Sunday, November 27, 2011

So...are you guys going to have to split up now?

I've been asked this a lot in the past few days.

Short answer -  No.  Our relationship is actually legal under this decision.

Chief Justice Bauman's decision managed to give everyone something, nobody everything and rallied the troops from the sideline groups that stood by and said it had no impact on them.  That is a victory for Canadians in general and a step forward in the process of having judicial change and social change have more than a passing acquaintance. 

Long Answer - Chief Justice Bauman upheld s 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada or the Polygamy Law saying that while it infringed on various charter rights that was okay considering that preventing harms to children was a higher priority.  He also interpreted a definition to terms like "conjugal union" and "marriage".  He said that a "conjugal union" of concern to this law was one where a "sanctioning event" had occurred officiated by an authority and recognized by the community as the starting point of recognition of the "marriage".  Polyamorous relationships he saw as ones where no such event was an essential belief for the relationship to exist and that common law unions were not included in conjugal union by virtue of his interpretation.  He did not agree that marriage should fall under the charter definitions for freedom of expression either.

And that means what?  That means that the triad household in which I live is excluded and perfectly legal but a similar family who has had say a Wiccan handfasting complete with Priest who is licensed under BC law to perform weddings would likely be considered in violation of the law whether they are polygynous (one man with several wives), polyandrous (one woman with several husbands) or several people of same gender. The licensed official would be in violation and any guests would also be implicated in the offense.

I appreciated this clarification.  I've been saying for years that this law includes a lot more people that the FLDS families at Bountiful.  And now that the judge has clarified this we have other groups getting into the frey of conversation in the media and behind the scenes.  What?  You can't include US in is about those people at Bountiful.   Well no it ain't.  It is about tarnishing a whole lot of people in families that are healthy and empowering households with a wide brush so that we can help a small group of women and children who are under the harmful and unrighteous dominion of a handful of men. A very noble intent but is it worth it?  Chief Justice Bauman and lots of other people think that sparing one child these kind of harms is worth it.  I'm inclined to agree.  If, that is, I was convinced prosecuting under this law could be an effective remedy to the harms and abuse that was described in the court proceedings, I'd say go for it too.  Unfortunately that is not the case in the history of this law. Chief Justice Bauman places a great deal of trust in the abilities of police and ministry officials to parse the culture of Bountiful and break through the silence of fear.  His interpretation gives them the approval to proceed but really doesn't give them much help in being any more successful at getting convictions than prior to his decision.  That victims will be any more likely to come forward because of this decision and provide evidence such that prosecutions will be successful is a dream that can not be substantiated by anyone who has worked with battered women and abused children.  Add to this the idea of betrayal of God, family and implicating oneself in a crime.

If you want to save the women and children at Bountiful, you have to help them understand the idea of unrighteous dominion (where the man given authority over you can be unworthy of that authority by virtue of his behaviour and motivations and in fact NOT acting as God has approved) and that they can be true to their faith in an empowering and respectful relationship.  They must be reminded that they also have God's gift of agency - the right to choose between right or wrong for themselves as individuals.  God desires happiness and fulfilled potential for all according to their own beliefs.  This happens between their ears and not in a court room.

Perhaps this law needs a family mediation component where rather than a prison term, a Judge might sentence the multi-partnered adults to counselling with a polyamory friendly professional or attendance at a women's group teaching co-dependency recovery and self-esteem empowerment.  Perhaps evidence of harms ought to be another qualifier in the interpretation of whether or not an offense had occurred and conditional for a conviction.  

Whatever the end result, few of the parties are completely satisfied with the ruling and there is a good possibility of appeal.  To resolve problems at Bountiful, we need more than an exterior hue and cry.  Like any situation of domestic abuse the best cure and only effective cure comes from the people in the situation when they are ready and willing to make changes.  Saying that they are all brainwashed is offensive and not conducive to resolving the situation either.

It will takes more than police and ministry intervention to convince any abused woman that she is worth loving and has an obligation to be proactive in finding her own happiness and happiness for her children.  Ask anyone who works  in a women's transition house about how many women from the general population of any city never quite get that message.

Chief Justice Bauman clearly doesn't want these women and children lost in the battle for rights of the adults and yet it is asking way to much of this law and the limited support resources available for those same children in the aftermath of any prosecutions of those same women implicated by their husbands.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

On the precipice of history

On Wednesday of this week coming (November 23rd), Chief Justice Robert Bauman will release his decision with regards to the BC Supreme Court reference case on section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada (known as the Polygamy Law).  Both the legal counsel involved in the case and the media will be in a lock down room and allowed to view the decision and reasons on that morning slightly before it is released on the court's website. The judgement will be posted here on Wed Nov 23 at 10 am:

Please watch for follow up blog postings and resources at the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association's website at

I will also blog about it and the impact of the decision on polyamourous households in British Columbia and across Canada.

It is with mixed emotions - excitement, fear, and relief among others -  that I wait for this decision to be released.  One can ponder all the possible outcomes and their ramifications but really we just have to wait and see.  Am I likely to be faced with prosecution? Probably not but for sure not right away.  There's an RCMP investigation in process regarding trafficking of BC girls to Warren Jeffs in Texas that will have to be complete and then they'll focus on Bountiful.  I think that it was pretty clear in the proceedings that all sides have a problem with the law as it stands.  I think some direction on interpretation to make it possible to prosecute under this law is the worst that can happen. I felt that the plight of honourable loving polyamorous families was heard by Chief Justice Bauman and I believe any such interpretation will not include us.   Direction that the law is written so poorly that interpretation would in essence rewrite the law is the best outcome for all really.  Legislation that leaves no loop holes for those who truly do not have the best interest of others at heart and a zero tolerance for the abuse of men, women and children wherever it is found are shared interests in all of the participants in this case.   Legislation that does not criminalize the victims ought to be a key here as well.

I don't think that there are many who have read the press or the actual documentation from the proceedings that would see the victims of abuse at Bountiful and other such colonies continue to suffer.  The problem is in assuming all multi-partnered households operate the same way.  Abuse is found in monogamous homes and perfectly healthy families exist in a multi-partnered families.  The structure of the relationship does not protect the individuals from being presupposed to abusive relationships nor accepting a growingly abusive relationship as it insidiously begins with that first inappropriate comment or action.  The core of it is between the ears of each and every one of us.  Self-esteem and those inner tapes from our childhood that tell us how to treat other people and what to expect and accept from other people.

How do you legislate that?  In a monogamous setting when the spouse is battered enough, the abuser is thrown in jail - maybe- there are restraining orders - maybe- there is court ordered treatment for addictions and psychiatry - maybe.  The resources are not there really to support any kind of recovery but it can take place to varying degrees.  The victims have transitional housing, financial help, counselling and more often long term adjustments and deep poverty.  The courts are involved, the police, the children's ministry, non-profit support services, church groups, family members.  Legislation that is clear is difficult to enforce when intimate relationships and domestic abuse or child abuse occurs.  The end to abuse starts between the ears of the victim and the abuser.  They have to understand what is really occurring and why it is not acceptable.  When we truly believe that we deserve no better treatment or some higher power demands that we endure or participate in verbal, emotional or physical treatment of ourselves or another such that we/they are battered and miserable to ANY degree - not just when they arrive in the emergency ward - the input of friends, family, police or ministry personnel may or may not have much of an impact.  The message has to get past the ears, through all that grey matter and into the heart and belief system of the individuals.

The message that human life is meant for exploration, growth, freedom and happiness and that every human has a right to be happy, appreciated and loved. Every human being has a right to expect those who love them to treat them with respect and kindness.  You don't have to do anything to deserve it.  You exist and thus deserve it same as those who would deny your happiness in preference to their own. 

The province of British Columbia just introduced amendments to its Family Relations Act to address domestic abuse and look at these issues from the perspective of the well being of the children involved. In a nutshell, all decisions are to be based on what is best for the child and all other rights take a second place to that.  Terminology that is gender based or a bit antagonistic (parental support now instead of maintenance etc.) will be removed.

The law and those who enforce it begin to speak to the sense of self of the parents and child and the mission of parenthood which is the well being of the child.  Legislation valuing people is a good step towards those people valuing themselves.

