4 Feb 2011

For Mormon polygamists in Canadian case religious freedom means enslaving women, sexualizing girls, exploiting boys

Toronto Star - Canada January 27, 2011

Both sides of polygamy debate fear the law

Rosie DiManno | Toronto Star columnist


Teenage girls transported over the border for the purpose of sex and breeding: That’s human trafficking.

Underage girls, below the age of consent, conscripted into conjugal relationships: That’s sexual assault.

Adolescent boys driven from their homes by men middle-aged and older — fathers, church and community leaders — as perceived rivals in the competition for nubile mates: That’s societal engineering and a different kind of abuse.

Plural marriages: That’s polygamy and against the law.

Sec. 293 of the Criminal Code is as clear as arch legalese will allow, forbidding conjugal union with more than one partner at the same time, “whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage.”

The law does not limit the number of people who can live together and call themselves a family. The law is not concerned with how many consenting adults are parties to a relationship. If your thing is a ménage à trois, or a partner-swapping quartet, or all-male or all-female or transvestite or transgendered or howsoever polyamorous — the vogue term for an intimate cleaving that involves more than two willing adults — the state will not bring you to trial.

It’s your business.

But polygamous marriage within the rubric of religion — the coercion and sexual exploitation of girls, whether agreeable to those females or nor, and the trafficking required to sustain a polygamous community — is rightly a crime. Only in Canada would this be a matter of constitutional challenge—which just goes to show how far the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been co-opted, manipulated, to turn fundamental concepts on their head in the ever-unravelling tapestry of classic Western democracy.

An overweaning ideal of multiculturalism almost snuck sharia law into Ontario a few years ago when Barbara Hall foolishly advocated selling out gender to Islamic fundamentalists in the name of minority rights and religious equivalency. That this would have institutionalized patriarchy and affirmed inequalities — in inheritance rights, divorce and child custody — seemed lost on the logic-averse white-broad fembos.

Now, in British Columbia, a similar exercise in brain-seizure pedantry is being played out before Supreme Court Justice Robert Bauman with a “reference case’’ constitutional challenge to the Criminal Code section that criminalizes polygamy.

While practitioners of plural marriage (and take that to mean exclusively one husband with several wives) in Bountiful, B.C., have come forward to defend their lifestyle (pardon, FAITH; pardon, RELIGIOUS CULT), secure in the promise they won’t face prosecution for anything admitted in this courtroom, so, too, have misguided sectarian allies added their support for striking down a law they claim criminalizes unconventional relationships.

This is absurdly untrue. The law doesn’t force monogamy on married people. And the law does not render illegal the cohabitation of however many people choose to live as a family nor dictate their sleeping arrangements.

“Canadians can have sex with as many people as they like,’’ notes the Section 293 explanation on the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association website, which then goes on to whine: “We’re criminalized only when we form committed families.’’

No. What’s criminalized is pluralized wedlock where, despite the absence of any recognized civil union — i.e. a marriage licence — women, young girls, are often scooped up from cult Mormon communes in the U.S., transported across the border under false pretenses, isolated in a hideaway valley enclave, impregnated as teenagers and treated as broodmares, rearing upwards of 30 children under one room with their “sister-wives,” with no legal status as a genuine spouse in the event of “re-assignment’’ to another husband, and with no legal recourse to marital property rights or spousal support obligations — which are also the historical and legal underpinnings of wedlock.

That some apparently enjoy this enslavement and sought it out — because they were raised in like-minded communes around Utah and Colorado and Texas, the excommunicated pockets of fundamentalist Mormon splinter cults that defied their church’s renouncing of polygamy more than a century ago — is not surprising and even less relevant. Whether brainwashed or culturally kneaded to it, the obedient daughters of one daddy and multiple moms, their embracing of polygamy can’t possibly be used to justify a legal accommodation for plural marriages.

This isn’t just about the individuals directly involved. It’s about all of us because we, too, have an ethical stake in acceptance or rejection of polygamy. The civil libertarian view on polygamous marriage is misguided because plural wives sexualizes children, estranges boys from their communities and is a clear affront to the equality of women. It is harmful.

“The harms documented at Bountiful are the perfectly predictable — indeed the inevitable — consequences of a polygamous society,’’ B.C. government lawyer Craig Jones told the court when this hearing began more than two months ago.

“Bountiful did not create polygamy. Polygamy created Bountiful.’’

It’s not simply — as three separate Bountiful plural wives beseeched from the witness stand this week — the right to be left alone, to do as they like, or as demanded by their faith. A faith — the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints — that has been deemed breakaway apostate and invalid, it should be remembered, by their own Mother Church.

And that’s just the females. What of the young males, several of whom have appeared at the B.C. hearing or filed affidavits describing how they were forced to leave Bountiful at age 14 or 15, because old coots, their own leaders, fear sharing the limited female gene-pool?

