The Globe and Mail - Canada December 9, 2010
Polygamy produces a host of social ills, court told
by James Keller
Vancouver - The Canadian Press
The rise of monogamy – and the decline of polygamy – has historically led to greater gender equality, the spread of democracy and economic prosperity, an expert testified Thursday in a British Columbia court.
In contrast, Prof. Joseph Henrich of the University of British Columbia told a judge examining Canada's polygamy laws that multiple marriage is linked to increases in crime, substance abuse, child mortality and discrimination against women.
Prof. Henrich, whose research combines evolutionary psychology, anthropology and economics, is the lead expert witness for the B.C. government, which is arguing the harms associated with polygamy justify keeping it illegal.
Prof. Henrich's testimony pointed to numerous studies indicating that societies that abandon polygamy do better.
“There's a lot of research increasingly showing that amongst modern, westernized democracies, societies that are more equal … have a whole bunch of better social outcomes,” Prof. Henrich said.
“So in many ways, monogamy is the first effort to create equality.”
Prof. Henrich said humans and other primates are genetically predisposed to favour polygamy – specifically, the form of polygamy in which one man has multiple wives.
Indeed, he said monogamy is a relatively recent phenomenon for humans, tracing its history back to ancient Greece and Rome, which in turn influenced Christianity and eventually spread into Europe.
The rise of monogamy led to a different kind of evolution: cultural evolution. Societies that became monogamous, he said, became more advanced and prospered, while those that remained polygamous did not.
“It spreads because society benefits,” he said. “It maintains internal harmony, it reduces crime, it increases solidarity.”
Prof. Henrich named a long list of social problems he said are associated with polygamy.
When men have multiple wives, they require younger women to meet the demand. Prof. Henrich said that leads to teenage brides, with young girls marrying much older men.
That also creates a pool of men, usually of lower economic and social status, with no one left to marry. Those men are more likely to commit crimes, including rape and murder, and abuse drugs and alcohol, Prof. Henrich said.
Because of the competition for wives, he said, men are more likely to exert control over women, leading to increases in domestic violence and abuse.
And children suffer in polygamous societies. Prof. Henrich said men are less likely to invest time and resources in child rearing because they father so many children and are constantly focused on finding new wives. That strain on resources also hinders the greater society's economic performance.
Prof. Henrich said studies of polygamous societies around the world bear those theories out, and the problems even affect monogamous people within those societies.
He also said because of the genetic predisposition he noted earlier, it's “plausible” that legalizing polygamy in Canada would lead to an increase in the number of people who take up the practice – eventually.
“One of the problems with our thinking is we tend to think, 'This couldn't happen tomorrow, it couldn't happen next week,”’ Prof. Henrich said.
“But [if] you're going to look ahead 50 years, it doesn't seem implausible that we could lose ground on gender equality” if polygamy were legalized.
The constitutional reference case was prompted by the controversy over Bountiful, B.C., a polygamous commune in the southeastern part of the province. Two leaders in Bountiful were charged last year with practising polygamy, but those charges were later thrown out on technical legal grounds.
The residents of Bountiful follow the teachings of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS, a fundamentalist Mormon sect that believes in polygamy. The mainstream Mormon church renounced polygamy more than a century ago.
While Prof. Henrich's testimony didn't focus on Bountiful in particular, he cited the work of an anthropologist who is studying FLDS communities in Arizona and Utah. That research found the shortage of eligible women in those communities leads to intergenerational conflict, including the expulsion of boys who can't find wives, as well as forced marriages and the need for young women to marry much older men.
“I was amazed, you could read this same kind of thing in polygamous societies in Africa, the same dynamics are taking place,” said Prof. Henrich.
“It gives you a sense that the same social dynamics that play out in other societies also seem to work in North America.”
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The Vancouver Sun - December 9, 2010
One third of men 'missing' from polygamous B.C. community: expert
by Daphne Bramham
VANCOUVER — The population of men living in B.C.'s controversial polygamous community is anything but bountiful, a court heard Thursday.
In fact, Joseph Henrich, an expert witness who teaches at the University of British Columbia, testified that 30 per cent of the adult men who should be living in the southeastern B.C. community of Bountiful "appear to be missing."
The economics and psychology professor said the figures — which are included in one of two affidavits he has filed — indicates that even if the data are adjusted to account for some demographic imbalance because women live longer, at least 20 per cent of the men are missing.
The deficit is seen specifically among 16- and 17-year-olds. Of the 22, there are nearly three times as many girls as boys — 16 girls and six boys.
So where are all the men?
"These patterns suggest some combination of an outflow of men and an inflow of women," said Henrich at the B.C. Supreme Court constitutional reference case to determine the validity of Canada's law against polygamy.
Earlier arguments suggested young men were being driven out of Bountiful either "by accident or design."
The data Henrich drew his conclusions from is a self-census done by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which has 548 members in Bountiful. Another 500 or so people live in Bountiful, practise polygamy and follow Winston Blackmore, another fundamentalist Mormon leader.
Henrich called Bountiful "highly polygamous" by global and historical standards. A third of the men from the settlement have more than one wife, he said.
