Wednesday, June 8, 2011

An Essayist Asks Whether a Liberal Society Should Tolerate Polygamy

Elizabeth Abbott, a senior research associate at Trinity College, University of Toronto, asks several thoughtful questions about polygamy in her piece published on 7th June in the Vancouver Sun.  She writes:

When the British Columbia government's polygamy reference case opened at the province's Supreme Court of Canada on Nov. 22, 2010, a stream of participants and witnesses, including representatives from the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, REAL Women of Canada, the Christian Legal Fellowship, and academic experts, testified about the many harms associated with polygamy. Carolyn Jessop, who fled a Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FDLS) community in Utah with her eight children in the middle of the night, summed it up well: "Polygamy is not pretty to look at. It is nice that it is tucked away in a dark corner where nobody has to see its realities, because it's creepy."

But George Macintosh, the amicus curiae appointed to present the opposing argument, came out swinging. He characterized Section 293 of Canada's Criminal Code, which bans polygamy, as an overly broad and grossly disproportionate law rooted in Christian prejudices, a law demeaning to polygamists. Women in polygamous marriages anonymously testified that they were happy, that they'd made the right decision. According to the CBC, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association argued that "consenting adults have the right -the Charter protected right-to form the families that they want to form." And the Canadian Association for Free Expression maintained that the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2005 strengthened the individual's right to enter a polygamous marriage.

The rights argument carries considerable weight in a liberal society. But rights can't be separated from the culture in which they arise. They are inextricably linked to institutions that form the backbone of a society; and in every society throughout history, the fundamental organizing institution has always been marriage.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Blackmore's Unpaid Taxes

While we await B.C. Supreme Court Judge Robert Bauman's decision in the Polygamy reference, things have been heating up on the unpaid taxes front for Winston Blackmore.

In today's Vancouver Sun, Daphne Bramham wrote:

The federal Tax Court is a genteel place, a white-collar court where the only crime being tried is tax evasion.

Unlike provincial courts, no sheriffs in bulletproof vests stand guard. Instead, a single commissionaire sits behind a desk on the sixth floor of an office building at the heart of downtown Vancouver.

He politely asks people to hang up their coats and leave umbrellas and bags in the closet. That done, he reminds them to turn cellphones off.

But high-profile polygamist Winston Blackmore brought some chaos into the calm world this week, along with his tax troubles, of which he has $1.5 million worth for the years 2000 to 2006.
He asked for unprecedented shielding of evidence and testimony. He wanted a publication ban and an order from Judge Campbell Miller that none of it could be used in any future criminal trial involving polygamy.

And if that weren't possible, Blackmore asked that his tax trial be adjourned until after the reference case on the constitutionality of Canada's polygamy law is finally determined or until any future criminal trial (with him as the defendant) was completed.

He didn't get any of it. But if his intent was to delay, that much he got at a price of $50,000 to be paid to the Department of Justice for its costs.