Regardless of the decision in this case and the process of appeal or amending legislation that may take years, the work at Bountiful  - and anywhere domestic and child abuse is secreted in homes of every description across Canada - has only just begun.  Eradicating domestic and child abuse in my life time is a dream that I continue to dream.  What a wonderful country we'd live in where every child - male or female - grew up to experience a life where intimate partners' and family members' support and empowerment is the norm and stories of domestic abuse and child abuse are only in the history books.

Friday, November 11, 2011

In appreciation for the freedom to question and seek social change

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada and it is appropriate to make some comment in one's status on various social networking places and in one's blog about it.  I was looking for quotes, music and so on to make for more creativity.  I googled through quotes about soldiers, remembrance day, and heroes.  One quote about their being no unwounded soldiers in war and several others noting that the face of heroism was not gender nor racially exclusive caught my eye.  It occurs to me that the very fact that I can sit here typing in the comfort of my home living in contravention of a law that I dare to question publicly and as a woman speaks so many volumes about the heroes that have made this not a miracle but an acceptable part of the culture in which I live.

Some of those heroes and heroines have identified faces and well known names but most are tucked away in the fabric of history.  Those who lost their lives making sure that this country was and remains free to develop its own form of democracy have most certainly made the ultimate gift to our country and the world.  Those who spent their lives at much cost lobbying, advocating and raising the alarm for social, political and legislative change are also heroes to us and future generations.  Regardless of whether I agree with their viewpoints or not there have been and are so many courageous people at work in building the country as we have achieved it and moving for advances. They are heroes as well. Anytime you step into a voting poll and make your mark you ensure that the next generation has that right and become a part of their heroic past.

It is appropriate also today to ponder the pending decision on section 293 and realize that without the sacrifices and efforts of the heroes and heroines that we remember today we'd not have the freedom to question this law and speak out for the rights of a minority of Canadians who live in loving healthy relationships with multiple partners.  It has been both scary and exciting to be involved in this process of seeking standing federal law to acknowledge social change and respect human rights. You get a chill when you realize that you are participating in a historic moment. 

Canada has a long history of brave people daring to be in the forefront of inclusive acceptance and safe harbours for those who would not find them elsewhere.  I look forward to being part of the fabric of this page in history where loving is no longer criminalized.

I am grateful for the freedom to dare to try to see that happen.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Canadian Polygamy Law decision to be released November 23, 2011

 Release of Reasons for Judgment of Chief Justice Bauman
Reference re: Criminal Code, s. 293(Polygamy Reference)
The Court’s Reasons for Judgment in Reference re: Criminal Code, s. 293 will be released by Chief Justice Bauman and posted on the court’s website on Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 10:00 a.m.

Look for it in the news and please help advocate for polyamory by monitoring the news, replying to comments, writing letters to editors, and maybe even talking to your friends/neighbours and MPs/MLAs about your perspectives on polyamory.  Please also spread the word to your poly communities.

Join Friends of CPAA Advocacy Team on Facebook or the same named google group or forward media watch tips to this blog in the comments session or to

Regardless of the decision, I had a good feeling about Chief Justice Bauman and I believe he heard our small voices in the wind.  Let's make it a roar.  We love and build our relationships in an ethical non-monogamous  free formed structure that embraces gender equality and empowers healthy children and  happy families.  We are polyamourous and proud!!!

Watch this space for details and comment on the decision.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Poly on Tour - Final days

Day 8 - After a whirlwind of some 1400 km in 5 days, we were in need of a slow day.  DC and I hung around the hotel while  J and D explored nearby Woodbine Mall, Woodbine Rack Track and the related Casino.  I caught up on blog postings.  We rallied for dinner at the fabulous Mandarin buffet restaurant where they didn't even blink when I reserved for 20 people.  It is a very large restaurant with a vast array of dishes in the buffet.  We arrived a bit late due to road construction complicating traffic but only by a few minutes.  I opened the door to the restaurant to find a group of people waiting for me that bowled me over.  Some high school friends that I hadn't seen for over 30 years, friends from youth camp and church that I'd not seen in anywhere from a few years or fairly recently to at least 20 years. Some knew each other and enjoyed visiting.  Others enjoyed meeting new people and among the guests was a lovely academic researcher who we met during the court proceedings. It was a very warm and supportive gathering for me to confirm the polyamorous household in which I live and have them warmly welcomed.  There was much catching up conversations and  more about what life is like for us in the shadow of a decision on the BC Supreme court case.  I suspect that anyone on my Facebook friends list in the area who was invited and disapproving of my lifestyle choice would likely have not attended so the odds of the group assembled being at least not there to harass me was pretty good - however it was interesting to hear that one couple in attendance are looking to have a triad relationship but haven't met another person who was compatible yet and others who while not seeing this as a lifestyle for themselves were very clear in their minds that healthy multiple partner relationships should not be criminalized.  There were a fair number in attendance from a church background that is christian and perhaps more liberal and inclusive than others might be yet the doctrine of monogamous marriage is most definitely entrenched.  It was a lovely evening.

On our final day DC needed to nurse a headache so J, D and I took the rental car back to the airport and caught the hotel shuttle back.  We had lunch with my brother in the hotel restaurant and he was very kind to act as chauffeur and tour guide for the afternoon. We wandered around the downtown core and saw the fog enshrouded CN Tower,  Roger Centre (used to be the Skydome), Air Canada Centre, City Hall and the historic architecture around it, the Eaton's Centre, and the underground mall to the Atrium on Bay.  We lost DC in the World's Biggest Bookstore.  My brother left to collect his children and we located the old Maple Leaf Gardens building which is currently being sadly over renovated.  Loblaws and the Ryerson Fitness Centre will be living there when it is all completed.  The roof with the logo and the exterior brick building are to remain.  J chatted with workmen on site hoping to acquire a piece of brick or something of a souvenir nature but was unsuccessful.  I had spent much of my youth attending games and concerts there and  D had been there before as well so we were able to describe the original signage and interior for J and talk about what attending events there was like.  Maple Leaf Gardens was often referred to as the Cathedral of Hockey mainly because of its location on Church Street.  It was very much like a worshiper's journey as we trekked along busy city streets in the pouring rain looking at this historic building in transition.

Wet and very cold we walked a wee bit further and arrived at the location selected for us to meet with people from several poly groups in the Toronto area.  Some arrived just after us and others came later.  All in all about 25 people attended including some poly people not affiliated with any group.  It was a very warm group of people most of whom didn't know many of the others either.  It was good for them to connect with each other but very awesome to get some great feedback on the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association's website and work with the court case.  We left them with several copies of the DVD of the What is Polyamory Forum and made some connections for future advocacy work and events.  Two members of the Toronto triad who also filed an affidavit for CPAA's evidence in the case were in attendance and it was very cool to be able to talk to them about the feedback they had received and how life was going for them.

I sold some of my books at both of these dinners and that was pretty empowering for me as well.  J is an old hat at being in the "Poly Lady"'s entourage, and  D has become accustomed as well.  DC is learning to be comfortable in the spotlight too.  J says quite rightly that I am absolutely in heaven when gathered with people who want to know about polyamory, poly community building and advocacy around our rights and the law. It fulfills my inner teacher or missionary, I think. Although talking about something that I believe in and have found such happiness with is not difficult. I look forward to traveling and participating in the global conversation and celebration of the polyamory community building worldwide.  It is indeed and exciting and history making time.

This morning we got up at 4:30 am Ontario time and caught an early direct flight from Toronto to Victoria.  For some reason the flight west is longer than the flight east and I really felt it.  Four very weary but happy travelers arrived home inspired by the wonderful people and beautiful countryside of Ontario, Canada.

Thank you for a great trip.
Note:  My iphone crapped out and had to be restored which wiped some photos. I did get some also on my digital camera but have mislaid the download chord.  Tech advances are great but when they fail its a big fail.  I will edit and post pics when I get passed this little issue.

