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.