The B.C. Supreme court has upheld Canada’ polygamy laws. Chief Justice Robert Bauman in a 335-page decision ruled in favour of Section 293 of the Criminal Code which deemed polygamous marriages unconstitutional. “I have concluded that this case is essentially about harm,” wrote Chief Justice Robert Baumann. “This includes harm to women, to children, to society and to the institution of monogamous marriage.”
His reasons were grounded in the reasonable belief that women and children were vulnerable in these unions. “Women in polygamous relationships are at an elevated risk of physical and psychological harm. They face higher rates of domestic violence and abuse, including sexual abuse,” stated Bauman in his decision. He also pointed out that such communities encourage the early sexualization of young girls. While people practicing polygamy are to be prosecuted, minors under the age of 17 should be exempt from prosecution.
The B.C. government requested that the court examine the constitutionality of the polygamy law following the unsuccessful prosecution of Winston Blackmore and James Oler (leaders of two factions of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Bountiful B.C.). Those who follow the religion believe that polygamy is a prerequisite for entrance into heaven. Polygamy, however, is not confined within the FLDS community. Certain other religions including Islam practice this as well.
Opponents to the ruling said that this decision goes against the freedom of religion and the freedom of association guaranteed to all citizens in Canada’s charter of rights and freedoms.