Saturday, November 27, 2010

Polys in Court - first hand report - Day 4 and issues held (Day 5)

Day 4 or Thursday November 25 began later than usual at 11 am.  It was a good thing as there had been some snow fall overnight and roads were a bit slick in Vancouver.  There was a decided lack of media as we arrived at the court house.  Once we were inside the court room stragglers began to appear notebooks in hand and the mood of those in attendance was a quiet excited anticipation of the last few opening statements which would likely be the more controversial.

Before the court heard the these opening statements the BC AG sought the advice of Justice Bauman with regards to his application for a publication ban on the video affidavits which have been posted to the Vancouver Sun's website and one other location.  Justice Bauman asked the lawyer for the BC AG to determine which media outlets had been served notice of the application and when so that adequate time to respond was offered to them.  Mr Jones, lawyer for the BC AG removed himself from the court room with the Judge's leave to find that out.

The lawyer for Oler and the FLDS church spoke first.  His viewpoint is that this law prohibits the binding agreement not the activity that is described.  The crown must prove that the accused entered into a multiple partner relationship and believed it to be binding upon themselves for a period of time.  The law does not prohibit living with, having sex with, having children with nor loving more than one person.  It prohibits the contract.  A criminal offense cannot be described in such a way as that it depends on the activity of a third person.  The idea that the law kicks in when an authority sanctions unrelated a voluntary act of the accused people in the relationship.  So the situation becomes an offense when a third party (authority) sanctions it which is contrary to basic criminal law where a criminal offense is a voluntary act of the accused.  Section 293 is merely a crime of status by prohibiting the status of two or more persons who are in a conjugal union behaving in an otherwise perfectly legal manner.  The FLDS are not participating in this reference to defend their beliefs which they understand are observed with scorn by many Canadians but they wish to challenge the prohibition on plural and arranged marriages as the law applies to them.  The members of the FLDS freely choose to enter into plural marriages because of their beliefs and in contrast to a secular view of rights and brain damage as others would suggest.  He indicated that there are 550 people in the FLDS part of the Bountiful community which does not include those aligned with Blackmore.  183 of those are over 18 years of age, 115 of those are married, 60 in monogamous marriages and 55 in plural marriages.  Of the 68 unmarried adults, 13 are formerly married.  There are 22 youth aged 16 or 17 and none are married.  He discussed the evidence of witnesses that he will bring forward to speak to the motivation and experience of polygamy from men and women within and having left the community.  He will not file the affidavits of Oler and Palmer at this time and some 12 of his witnesses have sought anonymity.  He said that the prohibition on polygamy ostracizes community members from medical assistance as fear of prosecution under the law is feared and legal assistance is costly.  He indicated that his witnesses will testify that they do not want to live separate from society and want to ensure that when help is needed in family breakdown that it can be safely accessed.  He then entered his evidence for the record and numbering identification.

John Ince, lawyer for the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association spoke next.  John said that the doctrin of reading down a law to find a interpretation indicates a narrower or a surgical approach not the blanket approach of the AG's positions and contrary to the charter. His position is that the law is flawed because it targets people beyond the primary focus of fundamentalist communities.  The focus of the AG's is on a patriarchal system where there is an imbalance of power in multiple partner relationships and in the general community which may well be impacting social problems.  They have not restricted themselves to these communities but have included a large number of people who likely dwarf the number of people in partriarchal communities and he will be presenting evidence as to the size of the non-partriarchal community which he will refer to hereafter as the polyamourous community.  There are key differences between these communities: conjugal freedom (to chose who, how many, what gender, and the length of the relationship); no religious tradition to the relationship form; a modern relationship structure having been coined as polyamory only 30 or 40 years ago; and occurs in the mainstream community.  The idea that if a relationship is celebrated and formalized it becomes illegal regardless of the fact that in no other way have the participants harmed themselves or anyone else is discriminatory.  He gave several examples of otherwise law abiding neighbours in similar relationship structures would be open to prosecution for throwing a party to celebrate their relationship and said that this law could break up loving families. This is deeply disturbing to the polyamourous community.  It is inferred that women if not protected by this law will wander off into polygamous households and cannot be left to make their own choices.  These arguments were used to prevent women from having the vote  and gays from having relationships as unnatural activities.  We now know that this is the embodiment of prejudice and nothing to do with harms.  He discussed the issues raised by the BC AG around determining whether one could easily determine the patriarchal nature of a plural relationship or not.  He indicated that several key questions asked by a border guard to three people attending at his station would determine an attitude of egalitarianism in the relationship that would negate patriarchal philosophies.  Also he said that three people listing the same address might be assumed to be polygamists when in fact they are college roommates.  The blanket inclusion approach causes huge problems where a more surgical approach would not.  By allowing for this law to break up loving families the AG's have lost their moral compass.