The FLDS is not a benign religious sect, like the gentle Amish. It has engendered quantifiable harm in Bountiful, a town of about 1,000 fundamentalist practitioners. Figures from the B.C. Vital Statistics Agency, filed as an affidavit last week, are shocking: 833 babies born to 215 mothers over 13 years, although the numbers are likely higher since the agency tracked births associated only with the community’s 14 most common surnames. A third of those mothers — 85 — were 18 or younger when they gave birth, seven times the provincial rate for teen moms.

Two of the teens had three children each by the time they were 18; 16 had two children each. What the figures show is that one in 10 babies were born to teenage girls — even though the FLDS allegedly ceased performing under-age marriages in 2008 — and 45 per cent of Bountiful mothers are foreign-born.

One man alone — spiritual leader Winston Blackmore, the now-54-year-old bishop of Bountiful — had at least 107 children.

The B.C. government tried prosecuting Blackmore and James Oler — duelling bishops in the internally split sect — for polygamy in 2009 but the charges were stayed because a judge found they had been improperly laid by a special prosecutor improperly appointed. That led to this broader hearing on the constitutionality of Sec. 293.

For nearly three decades previously, the government had been frustrated in applying a law they worried would not stand a constitutional challenge. It was a gamble they were unwilling to take so Bountiful was allowed to let slide. The consequences of that approach are evident in these ghastly statistics.

If the law is struck down — an issue that will inevitably be decided by the Supreme Court of Canada, however Bauman rules — Canada will become the only developed nation to legalize marriage between more than two people. That does not make us more progressive than the rest of the world.

The ladies of Bountiful who testified this week live in fear for breaking the law.

For too long, the government of B.C. has feared applying it.

This article was found at:



Edmonton Sun - Canada January 28, 2011

Too many hitches in prof's position

By MINDELLE JACOBS | Edmonton Sun columnist

Try to wrap your brain around the bizarre notion that a smart, female law professor, with all the societal privileges such a position offers, believes polygamy should be decriminalized.

Carissima Mathen, of the University of New Brunswick, used to work for the Women’s Legal and Education Action Fund (LEAF).

The group promotes women’s equality and has pressed for things like universal day care, equal pay for work of equal value and the eradication of discrimination against aboriginal women.

So it’s strange that a lawyer who once worked for LEAF seems to think polygamy isn’t a big deal.

It’s difficult to justify Canada’s ban on polygamy, partly because the law requires no proof of harm, Mathen said in a noon-hour speech at the University of Alberta Thursday.

The abortion law we had in the days of Morgentaler was over-reaching, as are some of our prostitution laws, as found recently by an Ontario judge, Mathen pointed out. Similarly, our anti-polygamy law has no place in contemporary society, she argued.

Instead of worrying about plural marriages, the authorities should concentrate on specific harms and use other Criminal Code laws, such as those prohibiting exploitation and forced marriage, to nail the perps, she explained.

“It’s a distraction to focus on the plural nature of the relationship,” Mathen said later in an interview.

“Why is that relevant? Why isn’t it just relevant that someone is being harmed?”

The original 19th-century law that banned polygamy targeted Mormons, who historically practised polygamy, and the current law is so vague it’s ineffectual because it doesn’t require the Crown to show proof of harm, she said.

The law only requires proof of someone having a conjugal relationship with more than one person at the same time.

“At some point, we need to be comfortable with the idea that people will make choices that we disagree with. They’ll make choices that, to us, seem … not in their best interests,” Mathen said.

“That’s the risk we run when we accept individual liberty and autonomy as fundamental values in this society.”

The trouble with that is only men (and the older ones, at that) have autonomy in polygamous communities, particularly the twisted breakaway Mormon commune in Bountiful, B.C. and the like-minded areas in the U.S. run by polygamist crackpots.

Some women have testified at the ongoing constitutional hearing into polygamy in a B.C. court that the lifestyle is blissful. What would you expect from women who have been brainwashed since childhood to believe that marrying someone old enough to be your father, having as many children as possible and living with, say, 20 sister-wives is the only route to God?

As well, higher education is discouraged, the outside world is painted as evil (except for all the welfare money) and young men are routinely forced out of the community so they won’t compete for the affections of the teen girls.

Credible experts have warned repeatedly that polygamy is harmful to women and children.

How can it not be when men disguise their megalomania in religious trappings and sow the seeds of misogyny and social dysfunction? That’s not religion; it’s pathology.

Do we want to be the first western country to decriminalize polygamy?

Mathen sees nothing wrong with it.

“(The polygamy ban) is a regression … to a time when we were much more comfortable with using the criminal law to promote a very narrow kind of moral value,” she explained.

What an weird way to champion women’s rights.

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. 