Edited:  Oct 31 - got the pics and amended this entry.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Poly on Tour - and back again

Day 7 -  After an excellent home cooked breakfast , we departed with a teary DC and a quick tourist shop pit stop where we fondled coyote and skunk pelts and marvelled at native art and jewelry. I think my credit card began to melt there.   We snagged some Ontario cheese curds for D there and he was quiet for awhile except for the odd "mmmmmmmmm...."
D  and DC gave us the history of them tour of Belleville.  J was able to visit the Hawkins Cheezie factory which was much like visiting a cathedral for him.  They are a bit secretive but he was allowed into the office, told the history of the company and gifted with some product and a baseball cap with their logo.  He was very pleased.

We dropped by the last place of employment for D and DC and had lunch with one of their co-workers.  It was a nice visit and a very good reconnection for them. Other staff members were in the building and expressed delight at seeing them again. 

Driving through Trenton we saw the signs for the Highway of Heroes which is what the stretch of Hwy 401 between Trenton and Toronto has been renamed in honour of our fallen soldiers.  This is the route that the hearses follow when the remains of soldiers killed in service are brought home from foreign countries.  The overpasses and sides of the highway are lined by people with flags and signs who are there to welcome our heroes home.   Very touching to see the signs along the way noting that.

At Coburg we stopped at The Big Apple which was opened by the same man who designed the famous Peter Puck. There is a huge building shaped like an apple, a go-cart track, little train system and a petting zoo for the kids to enjoy.  Their famous apple pie is made there and you can see the process in the factory from a glassed in visitors area.  I got lost in the gift shop and spent too much money but it was very cool too. 

Then onward to Toronto sailing across the top of the city via Hwy 401.  Sailing being not quite accurate as it was more of a log jam but we got there and are currently ensconced in our same hotel.   I hit the hot tub first thing and enjoyed the evening of not moving, not being in a car.

Poly on Tour - In search of poly and parrots

Day 6 - We dropped in at the after wedding brunch and said our goodbyes.  Then we sped to Kingston to meet with an online friend and her poly group.  We were delayed by traffic and family goodbyes but arrived in time to have a good visit with the Kingston group.  Very nice people and lots of good mover and shaker energy there.  Starting a group can be a bit discouraging until you get some momentum but I think this bunch is up for it.

 I left them with "Triad-ing Poly" pins and copies of the Vanpoly DVD of the What is Polyamory? Forum which was presented in Vancouver in April 2011.  We parted company with promises to keep in touch.  Hugs to N, I, R, L, H and A.   Be proud - you folks are awesome!

We drove around Kingston for a bit, DC was our tour guide and we took pictures.  J is fascinated by the size of Lake Ontario and has put his hand in the water several times now to say he did.  He wants to collect some sand to take home before we leave.  Then we drove back to Belleville and dropped DC at her Dad and Step-mom's home for a visit with some other family.

D, J and I went on to the National Airforce Museum at CFB Trenton.  I'd hoped to connect with a Victoria ex-pat who lives on base now but missed her.  We toured the museum and I took pictures of everything especially for my one son who is a military history buff.  The guys enjoyed their tour and this was D's turn to be chief tour guide.

We  returned to DC's family's home and were treated to an amazing home cooked meal, pleasant company, laundry facilities and a good night's sleep.  DC's Dad has two male parrots as pets.  J and I slept in the livingroom with the parrots saying "Good Night!" rather harshly if one of us snored too loudly.  Rather comforting to share space with them when my house at home has parrot figures of every description gifted to me over the years as a poly organizer.

Poly on Tour - The Ottawa Days

I apologize for the delay in posting as my iphone app ate my postings but told me that I'd published. On the plus side, I can include photos in the repost. 

Day 3 -  We began with a scenic tour of South Eastern Ontario on route to Ottawa.  We stopped in Brighton at Dougalls by the Bay which is a lovely and quite large restaurant at dockside.  The owner is a much abused Maple Leafs fan and we commiserated briefly on being a martyr amongst the heathen.  Lunch was terrific and we met DC's Dad and Step-mom.

 Brighton through to Belleville is the area of Ontario that DC spent most of her youth although she also lived in Kingston for a few years.  We got to see all of the historic life of DC locations and then proceeded to Ottawa.

After checking into our hotel, we wandered up the street to Don Cherry's Grill and met D's Dad and brother (the groom).  Hockey culture is very strong in D's family with the father and two of four children being goalies at various league levels.  J was also a goalie and I grew up with the NHL Hockey schedule being the first consideration on any family plans.  So Don Cherry's was a priority tourist event.  Dinner was good and no one threw anything at me in my Leafs jersey although the boys lost their game that night.  

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Day 4 - is a blur of errands, tux fittings, instructions and scheduling changes every five minutes, mad texting to keep things arranged and try to contact other poly folks, friends and some of my family in the area.  In the end, all things gave in to the needs of the bride and groom who struggled to keep the bride's mother from coming unglued apparently.  Monogamy in action brought up many memories for us and a the feeling one gets when your kid comes home from school with issues - been there done that and OH SO glad not to be doing it again today.   Rehearsal  was interesting.  The facility where the wedding and the reception were held was a ski resort called Camp Fortune in Gatineau Park.  The fall leaves and forest just about made me cry with homesickness.  The vegetation in Ontario is so different from the rainforest of BC.  I became an instant tree hugger of my favourite white or silver birch trees.    D was Best Man and although unimpressed with having to be in a "monkey suit" (tuxedo) all the next day enjoyed the interaction with his kid brother who he'd not seen in 5 or 6 years.  I was conscripted to stand in for their sister and read a passage as part of the ceremony.  The bride's aunt had a similar role and we had opportunity to chat a bit between things.  A very lovely and funny lady who reminded me of a friend of my parents.  Rehearsal dinner was very casual in the brides' suite at the Ramada in Gatineau.  Wow.  If you can stay there do so.  Amazing two storey suite with King bed downstairs and a double in the loft.  Two baths and a big screen tv in the sitting area.  Just gorgeous.  Apparently there was a fire alarm pulled during that night and they had to evacuate.  The bride returned to find a strange man asleep in her loft bed - groggy hotel guest who wandered back into the wrong suite.  Not sure who was more mortified.

Day 5 - The wedding.  Best man was shuttled to the groomsmen's dressing location and we picked up the videographer and a groomsman on the way and picking up more videotape.  Then to the bride's hotel for more pictures with the videographer after searching two stores for an extension cord.  Waited for more pictures there and then sped to the resort for the wedding arriving with 4 minutes for myself, DC and J to change clothes.  J. had been conscripted to fill in as an usher and enjoyed chatting up the ladies as he seated them.  I was seated on the bride's side with the aunt.  DC sat with the groom's dad.  The wedding was a very successful blend of tradition and non-tradition.  The bridal party entered to instrumental medley of old Irish tunes provided by her uncles and brother on keyboard, violin and guitar.  Her gown was modeled after the one worn by the groom's mother (recently passed away).  She carried a bouquet which included a two-sided locket with a photo of her grandmother and mother-in-law in their wedding gowns.  Her mother walked her up the aisle and "gave" her to the groom.  The brides attendants included a maid of honour, two bridesmaids and one bridesman and a flower girl.  The grooms attendants included a Bestman, a groomsman and two groomsmaids.  The Minister performed a tradional handfasting ceremony without the jumping of the broom, there were vows that did not include "obey" and the readings were about friendships built and respect for each other.

It is very natural to watch such proceedings and ponder other ones you have experienced.  D and DC related the fiasco that was their wedding.  J and I were both able to contribute equally complicated twists to our individual nuptials.  Several key family members on both sides had been tweaked to the fact that D and DC are no longer a couple and that D, J and I are a triad.  It came up in conversation a few times while we were in Ottawa and the comments were all positive.  We were however, very aware of being observed closely during the reception and in particular during the dance.  I love to dance and so does J.  I was up and dancing a fair bit, dragging D up several times and D's Dad who is quite flight of foot and very charming.  It was a fun evening.

I watched D and DC interact and some of the old crappy communication formats were easy for them to slip into but otherwise all went well.  I wondered if this might rekindle their marriage which would make for some interesting adjustments at home.  D went out of his way to make sure both J and I felt included.  He didn't need to do that and with the onslaught of family history and communication styles - I'm surprised and touched that he was able to do that.  Being home with your parents at any age causes you to instantly be a teenager.  You are always their baby no matter how tall you grow after all.  I was a bit worried that the romance of it all would lead to a reconciliation for the moment and gone at light of day scenario which would be hurtful and a bit uncomfortable for the rest of the trip.  However it seems that it has solidified a friendship and honouring of shared history.