I particularly like that last image. 

Mr Ince entered his exhibits for the record and numbering identification.  The BC AG reported to Justice Bauman that there is one lawyer representing most of the media affected by his application for a publication ban and that while he could proceed today would be better suited and prepared if it were held over for tomorrow.  Justice Bauman set a hearing on the issue for 10am the following day.
On Friday morning, BC AG's application for a publication ban on the video affidavits indicated that Daphne Brahmin had approached the court for access to these affidavits and she as well as other media were given copies by the court.  The BC AG's understanding was that this was approved access to report on contents not approval to publish the videos themselves.  The media response was access came with an assumption of publication in total.  Justice Bauman asked if this were an intrusion on the case and a contempt issue.  There was some discussion as to whether the tapes were the property of the BC AG until they were actually presented in open court or if once submitted to the court registry they were then the property of the court which I think means public domain.  As once my affidavit was submitted to the court registry it was available for anyone to ask for a copy and thus our written affidavits are all posted by the Vancouver Sun to the internet as well.  BC AG quoted case law and procedural directives where a witnesses video testimony could not be broadcast without their specific consent.   Justice Bauman reserved his decision for Monday morning and would not issue and injunction requiring them to be taken down and no others posted before Monday.

It was a really interesting look at the etiquette of the Supreme court and the things that do not appear in transcripts or reports.  The humour of Justice Bauman is very subtle and his quick comments that question even the most aside comment of the lawyers keeps them focused on task and in line.  He most assuredly has a good grasp of what polyamory is and asked several times about the impact of the various positions on people practicing polyamory.  We must keep the issue alive in the media and jump on the comments and opinions online and in the media.

On another note, I am privy to the financials of the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association and have been elated at the donations rolling in from all over the world.  It is most encouraging to see that kind of support. 

Down the street from my hotel, in the next block actually, is a store with a huge sign on the back wall behind the counter.  Its a wall mural of sorts that features a photo of Pierre Elliot Trudeau in his salad years as my dad would say.  Big grin and the rose in lapel.  This photo is easily 10 foot tall by 8 foot wide with the quote super imposed "there's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation".   I considered this a good omen as I passed it every day and nodded a greeting to old P.E.T.  I was very lucky to have had my posse of wonderful loving family and friends with me this past week. I'm exceptionally glad to be home but proud to have been present and accounted for in this moment of history.  I have no further vacation time and so will be reporting based on transcripts until the New Year. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Polys in Court - first hand report - day 3

I confess to have slept in on Day 3 and arrived in time to hear the Amicus begin his opening statement. The morning had begun with an issue raised briefly on Day 1 by the BC AG who had some concern about video testimony being aired on the Vancouver Sun website and he felt it should be taken down. He discussed the process of notification of the media that he would be making that application with Justice Bauman.

The day began with the BC AG officially introducing and numbering its evidential materials.  The lawyer for the BC AG indicated that he wouldn't be entering the affidavit of Sgt Terry Jacklin which had been disputed by the FLDS's lawyer.  A report on polygamy from the Status of Women committee in Quebec is in French with selected portions translated to English and the BC AG doesn't want to finance the translation of it all but the Amicus and the Chief Justice were not happy with that.  Although it is in an official language and thus admissible neither the Amicus nor the Chief Justice are bilingual.

