5 Jan 2011

More pro-polygamy affidavits by Mormon fundamentalists filed in Canadian constitutional case set to begin in November

The Vancouver Sun - Canada October 16, 2010

Fight over B.C., federal polygamy laws' constitutionality set to begin

Affidavits from polygamist families set to challenge province, Ottawa

By Andrea Woo and Chad Skelton, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER - Marianne Watson's upbringing in Utah was warm and fulfilling, her childhood remembered in rosy terms such as "idyllic," "full" and "rewarding." And while her close-knit family didn't have much money, Watson always felt rich with loving relationships -- a member of a "plural family," Watson was one of her father's 50 children, born of seven wives.

Each child's birthday was celebrated and every mother was a mother to all.

Watson's fond recollection of her childhood makes up one of many affidavits filed by Vancouver lawyer George Macintosh in B.C. Supreme Court Friday as part of a constitutional reference case slated to begin on Nov. 22. Macintosh is the court-appointed amicus curiae (adviser) hired to oppose the provincial and federal governments' case that Canada's law against polygamy is constitutional.

The affidavits join dozens of others already filed in the case, from former members of polygamist communities to "polyamorists" -- consenting adults with multiple sexual partners who are worried about the impact the polygamy decision might have on them.

"I always knew I was loved, and I enjoyed a warm, rich childhood in my plural family," wrote Watson, a fundamentalist Mormon, in a paper attached to her affidavit titled "Celebrating Plural Marriage in the Twenty-First Century. "As a child, I was sure that my mother was secretly Dad's favourite wife, although no such thing was ever said. I didn't know until much later that many of my half-siblings felt the same about their respective mothers. I felt secure because of the unity I observed between my parents."

Mary Batchelor, also of Utah, submitted an affidavit that, in part, detailed the unfairness of the American government's prosecution of polygamists while "lascivious conduct" such as adultery and illicit sex are largely ignored.

"Because of these laws, for many years I did not feel that I could acknowledge the man that I loved, or put myself forward publicly as anything but a single mom," wrote Batchelor, who entered into a plural marriage when she married a man with another wife.

B.C. Attorney-General Mike de Jong had asked the B.C. Supreme Court to rule on the legality of the law after the government's prosecution of prominent polygamists James Oler and Winston Blackmore, leaders of the Bountiful Mormon community near Creston, was thrown out of court in September 2009.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein stayed charges against the two men after finding former B.C. Attorney-General Wally Oppal went "prosecutor-shopping" by appointing a second special prosecutor in the case after the first one, Richard Peck, advised against laying charges. Peck had recommended, instead, that the government refer the anti-polygamy law to the B.C. Court of Appeal.

The B.C. government decided to refer the question to the B.C. Supreme Court instead because, unlike the Court of Appeal, it can hear evidence from witnesses instead of ruling solely on legal questions.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints -- the largest polygamous group in North America -- was also expected to file affidavits on Friday.

In an unusual ruling in September, Chief Justice Robert Bauman, who will preside over the case, agreed FLDS members could submit their affidavits anonymously and, if they are cross-examined in open court, elect to testify behind a screen and use a pseudonym if they wished. The FLDS told the judge that, without such assurances, it would not participate in the reference case because it feared members' testimony could later be used against them, either to prosecute members in Canada (if the law is upheld) or in the U.S.

Bauman ruled it was essential to hear from active polygamists to make a fair ruling, and so granted the group's members anonymity.

A total of 12 groups has been granted intervener status in the case, to argue for or against the anti-polygamy laws staying on the books.

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