 I was also able to experience a shared history as well when the wedding photos were taken at the William Lyon Mackenzie King Estate which is within Gatineau Park as is Meech Lake.  Both places have significance to Canadians.  Mackenzie King being a former Prime Minister and Meech Lake being the location of the signing of the Meech Lake Accord which amended our constitution not so long ago.  Mackenzie King was also my Great-Grandmother's nephew.  Very cool to be sitting on his back porch pondering my participation in the political and legal processes of our nation.

Being around family sets off a lot of emotions for people and I had a hard time being an observer only of all that was going on as I became the preferred communication hub as schedules changed and old family issues arose.  Mediation and event organizing being key skill sets, it was a natural response for me but I was concerned that I was stepping on DC's toes.  I waffled between wanting to step away and wanting to help.  I find sometimes with these men of mine that I tweak at the history they have with other people.  It makes me sad that I missed that stage of their life but is that a form of jealousy?

Being poly is so complicated at times.  I had to really look inside my heart and be true to the purpose of this leg of the trip which was the wedding and what the bride and groom wanted.  I decided that I was sniffing for tinder and more worried that it would be a bad turn of events rather than a hot and steamy reconciliation. Not jealousy so much as maybe enabling co-dependancy. Standing back and watching people you love work out difficult moments and being cool with not interfering in any way is not compersion exactly.  Maybe we need another word - antipersion?    I dunno.

 I was also thinking about how unfair it is that this kind of ceremony and affirmation of love is not legally available to those of us who have more than one love to celebrate.  I let my mind wander to logistics of a ceremony involving J, D and I.  It made me very sad on the one hand and sort of glad on the other because marriage is scary business.  Funny how a piece of paper changes things so much in so many ways and not at all in others.
D looked verrrrrrrrrra sexy in his tux and I think we should purchase one for each of my menfolk  just so I can take them off....ssssllllooowwwwllllyyyy. Bwahahahahaha.  I love my men.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Poly on Tour - Roots

Day 2 of our tour.  We collected our rental car and toured Dear Polly Amorie's childhood neighbourhood.  Mississauga, Ontario has changed a lot since I was last there in 1999 but there were still some old familiar places and they have the same Mayor Hazel!   She really hasn't aged much and still governs with a firm hand from what I see in the brochure.  We saw my grade school which is now a French school, my Senior Public which is now called a "Middle" school and my high school.
 The house where I grew up is renovated a wee bit but the three birch trees still stand tall on the lawn.  The strip mall across the street is still there. The Beer Store which had a burglar alarm that my next door neighbour could set off by turning on the tap in the laundry room sink to the amusement of the entire street as he was an OPP officer.  Many of the other stores had changed but the Fish & Chips store is still there and the Variety store.  Lots of memories and just a few stories told. It was fun to be the one to say "oh that used to be..." and be able to know the back roads and alternate routes to what the GPS was indicating. 

We spent the later part of the day touring the Hockey Hall of Fame.  My metamour and I felt deep compersion for my partners as they waded in the essence of their first  I took photos of all the important players who had the great fortune to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs and various bits of displayed memorbilia. J was moved to tears by the ability to actually touch the token of his love...The Stanley Cup. 
 I took various photos of it with both of my partners and close ups of the inscription where the Maple Leafs had won it as well as the ring for the year the Victoria Cougars won it.  Everytime J thought about that moment with his true love, he teared up.   Such a wonderful moment.  The guys had some retail therapy in the Spirit of Hockey store and I was gifted with an umbrella sporting the Leafs' logo.

We met my brother, sister-in-law and their two young children for dinner.  St. Louis Wings and Ribs was fabulous if a bit rowdy.  We slipped up the street to a much quieter Gelato place for a tasty ending to the meal.  My nephew who is 4 years old was full of wiggles and Gelato. He inspired silliness in my partner J and they got along famously.  My niece who is 6 yrs old sat beside me in the first restaurant and chatted with me as we ate.  She slipped her hand in mine to walk down the street to the Gelato place and directed me to sit in a certain seat.  As we left the Gelato place she slipped her hand in mine again and I asked if I might do up her jacket for her.  Then she slipped her hand in mine as we left that place.  This is my niece who has met me once before when their family travelled to Victoria in August of this year.  I was very touched that she honoured me with guiding her safety as we walked along the street.  We discussed our shoes and jackets and their general uselessness in the monsoon of rain and high winds.  J caught my eye as I walked hand in hand with the most precious little girl in the world and our eyes met, filled with tears and I knew that another moment of compersion had passed between us.

J experienced the Toronto subway system and at rush hour and survived.  My partners both learned that I did learn something growing up in the Toronto area - how to use the TTC and even though I had to tell them each five times that I was SURE what stop to get off, they do believe me now.
Hot tub for them, pool for me and off to bed.   Tomorrow we drive to Ottawa.

Poly on Tour - Victoria to Toronto

Dear Polly Amorie is on the road this week.  First leg of the trip was a very comfortable and uneventful flight with Westjet.  The staff was friendly and the flight was smooth.  I had an aisle seat and entertained myself with my latest Diana Gabaldon novel, The Fiery Cross.  DC had her ereader and my partners divided their time between observations of passengers and stewardesses and the tv movie screens on the back of the seats in front of them.  I was across the aisle from the three of them and had only one seat mate.  She was a lovely woman about the same age as myself who was returning to Halifax from having spent several weeks visiting her daughter's family and a new grandbaby.  The four hour ish flight sped by quickly and the only moment of concern was that the sight of the seatbelts sign which indicated a need to be seated and not move around the plane instantly made me need to use the washroom.

Disembarking at Toronto's Pearson Airport was uneventful much less so than getting off the ferry at Tsswwassen terminal in Vancouver.  There is the same long long walk to find one's luggage.  Many of the airport area hotels, ours included, have a free shuttle bus that you call for a pick up.  We are in one of the many Comfort Inn chain of hotels in the area.  I favour that chain which includes Quality Inns and Econo Lodges too.  I've found the staff to be consistently pleasant and the accomodations much nicer than would be expected for a fairly inexpensive cost.  We had a terrific dinner in the hotel restaurant and then hit the pool and hot tub.  Well rested if a bit jet lagged SOME of us were up and bouncing around like a chihuahua in heat at FIVE A.M. 

Tim Hortons coffee consumed we are just gathering ourselves to head out for some touristy stuff.  This being my home turf, I'll be showing the tribe the birth place and child hood haunts of Dear Polly Amorie as well as the more traditional tourist traps in the area.  Later we will have dinner with my brother and his family and make some phone calls to confirm meetings this week. 

Stay tuned. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Poly on Tour - on the brink of the journey

Putting on my travelling shoes to dance across the country and visit with YOU.
Come on out and meet Dear Polly Amorie and the loves of her life in person.

The move to new directions begins with a trip to Southern Ontario.  I have lived in British Columbia for just over 12 years now and am originally from the Toronto area.  While the inspiration to travel east after all these years comes from the invitation for one of my partner's to attend the wedding of his brother, it was an excellent opportunity for me to catch up with my family and friends and to meet some poly people. My partner, D spent much of his youth in Ontario as did my metamour, DC.  We three will be showing my other partner J the tourist sights as well as the memories of our youth as we travel.  We three are also returning older and wiser in so many ways as none of us have discovered the polyamory movement until we independently moved west.  We return to our friends and family with a greater understanding  and confidence in our relationship skills and life's goals.  That is one of the upsides of growing older generally but most definitely one of the upsides of finding solidarity in polyamory community.