The AG of Canada's lawyer  entered her evidence in the record for numbering and the opening statements continued with the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of the Child & David Asper Centre up next.

CCRC's lawyer position is focused on the rights of children in polygamous households. Exploitation of children is contrary to the UN Convention and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  BC and Canada are obligated to protect children from harm and from risk.  It was asserted that the practice of polygamy particularly endangers children and puts them at undue risk.  Section 293 is necessary but insufficient as a remedy for this situation. They do not take a position on the situation of consenting adults in polyamourous relationships but would see the law read down as West Coast LEAF suggested to include only situations where abuse was occurring and that no one under the age of 18 should be found criminally liable under the law.  Their evidence was entered in the court record.

The Christian Legal Fellowship's lawyer began his presentation with a description of touring a former Sultan's polygamous harem housing and stating the tour guide's theory that polygamy was the cause of the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1910.   He said that the harms of polygamy had nothing to do with poverty but it was equally as oppressive and exploitative in an atmosphere of wealth.  He cited the various harms associated with polygamy of child coercion, trafficking in young girls, inequality for women with the impacts going beyond the affected women and children to an impact on society as a whole.  They feel that the law should stand if polygamy is harmful to one or more Canadians.  If the law as a general prohibition violates the charter rights of others in other varied types of relationships then it is up to them to present their individual cases to the court.  Their evidence was then entered into the record for numbering.

Justice Bauman discussed again the idea of having a library of documents that are before the court in the this case so that the material is accessible to legal staff and media.  The lawyer for the BC AG raised the idea of a cloud site on the internet with key access for most of the material with the exception of the Brandeis Brief which includes copyrighted materials.

The BC Teachers Federation 's lawyer presented next.  They concern themselves with polygamy as practiced at Bountiful and say that where two sets of rights come into conflict one does not trump the other there must be a balance achieved.  Religious freedom does not justify harm to others.  Their concerns include a lower level of education attained by girls impacting upward mobility and economic independence; no accomodation for children with special needs; higher than normal rate of teenage pregnancy;  underage brides with decades older husbands; and boys forced out of their primary community.  They entered their evidence for numbering.

The lawyer for  Stop Polygamy in Canada presented his position next.  The form of polygamy practiced in Bountiful denies dignity to women and children and affords for their mental and physical abuse; creates a structure of inequality and is contrary to the purposes of a free and democratic society as entrenched in the charter.  The law should be upheld because rather than intrude on the bedrooms of the nation it protects the vulnerable.  Although their focus is on Bountiful, they refer to evidence to be presented regarding Muslim polygamy.  Stop Polygamy's evidence was entered for numbering.