Two more plural wives testify in Canadian polygamy case, see no problem with forced marriage or trafficking child brides 

Testimony of first FLDS witness in Canadian polygamy case reveals women in denial that their children are being abused

First anonymous FLDS witness in Canadian polygamy case paints cosy picture of plural marriage, seems oblivious to abuses

Affidavit in Canadian polygamy case reveals shocking statistics on child trafficking, child brides and teen mothers in Bountiful

Economics professor considers financial aspects of polygamy that create inequality

Two Mormon fundamentalist women from Utah tell Canadian court positive accounts of polygamy, no hint of abuse

Brother of FLDS bishop describes intellectual abuse, child labour, spiritual abuse and loveless religion in Canadian polygamy case

No freedom from religion for women and children in Mormon polygamist towns where men claim religious freedom to abuse

Mormon polygamist survivor tells court babies smothered to keep quiet, emotional and spiritual abuse worse than sex abuse

Video testimony by Mormon fundamentalist in Canadian court says polygamy provides happy life and harms no one

Survivor tells Canadian court extreme abuses including water torture of babies common in Mormon polygamist communities

FLDS bishop of Bountiful will not testify in Canadian polygamy case so his affidavit will not be read into record

Legal expert tells Canadian court polygamy prohibitions and monogamy tradition pre-date Christianity

The issue of women's rights in the Canadian constitutional review of the polygamy law

Before holiday break in constitutional case judge hears conflicting expert testimony on harms associated with polygamy

Expert in polygamy case says society should assume all members of sects have free choice, but what about children?

B.C. government expert in polygamy case sets out long list of social harms, societies that abandon polygamy do better

Court views video affidavits from Mormon fundamentalist survivors detailing pedophilia, incest, child trafficking and forced marriage

Polygamy expert tells court in constitutional case that it reduces women's freedom and equality and leads to forced marriage

Affidavits from survivors and psychologist's testimony in constitutional case show abusive nature of polygamous lifestyle

Expert witness in constitutional case on polygamy claims Bountiful women freely choose their own religious oppression

Judge allows controversial expert witness to testify in Canadian polygamy case, no decision yet on publication of video affidavits

Pro-polygamy intervenor groups make opening statements as first week of Canadian constitutional case ends

FLDS lawyer in Canadian constitutional case on polygamy claims members freely consent to plural marriage, abuse survivors disagree

Lawyer appointed to argue for striking down Canada's anti-polygamy law in constitutional case makes opening arguments

Canadian constitutional case on polygamy begins with BC government's opening statement

Unique Canadian constitutional case on polygamy set to begin November 22, 2010

Timeline of events leading up to Canadian constitutional case on polygamy which is set to begin

Survivor of abuse by Mormon polygamists documents accounts of sex crimes in the FLDS and other fundamentalist groups

Mormon fundamentalist leader asks court to exclude evidence against him in Canadian constitutional case on polygamy

Fundamentalist Mormon spokeswoman says polygamy doesn't hurt anyone

Mormon fundamentalist claims of religious persecution in Canadian constitutional case on polygamy not supported by the facts

Polygamist leader says BC attorney general guilty of religious persecution

Polygamist leader calls charges religious persecution

More persecution than prosecution

Second Mormon polygamist found guilty of child sex assault, jury doesn't buy defense claim of religious persecution

Claims of persecution ridiculous in societies where Christians have special privileges to indoctrinate children

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

Judge will allow anonymous testimony from Mormon polygamists in Canadian constitutional case on polygamy

Mormon polygamists seek immunity from future prosecution before giving evidence in Canadian constitutional case

Canadian constitutional case on polygamy triggered by Mormon fundamentalists, but will also examine Muslim communities

Utah law professor uses Mormon polygamists as example of how religious extremism leads to deliberate child abuse

Polygyny and Canada’s Obligations under International Human Rights Law (pdf)

Research paper submitted to B.C. court in constitutional case documents harms associated with polygamy

Man from Bountiful says girls in Mormon polygamist communities "treated like poison snakes", taught to obey men and have many children

Bountiful evidence that polygamy harms women and children - constitutional case likely to reach Canadian Supreme Court

Review of the positions 12 intervener groups are expected to take in upcoming Canadian constitutional case on polygamy

Some religious practices, such as polygamy, are inherently harmful and should not be tolerated in modern society

Women's adovcates: polygamy is an “oppressive institution” that abuses and enslaves women and children

Prosecuting Polygamy in El Dorado by Marci Hamilton

Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearings on Polygamy Crimes: What Needs to Be Done at the Federal Level to Protect Children from Abuse and Neglect

Senate hearing: "Crimes Associated with Polygamy: The Need for a Coordinated State and Federal Response."

Texas Will Attempt to Show That Polygamist Culture Itself Harms Children

FLDS defendants complain their religious freedom violated, while denying religious freedom to their children

Children in Bountiful have religious rights too, but are denied them by parents claiming religious freedom

Some Canadian children are protected from religion-related abuse, while others are not

Polygamy is not freedom

Israeli politicians and women's advocates call for immediate change to polygamy law to protect rights of women and children

New study on polygamy in Malaysia finds evidence of harm to everyone involved

Indonesian Women's Association divided on whether polygamy, which is legal in Indonesia, is harmful to women and children

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