We will arrive in Toronto on Tuesday October 18th and drive to Ottawa for the wedding and then return to Toronto via another route to catch a flight home on Thursday October 27th.  I will have with me copies of my latest novel, "A Matter of Perspective"  which is available on Amazon and Barns and Noble websites and has just been chosen for release as an ebook in their ebook libraries. (Tour price of $20 with $5 going to the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association.)  I will also have copies of the Vanpoly produced DVD of the "What is Polyamory?" forum held last April and featuring Janet Hardy (co-author, The Ethical Slut), Terisa Greenan (Family, the webseries), Kiki Christie (Victoria Poly 101) and John Ince (author and lawyer for the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association.  I was happy to moderate the discussion and learned some disturbing things about how I look on camera but the video is an excellent view and terrific resource for poly groups.  (DVD is $15 with proceeds going to the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association.)  I also have some pins that read "Triad -ing love" with an illustration of a traid which are $2.00 each or 3 for $5.00 with proceeds to the CPAA as well.

As we travel we are arranging to meet with poly people along the way.  If you are in the area and want to connect with us feel free to email  or attend one of these. 

Ottawa - Thursday October 20 - 7 pm   - Don Cherry's restaurant
Kingston -  Sunday October 23 - 11 am brunch - Cora's Breakfast and Lunch, Clock Tower Plaza,

Toronto -  Wednesday October 26 - 6pm - The Bishop and the Belcher Pub

We look forward to meeting you and hearing your story.  We will bring news of the growing BC poly community and global advocacy efforts.  If you aren't in the area or are unable to attend, please feel free to read my blog postings on our trip and share via comments.

We will also be meeting with family and friends some of whom are aware of our triad household and others who are not.  It will be interesting to experience their reactions and it will also be interesting to meet with several of them who have themselves discovered polyamory and adjust our perceptions of each other as we reconnect.  I'll keep you posted and I'm hoping to share photos and news of poly groups I encounter along the way.   We all need to know that there are others all over the world who share our philosophy and are just trying to be happy in their own ways.

....and now back to packing for the trip. 


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Digging Deeper

This past month has been exhausting.  Several co-workers are away and covering their workload has been stressful in both volume and  in the rather steep learning curve required to bumble my way around someone else's area of expertise.  I came back from a week off for poly camping to a mountain that overwhelmed my inbox.  I took me about two weeks to catch up and I'm not sure I really did.  It was very much like climbing up the down escalator.  Everyone will be back on Monday and I think we will be all caught up by then.

Additionally, I had an unexpected move thrown into the works.  We knew that the owners of the house we were renting had plans to tear it down and build something new and shiny but we didn't know until July that it would be so soon.  We were given notice to be out by the end of September.  This being a town of several colleges and universities, August & September are not the time to be looking for housing.  Amazingly we found a wonderful rental home with an excellent view in a very nice neighbourhood for a rent well under my maximum budget amount.  BUT we had to take it August first and haul our fannies to get out by Aug 31.  Now, I had been culling our vast stash of packrat just in case goodies.  (You never know when you might need that assuming you could ever find it in the back of some closet stuff.)  And I really thought I had done very well with it.  Until I began to pack up the house.  We had a junk it , donate it, recycle it and move it pile in various areas of the house.  The donate it pile and recycle it pile were shipped out regularly.  Then the donation place said! no! no more!  Friends shut their drapes and pretended not to be home when we pulled up with stuff to share.  The next door neighbour who runs a salvage business from his home checked on our discard pile in the driveway regularly gauging the income in his future and rubbing his hands with glee.  As the pile grew and the other neighbours whispered amongst themselves pondering what kind of cavernous storage space we had to have housed all this or was it breeding in the sunlight and would it not soon take over the street.  We dragged stuff out, we sorted, we packed , we moaned.  It was endless.  Every night after work we'd go to the old house and work.  Then take a load home in a borrowed stationwagon.  On weekends we worked full days.  It was as if someone was moving stuff in at night and replenishing the stuff we still had in the house.  I thought I heard the stuff talking about us and laughing at one point but maybe it was just the neighbours.

Finally, we dug up my holly trees and rosebushes and waved goodbye to the old house.  The neighbour with the salvage business would clear the small mountain in the driveway in a day or so.  Now I come home every night and either unpack boxes or , as I'm doing tonight, practice work avoidance and play on the computer.  I have time, I think.  The stuff is sneaky though and it smuggles the things I'm looking for into other boxes although I'm sure I put it in the box with this other thing.  I will have to empty all the boxes and organize the stuff so it knows who the boss is or rather forgets who the boss is and becomes convinced that I am the boss of it.

As I sorted through the stuff, I wondered at the wisdom of apparently buying multiple versions of the same items to replace ones that have gone astray.  They find each other and hide in the basement.  I also marveled at the bits of my life that I found.  Cassette tapes, letters, photos, stuffed toys and tourist trap items that were memory tweaks of some of the loves of my life.  Somethings I kept were very sweet and loving.  Others like the cassette tape with a notation "death threat - keep this" not so much.  It occurred to me that it was definitely time to purge myself of several of these items and the associated memories.   It also occurred to me that I'm an emotional packrat too.  I keep those memories and replay them over and over.  Enjoying the good ones and punishing myself with the bad ones.  I wonder if any of these lost loves would even think of me never mind stew about some events that happened years ago.   I like to be omnipotent and entirely responsible for how things go when they go wrong and yet am sure of (and unnerved by) my crazy luck when they go right.  As I sorted through the crap in my basement and the crap in my heart, I realized that for once I was at a place where I was jointly responsible for the good and difficult in my every moment.  I was in a loving relationship with two other people who were as invested in it as I was and working on our own issues while supported by the others.  Holy Nirvana, Batboys and Batgirls!! was definitely time to clean house and start afresh, together, on a wonderful path to intentional community.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Different strokes for different folks and then some

I've been on several camping trips this summer but the big event around here was  a  large group camping trip (9 days) ambitiously planned by representatives of the many poly groups we have in the Victoria area. Vancouver Island has become a hot spot for poly people and fabulous regular events. There were many spur of the moment camping trips by each of the groups.  Polycamp Too (4 days) had been running for several years and was a project of the VanIsle Poly group which is a more social and networking group often first contact for those moving to the area. Long term members tend to be the over 35 age group with growing families. Victoria Poly 101 is a discussion group with a social component and tends to appeal to those under 35 or without families. Poly 101 on Campus is an approved club of the University of Victoria for students.  Poly Women's Group is a discussion and support group attended by women of all ages who identify as poly, swing, bdsm and poly friendly. There is also the a Poly Pub Night group and a Victoria Poly Group Dating group (say that three times quickly). There are also two different groups who host occasional "play" (poly/swing/bdsm) parties as well . People will attend one of these poly groups, several of them or all of them depending on their availability and the choice of discussion topic. There is a lot of interaction in attendance between the poly, swing and bdsm communities and some really creative event planning in our town. We are very lucky to have such devoted and talented people in our midst.

Different variations on the theme of multi-partnered relationships are practiced within the greater community of poly people. There are definitely tribes or clusters of friends within the community. Polycamp Vancouver Island 2011 was a merging of groups to create one event for the greater community to come together and get to know one another. Good in theory but not so much in practice. Mixing families and polyfi tribes with a group of singles wanting a "burn" experience in retrospect was much more complex and required much more communication prior and during then was anticipated. Having never been to a "burn" (as they are generally held in a desert and I'm not much for heat and sand), I did not realize that until I read a posting by the effervescent Reid Mihalco (Thanks again, my friend.) after the camp was over.

It occurs to me that we as a poly community should have "relationship agreement conversations" when we bring together groups from different variations on the poly theme or from different areas where their variations are unknown to us. People do not like surprises.  It was suggested that some form of this be a part of the registration process for future "burn" camping.  Good idea except that many people registered onsite or had someone else preregister for them. 

For the most part, poly people in our area are very inclusive and accepting of the variations people choose in their philosophies of lifestyle and sexual/gender expression. Likely more inclusive than I've seen elsewhere in my life. Camping in a group does not allow for much privacy and really I may support your right to choose but I don't really want to sit and watch. Compersion has its limits and tighter ones for complete strangers. That coupled with a very poor decision to not post nor enforce any rules with regards to behaviour in communal areas and clean up procedures made for a experience that could have been more divisive than the intended merging event.

Yup. Another F***ing Growth Experience as we poly folk are prone to say. An online follow up feedback survey was created to give attendees a place to express themselves and it had a surprisingly large response rate. It was also a goldmine of wonderful advice and support. Poly people rock.