The Amicus Curiae began his opening statement with advice to the court that by striking down the law the court would be making it so that a polygamist is no longer a criminal.  It would not be making polygamist unions legal.  Similarly to the case of striking down the section of the code with regard to gay sex which made it no longer a criminal offense but same sex marriages were not legal for another 36 years when new legislation was enacted.  He noted the contradiction of definition between the BC AG (the enforcer of the law) and the AG of Canada (the author of the law) and that in today's society the breadth of the laws meaning is staggering in terms of relationship configurations potentially included.  It also differs from the rest of the criminal code by making the victim (spouses) co-defendants to the crime.  He addresses the idea of coercion by indicating the he will bring evidence to show that many women enter multiple partnerships because they want to do so and it is of their own freewill.  Most Canadians know nothing about polygamy nor know anyone who has such a relationship and our opinions are couched in ignorance.  This is exactly where constitutionality must kick in and that's the only reason for it.  Conventional people living conventional lives don't need protection of their rights.  He further said that while abuses of various sorts may exist in this community of polygamists, it also exists in the context of monogamy in the greater national community.  Where such abuse exists there is a greater inclination to refrain from calling in authorities with a law in place that makes the victim a criminal by being party to a polygamous relationship.  The criminalization of polygamy serves to seclude Bountiful from the greater community.  With regards to the underage marriages, child and spousal abuse and other forms of criminal misconduct cited by the AG's, the Amicus indicated that there are a wealth of other laws in the criminal code more aptly applied to those situations.  He said using Section 153 (exploitation) to define and interpret polygamy in this law to be only in the case of exploitation is redundant as section 153 is a perfectly good law to use on its own to deal with these situations.  The harms would come from criminalizing these relationship structures which are clearly anything but monogamy.  He concluded by saying that adultery, swinging and casual group sex are not illegal in Canada but forming a stable group relationship is illegal.   Criminalizing polygamy offends the dignity of women who choose that lifestyle,   impedes religious expression, and creates insular communities making women and children more vulnerable.
He continued by highlighting evidence he will bring forward of happy polygamist families to show that the cited harms are not inherent in the polygamist relationship structure.  There was much more and the evidence to be presented was very heartening.  The Amicus entered his evidence for numbering identification as well.

The lawyer for Beyond Borders presented following the lunch break.  Their position is that where polygamy involves a minor or undue influence the law should stand.  The solidarity amongst the adults and fear in the children in this community make reporting of child abuse difficult.  Expulsion or shunning has occurred where individuals have gone against the wishes of the community elders to bring child abuse protection information in or get reports out of the community.  His evidence was entered.

The Canadian Association for Free Expression's lawyer spoke next.  Their viewpoint is that the law cannot be read down and violates the charter right to freedom of religion and freedom of association.  They see it as a wedge issue which will impact many things beyond polygamy as the state intrudes on religious freedoms and religious practice with value laden judgments and anti-religious bias.  The harms of polygamy cited exist as well in monogamous settings and there are ample laws in the criminal code to address them.  The harm of allowing the government to read down and define "exploitation" is that once given that power it will be hard to rest it from the grasp of government. He compared the harms cited to the same harms cited against the Catholic church and indicated that the breadth of this law went beyond "this little fringe group in British Columbia". 

The last opening statement for the day was by the lawyer for the BC Civil Liberties Association.  Their position is that the law includes all forms of multi-partner relationships and cannot be read down to mean anything else.  The interpretation must come after a plan and grammatical reading of the language that is in the law.  The language cannot sustain the reading down interpretation suggested by others and it amounts to a suggested rewrite of the legislation.  The law violates the charter right to liberty and security of person.  The intent of the law was not to ensure the rights of women and children but to impose a moral judgement on a relationship form and irrespective of the various forms that it blindly includes.  I liked this phrase the best: "...the purported relationship between plural unions and social disorder is simply not born out in the Canadian experience."   The law is grossly disproportionate in its blanket inclusion of relationships that are not harmful and this is unjustified in a Canadian culture where we not only tolerate differences but encourage them.

Much discussion happens in the hallways and dining room of the court house and I'm hearing and seeing the frustration of people who are privy to life at Bountiful and want so desperately for drastic changes and help for the people of Bountiful to have healthy happy lives.  The descriptions are very upsetting and I in my heart of hearts I feel for them and know that change must happen.  I know what battered women endure.  I know what it is to be that afraid.  My memory has not faded that much and I know that you will feel the same when you hear it.   Hear also that the upholding of this law will not fix that.  There needs to be huge societal changes in that community and imprisonment of those men and women practicing polygamy could leave some 400 children in foster care.  There needs to be transitional change that comes from within the community and a mediated involvement of police, medical, and psychiatric professionals.  The scope and depth of it and the impact of a deeply patriarchal history is staggering.  My hope is that decriminalization of polygamy will free us all.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Polys in Court - first hand report - day 2

I was interviewed Monday afternoon by CBC and a few of my comments, none of which were what I'd hoped would have been used, appeared in their article found here
I was interviewed Tuesday afternoon by CTV and one of my comments from the 10 minutes of chatting (and several takes of re-entering the building I did so they could have film) got into the accompanying video clip seen here
 It's a bit frustrating that nothing I say of key importance gets picked up.  Having sat and read all the comments on the CBC article and seen clearly that the general public doesn't realize the far reaching impact of leaving a law this vague on the books.  I apologize for the delay in posting this summary as I just didn't have the bandwidth last night.

