families practise child sexual abuse, be it fathers with daughters or sons, and male relatives are known to abuse their blood kin and others. All families practise physical abuse, justified by the belief that one “can beat nigh unto death” to correct a wife or child. Among fathers and grandfathers there are many pedophiles, and brothers regularly sexually assault their sisters. It is a society pervaded by inappropriate sexual behaviour. To get rid of young men, the older ones do whatever is necessary to get them away from the community. The FLDS allow the media to see only what its leaders want them to see, and are ever mindful of the doctrine “Lying for the Lord”.

One witness as a teenager refused to marry a man in his eighties, and in retaliation she was told by Winston Blackmore that “she was to marry this weekend”. FLDS members believed that the year 2000 would bring huge destruction, and that only the faithful would survive. I had aspirations for a career, but only finished the 8th Grade. I had to marry someone who, though my own age, I hardly knew. Boys are told by elders that girls are snakes, and are to be avoided at all times. Girls are told the same thing about boys! Relationships before marriage are not permitted. Many young girls are forced into marriage at the age of 15 They are terrified, sad, depressed at such a thought.

Winston Blackmore doesn't believe in education for boys. He thinks boys get a better education from work than from school. Boys work for free, in the expectation of a house and a wife. Apostates are allowed no further contact with the FLDS, nor with their children. Women who show intelligence and ask questions are frowned on. One woman was called “a virus” because of all the questions she asked. Women have no say in future wives for their husband – they just have to put up with the situation.

Living with 75 brothers and sister is chaotic. NO relationship with Dad was possible, and he didn't even know her. Most young children are left outdoors unattended to play during the day. Husbands need wives in order to get to heaven. The rigid dress code is ordered by men, with no input from women as to fabric or fit. All choices for women are made by men, who cannot allow control to be lost.

Female children are deliberately broken down from an early age. Individuality and standing up for oneself as a woman are almost unheard of. Sex abuse is one of the methods used to “break down” recalcitrant women. “I never met a woman who had not suffered sex abuse.”

After leaving a polygamous community I experienced a sense of being neither here nor there. The strain of living in a different community is huge.

My sister and I have set up a non-profit society dedicated to helping women who have escaped the polygamous lifestyle and want to start over.  We are so happy that our voices are finally being heard.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

7th December 2010

After a four-day break, the polygamy reference continued today with two expert witnesses in attendance. The first was professor Shoshona Grossbard, who teaches at San Diego State University in the areas of economics, power and economics, and the economics of marriage. Her research on polygamy covered tribes in Africa, groups in Arab countries. Her Ph.D. Dissertation had been written on the politics of polygamy.

She spoke if the similarities in the practice of polygamy throughout the world, saying that polygamy was either culture-or religion-based. When the supply of young women goes own, demand increases. In polygamy men find ways to limit the power of women, and many males in polygamous communities use female circumcision as one way to control their women.

It is much easier for a man to divorce a woman than for a woman to divorce her husband. A Moslem man has only to say three times “I divorce you”, and his wife is forced to leave – without her children, who remain in the custody of her husband. Many women are kept in purdah (total isolation). Romantic love is frowned upon because that makesw omen more difficult to control, and opportunities for women to participate in the labour force outside their community are few and far between.

Professor Grossbard spoke of jealousy among wives, psychological problems experienced by them, together with depression and obsessive/compulsive disorder. Widowhood brought with it assignment to a new husband. Limited educational opportunities are rife in polygamous societies, and health problems and mortality rates are higher than in the general population. She spoke also of the constant fear the many wives live in of their husband taking yet another wife.

Part of her evidence dealt with a document produced by women in Qu├ębec on the harms of polygamy. Its title is Avis: la Polygamie au regard des droits des femmes (“Opinion: Polygamy as it concerns the rights of women.” If you Google the French title you will find it. I am not aware of a translation yet.) Women in that Province are being proactive in their opposition to the decriminalizing of polygamy in Canada.

Dr. Grossbard concluded by stating that she found it difficult to obtain access to birth registration records for members of polygamous communities. Such details would enable the public to be aware of the age of birth mothers.