Next year, the "burn" folks will go off and have Polycamp Vancouver Island 2012 with an adult only attendance. PolyFamilyCampBC will be its own event for families and those who wish a more structured experience with workshops and events for all ages running concurrently as well as inter-generational gathering times. There are planning groups on Facebook for both.  They are separate events held at different times so that adults may choose to attend both.

We saw clearly in the feedback that while we have a blossoming greater poly community on Vancouver Island, there are definitely communities within that which would like to vacation separately. We are still one big family. Mom just doesn't do fishing trips and Dad just hates shopping runs to the US.

The workshop sesssions that we did have at camp this year were well received and that was noted as one of the strong points of the event. I facilitated one updating on the BC court case (Polygamy Law reference) and assisted Leo Young (Results Canada)in another on Advocacy letter writing which was followed by another brainstorming on ways to help the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association develop advocacy teams.

As a follow up to those sessions I have set up a Facebook group called Friends of CPAA Advocacy Team and a google group of the same name. I will be posting training information to them on how to write letters to the editor in response to articles; how to write letters, make phone calls and visit politicians and bureaucrats; and how to prepare a 3 minute laser talk or elevator speech for when the topic comes up amongst friends/co-workers etc. We will post information from which you can draw suggestions for letter content. We will post media alerts to target articles and encourage responses. We will also post names and contact info for those who can facilitate social change for polyamorists. There will be in person meetings in our area and the hope is that other local groups will form and skype in for contact occasionally.

Google group email:
web address:

Friends of CPAA Advocacy Team -

I also coached a session for writer's at camp where we critiqued each other's work and did some exercises meant to push out the cobwebs and get our muses humming. I had an encore session later in the week and have opened a Facebook group called Poly Writer's Bootcamp to continue that and add a self-marketing training program. We will have in person meetings as well. Skype in is an option for these meetings as well.

Poly Writer's Bootcamp -

I look forward to working with these groups and draw great inspiration from the wonderful contacts made this summer.  New faces and faces that I'd seen but now know so much better.  A good summer for refocusing and pondering new horizons.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Polyamory and Advocating for the Right to Love > 1

and Advocacy Letter Writing are just two of the workshops being presented this year. Dear Polly Amorie with be an author in residence for the week, presenting the first workshop and assisting with the second one.


Cuddletopia, Candyland, Sparklecamp! Burner-inspired theme camps and workshops round out this summer’s “Ever After” theme

Have you signed up yet for Polycamp Vancouver Island? You can register now and pay later.


Weekday Theme Camps

Theme Camps are sessions in which community members share their interests and passions, an opportunity to learn through sharing.

They can last all week or take place at specific times.

Participants are encouraged to decorate and personalize their campsite, provide a communal space or provide an activity. Anyone can contribute to a creative and communal atmosphere through personal or group expression! Even a simple idea such as a “sunscreen camp” turns a necessary task into an artistic, fun and interactive activity.

It’s up to you, campers! What’s your passion? May your inner self-expression blossom within an environment of respect!

July 29th to August 7th, 2011 – 9 days

Goldstream Park, Victoria, BC, Canada

There is a flurry of activity amongst the social fairies as they gather an exciting and engaging line-up of informal workshops for the weekdays. They are expecting amazing intentional community building and skill sharing.

In the works already are sessions…

Kink 101
Advocacy writing
Unitarian worship
Dance and movement

…and some fun themes…

Queen of Hearts
Little Red’s Hood
Zen Den
Lick, Suck and Slide
Sunscreen Camp

Are you thinking about holding a theme camp or facilitating an informal session? Notify us of your intentions in advance! Please contact Cora at ASAP (although feel free to be spontaneous too!)

There are also opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking and creative endeavors in art, costume-making and music.

Weekends’ Workshop Schedule

Theme camps are just the start – the weekend is when the real poly magic happens. Here is the current lineup of extraordinary, once-upon-a-time workshops.

Saturday, July 30:

9:30AM- Esha: Make a Thing (prizes for best costume/campsite!)

1PM- Quintus: Larger Families: Intentional Communities and Communes

4PM- Megh, Matt & Dave: Mono-Poly Dynamics

7PM- Kiki: Poly 101 Icebreaker

Sunday, July 31:

9:30AM- Danna: Introduction to Sane and Happy Rope Play

1PM- Sara: STIs with Nurse Sarah!

4PM- CunningMinx: Poly & Single: Dating 101

7PM- Eli: Basic Massage for Beginners

Saturday, August 6:

9:30AM- Zoe: Polyamory and Advocating for the Right to Love > 1

1PM- Quentin & Mim: Gender and Sexuality 101

4PM- Megh: Exploring Sexual Boundaries through Art

7PM- Closure: Cabaret and Celebration

The last night of camp will showcase a stunning cabaret and celebration of what we have learned and created throughout the week.

More workshop details on the website:

Polycamp Vancouver Island is a place for self-expression and an opportunity to build community.

Have you signed up yet for Polycamp Vancouver Island?

Did you know that there is no need to pay when you register? The more people we know registered the better programming we can provide!


July 29th to August 7th, 2011 - RATES

Full week (up to 9 nights): $140 adult**, $40 child

Weekend or mid-week (up to 3 nights): $80 adult, $30 child

Daily drop-in (price per day): $20 adult, $5 child

Weeknight drop-in (6 to 11pm only): $10 adult, $5 child

One night* (price per night): $40 adult, $15 child


Monday, June 20, 2011

So....what happened with the court case...the Polygamy Law stuff?

The decision is in the hands of Chief Justice Bauman. It will take a minimum of three to six months for him to review all the evidence and come to his decision. We have heard no updates on that as of yet. I expect it later rather than sooner as I found Chief Justice Bauman to be very thorough and thoughtful.

So we wait. We go on with our lives next door to you. We are going to work, school and the grocery store as usual. We take our kids to their end of school year activities and plan for their summer camps and jobs with them. We love and are loved. We have our difficult days and our amazingly wonderful days. I think my biggest concern is that in the passing of each day average Canadians are forgetting that it is about more than those Mormon people in the back hills of British Columbia. I was pleased and amazed to hear lawyers and journalists wrapping their lips around terms like polygyny, polyandry, polyamory and understanding the difference. The first step to acceptance is understanding. I don't think it has had time to filter into mainstream thinking though. I want polyamory to stay current in the media and the minds of the public.

On the weekend of June 3,4 5 poly people from across the US and Canada as well as some in Britain celebrated with a Poly House Party Weekend. There were parties in homes and in public venues where we rejoiced in the freedom to love more than one person in an open and empowering fashion. There were facebook pages, much twitter activity (#PHPW)and a website devoted to the event which was a fundraiser for Loving More and the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association. It was a much appreciated support for both of these groups and a terrific flag waving event for the polyamory community world wide. Excellent ground roots organization and very laid back and casual events. A perfect celebration and media event to keep us on the radar of the average person.

Prior to going to the closing days of the court sessions in April, it was necessary for me to "come out" to the management of my current job. I had changed jobs since the opening sessions and this employer was not aware of my possible notoriety if the press decided to notice my attendance. In that discussion with my employers,one of the managers asked what I would do if the court's decision was to uphold the polygamy law as it stands. I was a bit stunned by the question because I'd not thought about what would happen following any decision. So much of my energy and thought for over a year had been on what evidence we could find to present to ensure that the lives of so many loving empowering families in the poly community were protected from this law.

I thought for a moment and realized that we had the attention of the BC AG by providing an affidavit that was quoted in his closing argument. It was clear to me that should the court rule in favour of prosecuting under this law the first prosecutions would be at Bountiful and the next would be looking very closely at us as the only BC people admitting to a polyamorous household. I said,"Well I guess we'd have to split up depending on how the law is being read down. We haven't had a ceremony which is criteria for the AG of Canada so it would depend on how the judge defines it as to whether I, personally, would be prosecutable."

I've thought about this over the past few months and I really don't know what will happen but I do know that it isn't a matter of what I would do but a matter of what we as a family will do. This isn't about naughty behaviour that one should stop. This is about a love shared with two men so deeply felt that the agony of separation from either of them is unthinkable. It is about a family that surrounds us and sustains us as a loving trio. My children have embraced my partners as loving fathers and dear friends in their lives. If you could have seen my children and partners all working together to move my parents across town to a new home. They worked as a team and asked nothing but something to eat and a cold drink. Hard working team and each of them sees the others as key members of their life. Yeah, they gripe and complain on occasion. That's what families do. That isn't despite my naughty behaviour. That is because we are loving and respectful of each other and attempt to provide a good example of an open, honest and empowering household.