Day 2 began with the BC Attorney completing his opening statement to the court.  He had given a really in-depth discussion of the history of polygamy as practiced within the context of Mormonism, First Nations and Muslims and the early history of the development of section 293.  He began by discussing the legal significance of a religious context to a law.  He compared the development of the incest laws in Canada to the polygamy law development and that religious freedom is not enough of a context to void a law rooted in moral principle.  He disagreed with a shifting purpose of this law and said that the harms to society outweigh the individuals right to religious belief.    The BC AG then moved to defining criminal polygamy.  He cited his experts and the conclusion that  criminal polygamy means polygyny (MFF) and that the difference between polygamy and polyamory would be too difficult to determine thus the same gender configuration of polyamory would be considered criminal polygamy under this law as well.  The BC AG's presentation is lengthy and high lights quotes from experts and witnesses that he intends to call.  I will leave that for future notes. 

The lawyer for the AG of Canada presented her opening statement by adding to what the BC AG had already said on many points and adding that she disagreed that criminal polygamy was limited to MFF relationships but would include all forms of multiple partnered relationships.  Prosecution would be dependent on a ceremony, rite or contract having been  performed.  Interestingly enough Justice Bauman asked the lawyer for the AG of Canada how this impacted polygynous polyamory and other configurations of polyamory and the people who had provided affidavits for the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association.  She said that would depend on the definition and form of polyamory but all forms could be prosecuted under this law if the participants have entered into a ceremony, rite or contract or otherwise formalized their union.

Next up was the lawyer representing REAL Women of Canada.  He indicated that their position is that the law is constitutional in that if freedom of religion is infringed on it is justified.  He cited harms to functioning society and women & children in polygamous homes.  The exploitation of children and coersion of child brides was raised as substantive harms worthy of justifying the infringement of the charter in several sections.

West Coast LEAF's lawyer presented their position last of the day.  LEAF's position is that the law should be read down to apply where there is exploitation and further that the court should use section 153 which defines exploitation.

The day's presentations made it clear that polygamy is seen as responsible for a wealth of abusive situations and that polyamory and any multiple relationship structure cannot be separated from this evils in the breadths of this law.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Polys in Court - first hand report - day 1

We were up early this morning and had a brisk quick walk to the BC Supreme Court building.  We were quite a bit early but I wanted to be able to find the correct court room and have a seat.  It was interesting to watch the various factions enter the court room.  One of the other CPAA members was able to pick out familiar faces and identify people for me.  Daphne Brahmn approached me and said that she'd received my email and would correct some errors in a recent article.  And yes, I thanked her.

When Justice Bauman entered the room you could feel a ripple of excitement pass through the courtroom of some 150 people.  The huge number of lawyers present caused them to have to seat a few lawyers in the jury benches. Justice Bauman spoke about how historic this reference question case is and that we are on a journey together into new territory.

The morning was spent hearing the lawyer for the CBC present his application to have two internet cameras  set up in the court for a live feed of the proceedings with two regular cameras and operators to be used sporadically. This would require four to six hours of downtime for the court in order to set it up.  The CBC also requested a change allowing them to film interviews in the corridors of the court house.

There is a directive (PD 123) in place since 2002 which is a strict policy about media access to the court room and media coverage.  This application of the CBC was to seek to set that policy aside as this is a matter of tremendous public interest and their was a desire for television media to be able to report whatever is reported by other forms of media.  Consent of witnesses to being televised was discussed and Justice
Bauman asked about delayed broadcasting and having his legal representative review the footage before its release.