Read more of Dr. Grossbard's comments here

The afternoon session was devoted to demographic information (mostly about Canada) offered by Dr. Zheng Wu, Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Victoria. He used Statistics Canada materials to give evidence on the state of non-polygamous “relationship” in Canada – both in historical perspective and up to the last Census. One of the points he made was that, in 2007, 75,000 crimes were committed against family members in this country, with probably many more that went unreported to the police. Dr. Wu also pointed out that the statistical average age for women to marry in Canada is 22 years. Historically, it has not been lower than 20 years.

Dr. Wu admitted that he knew very little about polygamous communities, and that StatsCan did not help in this regard. However, he gave a full and interesting snapshot of monogamous family and other varieties of relationships as they exist today in this country.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thursday 2nd December 2010

Before testimony began this morning, Judge Bauman interviewed by telephone a Miss Lane, who had agreed to make a video to be used as an affidavit. She was upset about the publicity being engendered by the internet, and said that she had agreed to give testimony via a video solely for use by the court. She objected to the edited versions appearing on the internet, with their loss of detail. She was the 10th wife out of 25, and said, “I object to being posted on line. Had I known media would edit, I would not have shared [my testimony with the court].”

Expert Witness Dr. Lawrence Beall then took the stand. An experienced qualified clinical psychologist from Utah, Dr. Beall told of his dealings with more than 20 FLDS members in the United States. He spoke of a wide variety of polygamous patients suffering significant forms of psychological trauma, which differed between male and female patients.

Young male patients exhibited signs of anti-social behaviour, such as deep anger, and in some cases states of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), brought on by one traumatic event in a young man's life. They looked upon themselves as second-class citizens, about to enter a world in which they had no appropriate skill set, and unfairly forced to compete with older men.

Beall found many of the women to be suffering from cognitive dissonance, which arose when they tried to deal with discrepancies between their faith and the actions of others. Women also exhibited deep shame, guilt, blame, anxiety, depression and a certain level of numbness in their behaviour.

Beall also pointed out that adolescents had difficulty forming an identity for themselves, but they were not encouraged to ask questions, which led to acts of rebellion, and feelings of low self-esteem and of being of little value to the world. Young men such as these needed a sense of safety, connections within the outside world, cognitive restructuring, and basic life skills. They were woefully unprepared for life outside polygamy.

After taking the first (huge) step of leaving the polygamous community, such defectors needed help from many social services, including transition houses, work experience coordinators, jobs, financial support, and expert help with legal issues such as child custody. Dr. Beall characterized the situation as “an immense problem”.

The final, pointed, question of the session came from a BCTF counsel, who asked Dr. Beall if, to his knowledge, the children in a polygamous community were taught thinking skills in their schools. His response was a monosyllabic “No.”

For more on a day of significant testimony, see here

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wednesday 1st December - First Witness

Professor Campbell has been accepted as an expert and began her evidence this morning.  Chief Justice Bauman made the decision late yesterday afternoon.  See here

The Amicus Curiae, George McIntosh, began today's questioning using the affidavits sworn by Professor Campbell. She stated that marriage is the central institution that renders the kingdom of heaven achievable, and that polygamy is a tenet of their faith. During her visit to Bountiful she found that criminalization of polygamy had no effect on marriage choices, and and that marriage now took place only at the legal age of consent.

Polygamous women feared that they would lose their “sister wives” if their community were prosecuted for polygamy. They would miss both the division of labour they enjoy at the moment, and shared domestic interests. But their sense of sharing does not go so far as to permit their permitting another sister wife to discipline their children.

Professor Campbell asked if women at Bountiful understood that, under the law of Canada, polygamy is a crime. The response given was that faith is more important than legal rules. She pointed out that polygamy is fundamentally unequal, but their response was that they had made that choice.

After the morning break, Craig Jones, counsel for the Attorney General of B.C., began his cross-examination, and asked Professor Campbell about the harms caused by polygamy. She agreed that, although not necessarily assessed in her research, the harms included:
a) Brides of younger and younger age (child brides)
b) Lost boys (young men who are forced out of the community)
c) The low status of women in a patriarchal society
d) Lack of children's rights to live free from abuse
e) Poor quality of education, and lack of educational opportunities beyond Grade 10

Professor Campbell admitted that she had interviewed no adolescent girls 16-17 years old; her research had dealt solely with an older group of 22 Bountiful women, and had taken place over a short period of a few days in 2008 and 2009. No Bountiful men were interviewed.