Polygamy has been illegal in Canada since 1890, although there hasn't been a prosecution in the past 50 years. Two religious leaders — Winston Blackmore and James Oler of Bountiful, in southeastern B.C. — were charged in 2008, but those charges were stayed. That case was the genesis of the current case.
Henrich's testimony continues Thursday and is expected to continue Friday as well.
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The Vancouver Sun - December 11, 2010
Legalized polygamy would be an attack on hard-won rights
by Daphne Bramham
Imagine a fight between Indiana Jones and Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. That's how lopsided the battle is, as the trial to determine whether Canada's polygamy law nears its midpoint.
As the primary witness for the attorney-general of British Columbia, Prof. Joseph Henrich was almost unassailable this week as he made a convincing case about the sweeping harms associated with legalizing polygamy.
Last week, McGill law professor Angela Campbell was grilled for most of a day before Chief Justice Robert Bauman of the Supreme Court of B.C. qualified her as the primary witness for the amicus curiae. (The amicus has been appointed by the court to argue against the governments of British Columbia and Canada, and in favour of striking down the law.)
Campbell testified that polygamy and equality rights can coexist, and that women in plural marriages and their children suffer no more harm than those in monogamous unions.
But before her testimony began, Campbell had already admitted she had no expertise in sociology or sociological research methods, and that her conclusions were based on the word of 22 self-selected women and 12 days spent in Bountiful, B.C., Canada's only known polygamous community.
Henrich, on the other hand, has an astonishing resume. Still in his 30s, he has already changed careers once from aerospace engineer to distinguished multi-disciplinary scholar, holding the Canada Research Chair in Culture, Cognition and Evolution at the University of B.C., where he is a tenured professor in both psychology and economics.
In 2004, he went to the White House to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. Last year, Henrich received the Human Behaviour and Evolution Society's Early Career Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions.
And the Indiana Jones stuff? It comes from the fieldwork: nearly a year in Fiji, 10 months in southern Chile and six-and-a-half months with the Machiguenga in Peru.
Henrich testified in B.C. Supreme Court to his conclusions that polygamy is harmful to both the participants and society as a whole.
Using slides to illuminate his research, he drew on evolutionary biology and mating psychology to explain why polygyny (men with multiple spouses) is widespread and monogamy relatively rare.
The Ethnographic Atlas, which includes information about marriage in 1,231 societies, indicates that only 15 per cent of those societies are monogamous. Frequent polygyny is found in 48 per cent, occasional polygyny in 37 per cent, and polyandry (women with multiple spouses) in 0.3 per cent.
One problem with the data, Henrich noted in his court affidavit, is that it is based only on observation; there is no distinction drawn between societies where monogamy is enforced (such as Canada) and where it is preferred, or where only the leaders or the wealthy have multiples wives.
Henrich went on to explain how certain cultures -- starting with the ancient Greeks -- evolved norms that favour monogamy.
The reason, Henrich argues, is that polygyny has predictable effects. Those include an increase in the pool of low-status men, who engage in risky and criminal behaviour. And high-status men invest in attaining more wives, with the result that infant and child mortality rates rise and educational attainment falls.
Also, competition for brides drives the age of first marriage down, widens the age gap between husband and wife and results in greater inequality, higher rates of domestic violence and increased psycho-social stress for the women.
If Canada were to become the only developed, western nation to reject imposed monogamy, Henrich predicts it would result in "a non-trivial increase in the incidence of polygyny."
Immigration of high-status men from other polygynous countries would probably increase, and high-status men such as actors and athletes already living here would probably take multiple wives, setting off a wave of copycats, he said.
The amicus, George Macintosh, was dubious about that and asked whether Henrich had ever heard men talking about their desire to take more than one wife.
Henrich replied that he had, several times, during the year he spent living among the polygamous Machiguenga.
But what about in North America? Macintosh asked. Henrich said no, he hadn't, but he pointed out that Canadian men are no different in their biological or psychological makeup than others.
Henrich had earlier noted an experiment he had done with his female third-year students.
If polygamy were legal and they fell in love with two men -- one a married billionaire, the other an unmarried man with a moderate income -- whom would they choose?
Seventy per cent chose the billionaire.
Lawyer Monique Pongracic-Speier of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association called it "highly implausible" that legalizing polygamy would have deleterious effects, since Canada, she said, is overwhelmingly monogamous, "highly democratic and highly rights-respecting."
But is it?
"We tend to think that it can't happen in five years or 10 years," Henrich said. "But in 50 years? It doesn't seem implausible."
In fact, given what the chief justice has heard so far, it's hard to see how he can conclude that legalizing polygamy would be anything but an attack on the fabric of Canadian society and our hard-won rights.
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The Calgary Herald - Canada December 9, 2010
B.C. government too cowardly with polygamists
By Susan Martinuk, Calgary Herald
A woman by the name of Rena Mackert sat in a Vancouver courtroom this week, watching her own videotaped testimony.
She grew up in a polygamous community in the United States and told the court a horrific tale of sexual and physical abuse that began at the age of three years old, when her father molested her "for the first time that I know of."