Justice Bauman then heard from the various parties and found that the AG of Canada, West Coast LEAF, CCRC were opposed to televising the proceeding and the BC AG, the Amicus and the FLDS had reservations but most others were willing to consent or took no stand on the issue.

The BC AG said that personal witnesses should not be on camera without their expressed consent and that he felt that the video clips of testimony that have been uploaded to the internet should be ordered taken down.  He suggested that their might be an invitation to television media to apply to film the closing statements of this case where evidence would be summarized and identities protected.  He indicated that the schedule of some 36 witnesses and experts was locked in for timing and that a shift in this schedule to allow for installation of cameras at this late date of the case would not be optimum.

The Amicus did not object to a shared feed of opening and closing arguments but witnesses should have to provide approval individually with no burden of proof on them.  As the CBC's submission came in on Friday having had months to gather this proposal, it was not acceptable and it should not be allowed to throw off the schedule of witnesses as set out and agreed upon by the legal representation of all the parties.  The Amicus indicated that the issue of witnesses needing approval would take 3 or 4 days of court time which is simply not possible.  This viewpoint was echoed by the lawyer for the BC Civil Liberties Association.

Canadians for Freedom of Expression's lawyer said that their viewpoint was that if someone sitting in the court room could see and hear the evidence or presentation then the televised version should be accessible to those unable to be in the court room.

West Coast LEAF's lawyer was very impassioned and said that the "Dajeuner-Mentach test" (can anyone define that reference?) did not apply because the media was seeking an expanded coverage not a lifting of a publication ban.  She felt that oral testimony of witnesses should not be televised and she sited an Ontario decision indicating it would create a chilling effect on other proceedings.  She said that live  broadcasting was unacceptable as this court has no control of what happens in cyberspace.  She expressed concern that errors may be made releasing names or comments identifying witnesses and those errors cannot be corrected with a live internet feed.   These sentiments were echoed by the lawyer for CCRC and he referred to the UN Convention on Rights of the Child article 3.1 where a consideration was whether it was in the best interest of a child to proceed.  He said an error or misspoken word might put a child at risk.

The lawyer for the FLDS expressed concern for his witnesses and their ability to remain anonymous while taking the stand or just sitting in the court room awaiting their time to testify and that some processes would have to be put in place.

The AG for Canada's lawyer said that she opposed the whole CBC application with exception to access to exhibits.  A similar case is currently before the Supreme Court of Canada (CBC vs AG of Quebec) and the decision is pending. 

We adjourned for lunch and upon our return Justice Bauman rendered his decision. He said that the CBC's application amounted to a last minute request to revisit and revise a policy established in 2002 and raised some very great privacy issues.  He was unwilling to open up a policy debate for a submission that appeared on the eve of this case.  He denied the CBC access to televise the proceedings but indicated that they may reapply to televise the closing statements.  Their access to exhibits is same as is current at the discretion of the parties and he will consider their request for hallway interviews and advise them of his decision.

The BC AG spent the remainder of the afternoon expansively presenting his opening statement.  There have been six reported prosecutions under this law since 1892.  Most of these were actually adultery cases but one was Bearshinbone who was a First Nations man with several wives.  All of these cases were acquitted.  In 1982 the acceptance of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms brought many calls to revisit this law.  In the late 1980's complaints began to filter out of Bountiful and investigations began.  In 1992 the BC AG decided that prosecution was not justified under Section 1 of the Charter and asked the federal government to amend the law.  The federal government refused the request.  In 2002, the BC AG again found that the law was not constitutional and asked the federal government to review the law with no results.  In 2006 and 2007, Special Prosecutors were appointed and each found the law was not viable for prosecution and the BC AG referred it to the Court of Appeal with no results.  In 2008, a third Special Prosecutor decided to prosecute Blackmore and Oler from the community of Bountiful under this law.  In 2009, the court quashed the charges as an abuse of authority.  The history of this law is frustrating for those seeking to remedy the alleged abuses occurring the FLDS community of Bountiful and I one could hear that frustration in the voice of the lawyer presenting this background information to the court.