For Further information on today's testimony, go here

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tuesday 30th November - the first witness

There was no court yesterday, so today's session began with the first witness in the case. Dr. Angela Campbell, an assistant professor of law at McGill University was introduced by the Amicus Curiae as an expert witness on the women of Bountiful. Counsel Macintosh elicited many of her accomplishments and noted several papers that she had published on the subject of polygamy. She had clerked for Supreme Court Justice Frank Iaccobucci, and specialized in Family law and Criminal law.

However, her credentials came under severe criticism from the Attorney General of B.C., the Attorney General of Canada, and the counsel for Stop Polygamy Now. It was pointed out that her two visits to Bountiful in 2008 and 2009 had resulted in her being able to talk with only 22 women. She had no training as a social scientist and relied on the help of a graduate student in that field. One of her reasons for engaging in this research was that she believed “Before you decide what the law should be, go find out how the people concerned will be affected.” Her research did not include interviews with Bountiful leaders of either gender – she dealt only with the 22 women (and “Lying for the Lord” is apparently both taught and practised in that community.)

The Attorney General of B.C. suggested that the witness had asked far too many leading questions during her visits to the polygamous community. The Attorney General of Canada asked how any of her research subjects could be trusted to give true answers to her questions, and he pointed out the heavy responsibility that lay with the Court to make a decision on Dr. Campbell's admissibility as an expert witness. If she does indeed testify, you can read about the content of her remarks at

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Now that the opening statements are complete, the coming weeks will see a procession of witnesses and/or affidavits describing many aspects of polygamy.  The affidavit linked here will show the sunny side of life as a plural wife.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Daphne Bramham

The Vancouver Sun's Daphne Bramham has written a solid summing-up of the first week of the polygamy reference. She writes: “Is there good polygamy and bad polygamy? That was the big question raised Thursday at the end of the first week of the constitutional reference case to determine the validity of Canada's polygamy law that's being heard in B.C. Supreme Court.
But it may be one of the simpler ones, since earlier in the week most of what Chief Justice Robert Bauman heard in opening arguments concentrated on more legalistic questions focused on how to strike a balance between competing rights.”  For the remainder of her article, see here

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Day 4

25th November began with a heavy snowfall – heavy, wet snow – with warming temperatures and very slippery underfoot. The bus I took to the Courthouse slipped and slid all over the place, and at one junction tried to stop at a yellow light and ended up sideways across the road! I thought we might be in for a repeat of The Poseidon Adventure.

Day 4 of the reference began with an opening statement from counsel for the FLDS (Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints). He pointed out that this is an important test case aimed at oppressing those of Mormon faith, although Crown counsel reiterated that Section 293 applies to everyone. He also assured the court that the FLDS is accepted by the majority of Canadians, and that the consent of men and women to polygamous practices should be respected. Having asserted that there are no more harms associated with polygamous relationships than with monogamous ones, he reminded us that a change in FLDS policy made three years ago ensures that the age specifications in the law of marriage in Canada are adhered to.

Next came the counsel for the B.C. Polyamory Association, who questioned the Attorney General's decision to deal with all relational groups in the same way. He said that polyamory covered a variety of consensual adult relationships, such as one man with two women, one woman with two men, three lesbians, three gay men, and so on. There is no gender disparity, patriarchy or religious tradition. He suggested that the law, Section 293 of the Criminal Code, should apply only to marriage forms that were extant at the time of its enactment – in the 1890's. He asked the Attorney General “Where is the evidence of harm [in polyamory]? It is a concept in process.”

This concluded opening statements by counsel on both sides of the question. The Court will reconvene on Monday morning with witnesses being present.
For more information on these topics, go here

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day 3

Day 3 began with a spotty collection of snowflakes making their appearance. The wicked outflow winds were diminishing and the temperature rising. We are promised 10cm. to 15cm. of snow overnight. I am reliably informed by a kindly bus driver that drivers in Vancouver do not handle a new snowfall with aplomb!

But I digress …..... The first 20 minutes of this mornings proceedings were taken up with housekeeping, dealing with affidavits and witness appearances. Then the lawyer for the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children moved to the lectern. He pointed out that the UN Convention on the Child recognizes that children are particularly vulnerable, and that they have fundamental rights just as adults do. He also asserted that Freedom of Religion is not absolute.

