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.