Being a poly group organizer and spokesperson is something I am comfortable with and enjoy. I do find it somewhat tiring at times with all the other things in a busy life. If the court rules in our favour, I will be much busier as the road of awareness and political lobbying will open up. That too will be taxing on my relationships. (Yes, I worry too much.)

(Oh by the way, Polycamp Vancouver Island is July 29 to Aug 7 which is longer and with more great workshops and activities. See for details. Let's get together, celebrate community and I'll teach you how to write letters that invoke political change.)

In the end, I can only step forward into the darkness feeling for the light switch and assure you that when I can see the reality of this court decision it will be with that bravery that I have found somewhere deep inside me and it will be hand in hand with my partners, my family and my community.

Yes, I am PROUD to love openly, honestly, ethically and without limit.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

More Polygamy Law updates - Anonymous Witness #2

From transcript of Jan 25, 2011
Testimony of Witness # 2 - Anonymous - given in another court room in presence of Judge, FLDS lawyer and court staff only. Viewed by video not on the witness in session court room for other lawyers.

Witness #2 ia a woman in her early 40's who was born in Lister, BC (just outside of Creston) and raised in the FLDS at Bountiful in a family where the father had five wives.

Witness #2 (W2) lived in a home with three of the wives and 30 children, 15 of which were full siblings. She has three siblings that have left the community and interractions with them are respectful but they have different values and fewer commonalities now. Education was very important in her family and she was encouraged to finish high school, attending school in Bountiful and achieved her grade 12. She went on to six years of post secondary education and a diploma there as well. She has held jobs both in the community and outside of the community for 19 years.

W2 was married at 16 years of age and is in a plural marriage with one other wife. She believes that plural marriage is required to attain the highest degree in the celestial kingdom but that plural marriage requires considerable amount of faith and determination and is thus not for everyone within the FlDS.

When W2 was 16 years old, she was interested in going to college and her parents suggested that marriage might help her get there. She thought about it and decided that getting married would be a good idea and so her parents went to the Prophet. A Elder of good standing in the church was presented as a potential spouse to her and she was given option to turn the match down. She didn't know him but knew of him and decided it was a good match. She was married three months later. During that three months she met with her future spouse every weekend.

She has lived in the a different house from her sister wife but currently they share the same home again. They are both committed to getting along and when conflicts arrise they are dealt with using discussion, negotiation and concilation.

W2 is says her husband supported her education and took care of the children when she needed to be away. Her one regret was that she had to be away from very young children for longer than she would have liked and thus might have waited to have her children in retrospect. Currently the policy in the community is that there are no marriages with people under 18 years of age. She agrees that this is best.

W2 has nine children and has encouraged them to make free choices about marriage partners. She has 4 that are over 18 years of age. Her daughter was married at 15 to a 19 year old boy that she was friendly with and wanted to have a relationship with. Her parents discouraged the situation but the daughter went to the prophet for permission to marry and it was granted. The daughter is now 26 and they have a very good relationship. Her concern was that the daughter would not continue her education but the daughter has begun to do that now.

Asked if she would allow her daughter to have married a much older man, she said no and that there were no consequences to that refusal. Asked if she believed that decisions of the Prophet must always be followed, she said no and that like Joseph Smith himself any man can make mistakes.

W2 has a step-son who was working in a town which is 90 minutes from Bountiful and he was influenced by peers to use alcohol and drugs. They tried to help him overcome these addictions but in the end he decided to leave the community and purse these habits.
The FLDS do not use drugs and alcohol at all. She and her husband have maintained contact and he has expressed interest in returning but cannot kick the habits although counselling has been accessed. He is currently living with the married daughter.

She believes in agency and that she can make choices to follow her faith or not. She says that the polygamy law gives mainstream Canada room to make assumptions and discriminate against members of her community who need to seek counselling and other assistance. She says that decriminalizing polygamy would give much relief to her community in terms of not having to finance legal costs.

Cross-examination by the BCAG:

Creston now incorporates the old town of Lister has been home to some FLDS. The FLDS communities of Bountiful, Canyon, and Arrow Creek border it. Neighbouring Cranbrook,Kitchener and Yahk have been home to many FLDS as well. BCAG asked if these would be places FLDS women might go to birth their children and W2 said yes but some have gone to Calgary and Vancouver as well.

Then followed some bizarre tactic of bullet questioning that attempted to get the witness to identify members of the community and succeeded in getting the witness to identify her career and then read into the transcipt from her education as noted in her affadavit - some of which was objected to by the FLDS lawyer and cautioned by the Judge as being close to violating his court order of anonymity. The tone of this cross was very aggressive and slightly snide.

W2 said that to achieve the highest level of celestial glory a man must have more than one wife. A woman's path was through her father and then her husband as they were her "priesthood head" or the head of the household and the one given responsibility to ensure household members were instructed on the ways to be most Christ-like. She said the she was not taught to give her husband absolute obedience and refers to them as co-parenting the children.

Regarding interaction of boys and girls, W2 said that she played sports with boys but they were taught not to have boyfriends or interract sexually with the boys.

Regarding dress - women tend to wear only dresses, long underwear is optional - custom is to swim in clothing.

Regarding family size - teaching is to have the number of children that you can take care of.

Placement marriage - prophet has an inspired suggestion which is presented to you at a meeting with you and your parents if possible or the prophet advised your father and he told you. Some girls daydreamed and talked about who they would marry and it was something that they looked forward to. She and her sister wife are biological sisters as well.

Education - only university or college has been for teachers and midwifes - she is quoted in her affadavit
you suggest that the reason that
"there aren't more secondary opportunities for Bountiful children is that they do not have the money to pursue higher education because it's all going to defending American church leaders."

W2 was very clear that financial assistance was not required but requested and that she herself also choose to help.

Both W2 and her sister wife, who had 10 children work outside the home full-time as does their husband. Asked if her youngest child (7 years old) was involved in organized sport or other activities outside of the Bountiful community, she said no but others of her children were. The youngest has doctor, dentist appointments in town and use of park and library.

She agreed that she was aware of girls who were married at ages between 15 and 18 years and of 8 or 9 teen girls who came from the US to marry Canadian men. The policy for not marrying under 18 years of age came in about a year and a half ago and there have been no marriages since its implementation.

She discussed giving an affidavit for this court hearing with her husband but not the content of it. She was interviewed by Prof Angela Campbell.

Cross-examine by AG of Canada:

Her sister married the husband when she was 16 and the husband was 23. W2 married him six years later and became second wife.
W2 had children with 18 mos to 4 year spacing. Birth control was not discussed openly but she was familiar with it and discussed it with her daughter. She indicated that divorce or separation was an option available and that it did not require either spouse leaving the community nor was the wife required to accept being placed with another spouse.

Regarding girls coming up from the US to marry:
W2 says that they enter as visitor visa or student visa and stay as long as they can keep renewing their visa. When the visa expires they leave Canada and go to Idaho until an application for common law status or other permanent status can be arranged.

Cross-examine by WestCoast leaf:

Asked if a woman could ever hold a leadership role (bishop, prophet, priesthood head) in the church community and W2 said no. She confirmed that one tenth of their income is given to the church as tithing and monies given to assist in legal fees is in addition to this regular tithing payments.

Angela Campbell interview - W2 confirmed that she did that interview without the knowledge or approval of any of the church leadership. She told her husband after the fact.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Catching up on testimony - Carolyn Jessop - ex-FLDS

Testimony of Carolyn Blackmore Jessop from transcripts of  her appearance in  BC Supreme Court session on Jan 12, 2011.

As well as appearing in court, Carolyn Jessop submitted an affadavit in these proceedings, a video taped interview, two books that she has written entitled "Escape" and "Triumph"and a copy of her testimony to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary regarding her experience with the FLDS Church.