"It was forced oral sex. I cried and begged and pleaded. He slapped me and pulled my hair . . . and told me what a bad girl I was . . . that if I told anyone . . . he would have to spank me very severely."
Brought up in a society where women were taught that they were responsible for a man's sexual behaviour, she came to believe she was a "bad, evil person" and the abuse continued for more than a decade.
Outside of the court, she told reporters that her experience wasn't unusual among the polygamous families that she knew, where women and children have no rights.
As a result, Mackert told reporters, "This (polygamy) is not about religious freedom. This is about abuse - there was sexual abuse in just about every home."
Even those who believe that the "state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation" have to admit that a B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver is an interesting place to be these days, and video testimony will continue.
The court is currently hearing testimony in a landmark case that puts polygamy - not any particular polygamist - on trial. While arguments will focus on the impact that polygamy has on individuals and on society at large, the main issue before the court is whether the current laws against polygamy are consistent with the charter of rights and the freedom of religion in Canada.
Polygamy in B.C. is rooted in the now-banned practices of the Mormon church in Utah. It initially believed that polygamy was the way to salvation, but banned the practice more than 100 years ago so that Utah could gain legal recognition as a state. Despite the ban, the practice still exists and it is estimated that there are tens of thousands of polygamists openly living in Utah.
Some followers of this sect have set up an openly polygamous and now notorious commune called Bountiful, B.C.
The community is home to approximately 1,500 people who are led by two men who lead rival sects - Winston Blackmore and James Olen. At last count, Winston was quoted as having some 25 wives and anywhere from 100 to 121 children. (Either way, it's hard to imagine that he eagerly races home each day after work).
Both men were arrested by the RCMP in January 2009 and charged with polygamy, but the charges were thrown out on a technicality. The RCMP have previously tried to conduct investigations into allegations of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, rape and discrimination against women, but to no avail.
Each of these crimes stems from polygamy and the practice of polygamy stems from their perverted understanding of religion. Hence, to many, the question is bigger than prosecuting people for their obvious crimes - it's one of prosecuting people for their religious practices.
Consequently, rather than attempt to properly prosecute polygamists, a reluctant B.C. government determined that it would refer the issue to the courts for a ruling on the status of our polygamy laws in the age of charter rights and freedoms.
It's interesting that we finally have a social situation that is abhorrent to the majority in our overly tolerant society.
Oddly, polygamists don't seem to enjoy the same high social standing that society affords to others whose sexual preferences have pushed the borders of Canadian law.
It's clear that we can't reconcile polygamist practices with our society's egalitarian values, including the rights of women and the equality of men and women under the law. But past interpretations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms may make it difficult to get a conviction on any count related to polygamy.
The religious freedom argument in relation to polygamy has failed in the United States, India and Europe. In 2007 the U.S. prosecuted Warren Jeffs, a prominent polygamist who is reported to have as many as 50 wives, of being an accomplice to rape by forcing a 14-year-old to marry her cousin. He was sentenced to two consecutive life terms.
Sadly, the B.C. government doesn't even have the political will to try.
Susan Martinuk is a veteran journalist and freelance writer. Her column runs every Friday.
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The Toronto Sun - December 6, 2010
Polygamy an issue for immigration officials
By Brian Lilley, Parliamentary Bureau
OTTAWA — The Conservative government is quietly reminding embassy and consular staff around the world that Canada doesn't accept immigrants who plan to practise polygamy here.
The reminder comes after documents obtained through access to information and supplied to QMI Agency showed that bureaucrats in outposts such as Saudi Arabia and Morocco have been forced to deal with the issue of polygamy as they assess immigration and temporary visitor applications.
“The status of being a polygamist is not grounds in and of itself to deny entry to an applicant seeking to come to Canada on a temporary basis,” reads a draft document developed by the national headquarters for Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
The document makes clear though that the practice of polygamy can't be allowed in Canada.
“If the applicant has practised in polygamous marriages or conjugal relationships in the past while in Canada, or states or gives cause for an immigration officer to believe that they will practise in polygamous marriages or conjugal relationships once in Canada, then the applicant is inadmissible,” the document states.
The document goes on to describe various scenarios that immigration officers may face and what should be done.
In one example, a second or third wife of a person in Canada attempts to enter the country as a student. That person would likely be deemed inadmissible, “based on the reasonable expectation that her polygamous relationship would be practised in Canada.”
An official with Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s office told QMI that the department is doing its best to keep polygamy out of Canada.
“What the released e-mail shows is that our officials are vigilant,” said spokesman Alykhan Velshi. “The minister has asked the department to look into this to see if there are any loopholes, and if there are, to close them."
The issue of polygamy is currently before the courts in Canada as well. The Government of British Columbia has asked the courts to rule on the constitutionality of laws banning polygamy in Canada. In addition to the fundamentalist Mormon sect that practises polygamy in Bountiful, BC., there have been several media reports over the past few years about polygamy cropping up in Canada’s immigrant Muslim communities.
This article was found at:
Stop Polygamy in Canada website has notes taken by observers in the courtroom as well as links to most of the affidavits and research the court is considering in this case.
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