An interesting moment developed when the next speaker, the lawyer for the Christian Legal Fellowship, told the the Court that he had journeyed to Turkey, and while there had investigated the daily life of the harem of the Ottoman Sultans! He spoke of a system in which one man enjoyed a multitude of wives, and guarded them closely, producing a situation where possible male challengers were know to have been murdered as a matter of policy. He said that the same harms were observed among the women in the harem as those that had been described yesterday by Crown lawyer Craig Jones. (Quite a trip for that lawyer to make in the name of research!)

Frequent mention was made throughout the day of one or other of the four basic harms caused by polygamy, and more than one counsel spoke of problems within a polygamous community.

Next came the BCTF's counsel, who argued that children's access to a quality education is almost non-existent in polygamous communities. She added that respect for religious communities is not an absolute right, and that there can be no limit set on the right of every child to adequate educational opportunities.

The final counsel for the anti-polygamy groups appeared on behalf of the group named Stop Polygamy in Canada, and reiterated many of the arguments already made.

This afternoon George Macintosh Q.C., the amicus curiae, began his presentation on behalf of no change in Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada. He declared that the hearing is about that section, and not about polygamy, and he also pointed out that 293 could hold women as well as men guilty of the crime of polygamy. Women could be held as co-defendants. The amicus pointed out that crimes committed in a polygamous community such as sexual exploitation, incest and assault could already be prosecuted under other sections of the Criminal Code, but, as pointed out yesterday by government counsel Jones, those communities seldom if ever report such crimes.

Read more about polygamy here

The Globe & Mail has extensive coverage of the amicus's arguments here

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day Two in the Courtroom

Action in the courtroom proceeded at a somewhat faster pace than yesterday. The  B.C. government's lawyer continued his opening statement, which offered several reasons for the constitutionality of Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada. Speaking mostly in terms of polygyny ("one man, many wives") he offered four elements of harm caused by  polygamy:-

1. Harm to the fabric of society.
2. Harm to the equality and protection of vulnerable groups.
3. Harm caused by the demonstrable early sexualization of young girls,and by a surplus of males.
4. Harm to may other participants in a polygamous society.

He emphasized that the pair bond defines Canadian society. 

The representative of the Attorney-General of Canada followed, reiterating the harms caused, and adding that polygamous women were harmed sexually and economically, and that their children had lower academic achievement and experienced psychological problems.  Boys especially, with fewer opportunities for marriage, are marginalized.  Canada's ban on  polygamy is totally consistent with practice in other develop0ed countries.  The international trend is away from polygamy.

Other questions raised during the afternoon session were "What is the difference between a religious belief and the religion itself?", and "How will the Court define exploitation.

All in all a day of significant issues to be solved, and intellectual concepts to be challenged.  It is expected that opening statements will be completed by the end of this week's session, and witnesses will begin to be called next week.

For more, read

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day One in the Courtroom

It was very cold in Vancouver this morning as I made my way to the Courthouse on Howe Street.  By 10am. the court room was full.  I counted 33 lawyers and nearly 90 people in the public seating.

After the introduction of lawyers to the judge, the morning session was mostly taken up by the CBC lawyer, who made a lengthy presentation to the court requesting that the CBC be allowed to both live-stream proceedings via computer, and introduce TV cameras into the courtroom to allow for the  filming of certain sections of the testimony to be given in coming weeks.  Chief Justice Bauman denied the request.  (A more detailed report is here)

The afternoon began with Judge Bauman's reasons for the denial, followed by the B.C. government's introduction to the case.  The government  lawyer gave a preliminary in-depth explanation of polygamy as practised in many countries and religions of the world.  He then turned to his opening statement, which gave an overview of the criminal law against polygamy in Canada, in which his main premise detailed the harm caused by the practice.  For more, see here

Proceedings were halted at 4pm., and opening statements from lawyers will continue to be heard tomorrow.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Journey Begins

Today I set out from home at 7am. on a drive through the mountains from the Okanagan Valley to Vancouver.  Conditions were poor - snow, ice, low cloud and very low temperatures (minus 17C at the summit of the Coquihalla Pass), but there were no real problems, and I arrived in Vancouver to find temperatures around zero degrees, with a fair amount of sunshine.

Having unpacked two months' worth of clothes, I am now settling down for a quiet evening of reading and preparation for the courtroom. 

Talk to you tomorrow.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Not Long Now .....

Everything is set for a 10 am. start on Monday 22nd November.  