Carolyn's father is Arthur Ray Blackmore was was originally a Canadian citizen and resident of Bountiful. He was adopted into Harold Blackmore's family.  He moved to the United States and married three wives and fathered 28 children and parented 8 more.  Carolyn is the second oldest of his children and her mother is Nurylon Bistline Blackmore.  Her mother is a sixth generation polygamist Mormon. She grew up in the Hilldale/colorado City community but visited with her father's relatives in Bountiful. She said that while the communities were very similiar in beliefs, dress and obedience to the council of Apostles and later one man rule of Prophet - there was little intermarriage between the Canadian faction and the Utah/Colorado faction.  The US group did not convert from the general population as a rule you had to be born into the community and there was much intermarriage amongst families.  The Canadian faction intermarried with the general Canadian population and converted to the faith.  Marriages were arranged by the prophet and love was unnecessary and discouraged. 

Carolyn's mother was first wife and had 13 children. Second wife was Rosy who was niece of Carolyn's mother. She was 22 at the time and well known to the children of the house as she had babysat and helped with the children.  "It wasn't that big of a shift."

She remembers her mother being very unhappy and her parents did not get along at all.  Her mother was depressed and vocal about suicide from her earliest memory.  Her mother was very emotional and her temperament "went in a lot of directions". Rosy's personality meshed with the husband's at lot better and she became the favoured wife.  Rosy worked as a nurse and that left Carolyn's mother with several preschoolers for long periods of time.  Child care fell to the older daughters including Carolyn.  Household responsibilities interfered with her social life as a teenager but more importantly she was pulled out of school after grade 8 and this created conflict between Carolyn and her mother because Carolyn wanted an education.  She found a homeschooling program and was able to complete three years in one year.  Her father consented to her attending high school for a maximum of two years and she was able to transfer credits and complete high school by age 17.

Education wasn't seen as necessary for women and more of a contamination of worldliness.  Carolyn wanted to be a pediatrician because this role was being fullfilled in the community by an aging midwife and there was too much work for her to handle. Carolyn was allowed to go to community college and worked at the school as a teacher's aid during the day.  Her father asked the prophet for permission for her to go to university to be a doctor.  This was denied but she was told that she could be a teacher if she would agree to marry Merrill Jessop.Her future husband might well say he didn't want more education for his wife but as the prophet had approved it, there was opportunity. Merrill was 50 and she was 18. It was done quickly and in secret because her older sister had run away from an arranged marriage and discredited the family and her parents were concerned that Carolyn might try that as well. She went to school with his daughters and was in a different clique from them. As a result they were appalled that she became their mother and there was some conflict. Merrill had quite a bit of status in the community where her father didn't and his 3 other wives were more her own mother's age and so she was not well received in the household at all. Within six months of her marriage to Merrill he married two of Leroy Johnson's wives as the latter had died and they were widows.

Perfect obedience to the prophet and the male head of household was enforced with whatever punishment was needed and violence against children and women was commonplace.  Evidence of battery such as a black eye were viewed as symptoms of the shame of the woman who had grieved her husband such that he needed to hit her.
Her own mother was quite violent and she had no bond at all with her.  Carolyn felt safer with her father because he was more stable and she connected with him.  She wasn't afraid to tell him  how she felt.  He was not violent at all and as she was an older child, her father had more time available to develop a relationship with her.  She felt that her father was very protective of his children and had conflict about the demands of his religion on his children. 

Carolyn has eight children and her first two were educated in the public school but then Warren Jeffs ordered them to pull the children out and had a private school set up. She was concerned because the readers they were using were impossible to teach a child to read using them.  All outside reading material was ordered destroyed and she had over 3300 children's books collected when she was working as a teacher. There could be no materials used in the school that were not created by the community. They were not even allowed to have Bibles in the home anymore.

She feared her husband and rarely spoke with him. Her husband had ultimate financial control.  Every cent earned went to him and he doled out money for groceries, childrens' needs and the wives had to ask for specific items beyond that.  He would use that control to ensure obedience.  She eventually had her employer direct deposit part of her pay to a separate account and issue a paycheque for the remainder.  Birth control was denied by her husband despite the fact that she had very difficult pregnancies and she managed to get a sister to take her to a clinic for a depo shot so that birth control pills were not found in her belongings.

(My Comments:  I have to stop here and say that Carolyn and Merrill's marriage sounds much like my first marriage.  My first husband was a very controlling man and abusive and the same financial and birth control applied to me as well.  My husband was very monogamous and an atheist.  Polygamy and Mormonism were not factors and yet the results were very similar. Even down to the other family members hating her.  I was the "foreigner" to his family and they only spoke English when speaking directly to me.  They supported him and I was a bad wife if I had a black eye. Cut off  from my own family and friends and very isolated by intent of the husband.  It was exactly the same deal as Carolyn describes. Classic domestic abuse.  I would suspect that most of these stories could be heard in any transition house or women's shelter in Canada and the US. where refugees of monogamy also fear their spouses and sometimes in the kick the dog theory of passing inappropriate discipline and internalized rage "down the line" - children fear their parents and children are used by one parent to intimidate and control the other. This crap is everywhere in our society hidden, not discussed and rarely reported. The reasons for not reporting are legion: fear of the perpetrator, family and community apathy and the huge effort it takes to get the courts/ police to enforce the laws on the books regarding abusive behaviour.  The Amicus listed some 20 laws in the criminal code that directly address these harms in his closing statement. If we prosecute polygamists we are discriminating against the thousands of monogamous women suffering these harms.  Let's just have a country where all citizens can live in loving relationships safely. )
Carolyn has a very dramatic story of escape inspired by a desire to get proper medical attention for her two youngest children and keep Warren Jeffs away from her oldest daughter. She speaks of the long process to help all her children heal and be comfortable in the general population of society. She had huge struggles and a real nasty ex-husband but she triumphed and her children rose above the psychological trauma of their family life and the separation from the culture and community that gave them their identity.  She deserves to be proud of those accomplishments. She speaks sadly of her oldest daughter returning to the group at age 18 and now lives on the ranch in Texas.

With all her negative experience, Carolyn speaks out against the harms she observed and was subjected too.  She speaks of resources to help women escape. Carolyn also calls for the decriminalization of polygamy. 

"And so my theory with decriminalizing [polygamy] would be just giving people some rights so that we have claim to property.  We have claim to help.  One of the concerns I have with that is I
don't know that in the polygamist setting I grew up if woman would have been allowed those rights way I way.  I don't know that men would legally marry their wives if they could and give them legal rights.  I don't think it would happen quite frankly and part of the ways to control people and have this power is you can't give them rights and have that kind of power."

Cross-examination by the lawyer for the FLDS:
In discussing the various leadership that Carolyn had experienced as a member of the FLDs, it was noted that Leroy Johnson was more moderate that Rulon Jeffs and Warren Jeffs was more restrictive.  The harms that she discusses in her books were directly attributed to her husband and/or Warren Jeffs. Carolyn indicated that Warren Jeffs was created by the lifestyle and that it has and will create others like him.  Carolyn said that no criminal charges were brought against her husband for abusive behaviour as he agreed to a abide by a protection order and the AG of her state felt that helping her to gain custody of the children and keep them safe was of greater issue.  There are  however charges pending against her husband in Texas for his behaviour there.

Carolyn wrote a 17 page letter in 2000 to Rulon Jeffs asking for protection from her husband and to be allowed to live separately with her children.  Warren Jeffs on behalf of his father was giving women release from one marriage and replacing them to another husband because of abuse in the former marriage.  Carolyn did not want to be placed with another husband. Asked if she had been given a release from marriage to Merrill and placed elsewhere in 2000, would she be still in the FLDS today, she said yes if she had been able to protect her children and particularly her oldest daughter who was 13 at the time of leaving.

Carolyn agreed that this oldest daughter has a different view of the FLDS and now as a 21 year old adult is making adult choices and Carolyn worries about her. She agreed that other people lived happily in the FLDS and did not experience the same harms.
"because they were not married to Merrill"

Discussing her appearance on Oprah, the lawyer introduced transcripts of that show where Carolyn called for decriminalization of polygamy.
"And so if there was a way to decriminalize it so people could live honestly and open and with dignity...Then the children would
 have more options they would see more of what is really available..."