The Polygamy reference will be brought before Chief Justice Robert Bauman, and is expected to continue until the end of January 2011.

For extensive background including opening statements and profiles of individuals and groups participating, see here

Monday, November 15, 2010

Questions to be asked in the reference case

This short, unattributed, article appeared in the Vancouver Sun on 9th November 2010.

"In the constitutional reference case being heard in B.C. Supreme Court by Chief Justice Robert Bauman, the B.C. government is asking these questions:

Is the Criminal Code's polygamy section consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? If not, in what particular or particulars and to what extent?

What are the necessary elements of the polygamy offense in the Criminal Code? Does the law require that the polygamous conjugal union involved a minor or occurred in a context of dependence, exploitation, abuse of authority, a gross imbalance of power or undue influence?"

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Another "Poly" to think about

"The lawyer for a group that advocates allowing multiple spouses wants to know if a law against polygamy could also apply to his clients.

John Ince, who represents the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association, told B.C.’s Supreme Court Wednesday that polygamy is based on a patriarchal system, while polyamorous relationships are consensual."

Read more

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Preliminary Arguments

There were a few low level fireworks in the courtroom yesterday.  FDLS Mormons, not content with winning the right to testify anonymously behind screens, instructed their lawyer to ask the judge not to admit an important affidavit produced by RCMP Sgt. Terry Jacklin, who had led a 2-year investigation into the polygamous community of Bountiful.

FDLS lawyer Robert Wickett also asked Judge Robert Bauer to limit cross-examinations of Bishop Oler and School Principal Merrill Palmer to the substance of their affidavits.  Wickett argued that they should not have to respond to personal questions.  However, government lawyers stated that the B.C. Attorney General's ministry wanted to file the Jacklin affidavit.  They noted that everything in it is supported by official documents, including birth certificates signed by the fathers, all of which he would be prepared to file as evidence.

Read more here about the witness who withdrew after receiving threats because of her involvement in the case.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Persecution Complex

Vancouver Sun journalist Daphne Bramham has written many articles about the practice of polygamy in B.C.  On October 21 she wrote:

"It's not surprising that fundamentalist Mormons say they love their polygamous lives in the affidavits they've sworn to support their position that practising it is their constitutional right.
What is surprising is that the affidavits are steeped in the myth of persecution. Filed in advance of the constitutional reference case, which is scheduled to be heard starting Nov. 22 in B.C. Supreme Court, they reveal that almost all of the fundamentalist Mormons say they live in fear of being jailed or having their children taken away from them.
Yet, the first time fundamentalist Mormon men were charged in Canada with polygamy was two years ago, and those charges were stayed."

Read more

Friday, October 22, 2010

Canada's Notwithstanding Clause in the Charter of Rights & Freedoms

If Section 293 of the Criminal Code should be declared unconstitutional by the Courts, the government of Canada could invoke the Notwithstanding Clause of the Charter.  Read more.

The Heart of the Argument: Canada's Criminal Code - Section 293

Section 293 of Canada's Criminal Code covers polygamy. It states:
  1. Every one who:
    (a) practises or enters into or in any manner agrees or consents to practise 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 (i) or (ii), is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

  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. 1
Section 293 was added to the Criminal Code in the late 19th century, allegedly to prevent Mormons from settling in Canada. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Reference to the Supreme Court of B.C.

The reference to the Supreme Court of B.C. will take place in November 2010 at the Vancouver Courthouse on Howe Street.

In effect, the session will put the Federal criminal law against polygamy "on trial" as it were, to ascertain whether the Freedom of Religion promised in the Charterof Rights trumps the criminal law against polygamy that has been on the books since the late 1890's.

To read more link here.

Witnesses will be called to support both sides of the question; the B.C. Government will present its evidence, and an amicus curiae appointed by the Court will have gathered witnesses who wish to speak in favour of polygamy.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

For an overview of Canada's 1892 criminal law against polygamy, go to this link

You will find useful background material that will explain how matters stand at the moment in this country.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Polygamy today - the challenge

This blog is in the process of being developed.  It will be used to cover proceedings in the British Columbia Supreme Court in Vancouver, where a reference to the Federal criminal law of Canada on polygamy will be taking place over a period of six weeks, beginning on 22nd November 2010.

It is my intention to be in the courtroom for all the proceedings, to give you, dear reader, some insights that you might not receive from a newspaper or TV report.  See you then.