The BC AG's position has three central issues:  harm, purpose and interpretation.

Harm succinctly is the idea that polygamy itself is harmful.  The idea that multiple women including young girls under the patriarchal influence of one man would be coerced to accept abusive harmful treatment and young men deprived of wives to keep them from a rampage of crime would also harm the community at large.  He sites anthropological research that societies of partial polygamy practiced as polygynous households (MFF) being the standard, polyandry is "vanishingly rare" (FMM) and universally monogamous societies the exception.  He equates a democratic society and lower crime rates with more monogamy being practiced.

Purpose is a reference to the designed purpose of this law.  The BC AG indicates that the law is meant to deter and punish behaviour that is harmful to women and children, women's equality and the peace and order of the greater community.  It has a secondary purpose of selective immigration, resolving succession, divorce, remarriage and distribution of benefits in non-monogamous unions as well as harmonizing Canadian policy with other nations.  The BC AG is adamant that this purpose has not shifted from the original intent of the law.

Interpretation refers to the BC AG's sense that this law can be read down to be applicable only to polygynous marriages (MFF)  where it is binding on any of its participants via a rite or ceremony. He feels that one cannot differentiate between polyamory in a MFF relationship and polygyny and thus would see it included under this law.  FMM, MMM, and FFF relationships do not produce the same harms or if they do these are temporary relationships and not binding in the same way to create the noted harms. 

Presentations of Opening Statements of the Parties will continue tomorrow.

It has been most interesting to watch the workings of this court and see the interaction of the various participants in the court room as well as behind the scenes.  Impressive to observe the wheels of justice grinding along.

Standing Tall for what you believe

In all fairness, I've never been one to stand by and allow situations that are an affront to my sense of right and wrong to pass without some comment or action.  I've advocated for mental health consumer survivors, non-profit housing, single parents, battered women, and victims of sexual abuse.  I have taken on the woes of the bruised and broken-hearted and made some attempt to help, support and sustain them.  I firmly believe as Sonia Johnson said,
“One determined person can make a significant difference; a small group of determined people can change the course of history.”  

So it is not surprising to those who know me that I would weigh in on something so very personal as the freedom to love whom I please.  Here we stand on the eve of a historic moment for Canada, where we as free citizens in a democratic society can question the validity and fairness of our laws and request that they be reviewed, modified and struck down if necessary to ensure that the greater good of our community and the freedoms of individuals are balanced. 

It was with much thought and discussion with my family and friends that my partners and I put our three big toes into the pond of judiciary consultation.  I filed my affidavit as a witness on behalf of the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association who is an interested party in the BC Supreme court case beginning tomorrow in Vancouver.  As preliminary to this case, we were interviewed by the Times Colonist and posed for photos.  The article is linked to this blog posting.   It has been picked up in  papers across Canada and actually had us on the front page of The Province.  This was somewhat of a surprise but the tone of the article while searching for a sexy scandalous edge is really quite positive and we are pleased with it.  This was definitely a nice balance to previous articles that appeared in the Vancouver Sun.  

We've received much positive feedback and some rather negative feedback.  I imagine that there will be more.  The following is one such note that came to me today by way of Facebook:

Dear Polly Amorie:
" I am just writing you to let you know that I read the article about you and your partners in the Times Colonist."
"I know you from Esquimalt and met you through C--- .
I was really surprised to read this article in the paper about you and your lifestyle.
Your probably are going to get some positive response and some not postive response.
To be quite honest I think the lifestyle you are living is not acceptable.
But that is my opinion.
But if the three of you are happy then all the power to you.
All you are doing is trying to justify that cheating on your partner is okay.
But its clear that none of you have respect for one another or for your relationships, and to live this lifestyle with your children in the house, you are giving them a wrong impression on what a healthy, committed , honest relationship really is."
"It makes healthy loving relationships look like a lie. You dont really love each other or your relationship, you love sex. Really, that is all your relationships is all about sex.
It was a disguisting comment you made that your men are heat seeking missles and you are the heat. And that your mother taught you to share. You are just living like a slut, sorry, but the whole article just sounds like its centered around sex. Yes , sex is a huge part of a relationship but you are all playing with fire because someone will eventually get hurt very deeply. As far as I can see you are all screwed up and have relationship issues."
"And if you live this lifestyle why do you need to broadcast it to everyone in the paper and want everyone to know what your life is like."
"I hope to God, that this lifestyle is never made legal. Its making a mockery out of relationships and marriage, and your children are going to never be able to function in a healthy loving relationship, because you are suppose to be their teachers and you are teaching wrong ways of living in a loving healthy relationship."

"Your article was disguisting, and you should all be ashamed of yourself. Please dont try and justify that any of this is a proper way of living , because its not."

"Your all in it for sex, thats it."
"J--- P---"

Dear J---P---:

Sex sell newspapers.  Of course that would be what is inferred by key parts of that story.  You can't imagine how difficult it is to sit and discuss your personal life with a complete stranger and a small tape machine.  You can't imagine how bizarre it is to be asked "who sleeps in the middle?". I have six children and people constantly ask me if I've ever heard of birth control.  One gets used to having random strangers feel they have the right, nay obligation, to advise you of your morality, or lack there of, in their opinion.  I did not go to the Times Colonist and ask to have my home analyzed for all the world to see.  I did see a law that is very vague and inclusive of many people who are doing no one any harm and are in fact building solid loving homes that produce children who are strong and able to contribute outstandingly to the greater community.  I did see a law that by criminalizing multiple partner homes has made it much harder for women and children who may be experiencing abuse to get the help they need by encouraging seclusion and secrecy.   I have called for the light to be shone on this law and the truth to be thrown onto the table for Canadians to see what is happening and find a new and inclusive way of dealing with all of these issues.   I don't think polyamory is for you or most other people.  I did not agree to be a witness for this case nor be interviewed for this article so that I might "broadcast" behaving like a "slut".  I did it to stand up for men and women who are happy and living a loving life to be free to do so without fear of prosecution and so that any  men, women and children who may be in abusive situations are able to seek help without fear of reprisals in addition to prosecution.  

Polyamory does not make a mockery of monogamy.  It is merely another variation of interpersonal relationships.  The idea that any relationship configuration is superior or more morally attuned than another is mired in insecurity and a need to control wealth, land and women.  I do not bemoan you for your opinions nor your choice of monogamy however effectively practiced.  I have found a loving and supportive partnership and I could not for a moment consider living my life without either one of them.  I love them dearly and they have taught me what it is to have a healthy balanced loving relationship where all partners are supported and empowered to rise to the fullness of their potential.  I don't need to justify myself as I am proud to love my partners and grateful beyond expression that they have found it in their hearts to love me.  I intend to grow old with these men and I am confident that the future will be all that and more. My children have learned that love should and can be given and received with respect and integrity.  I have children of whom I am very proud and I work for a Canada that continues to be accepting and inclusive for them.

Polly Amorie

Monday, November 1, 2010

The momentum for change begins with the efforts of the individuals

Here are the first few events for November where poly people are gathering to celebrate community and donate funds to the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association 

November 3 – Nanaimo, BC at the ACME Food Co on Commercial Street.  Look for the parrot.  Passing the hat for CPAA from 7:30pm.

November 5 – VanIsle-Poly celebrating 10 years of poly community building in Victoria, BC at the Tudor House Sports Bar.  Poly pins to anyone donating to CPAA  from 7:00pm.

November 5 – Vanpoly will host its polyamory celebration event on Friday November 5 at a house party. 12 years of Vanpoly to celebrate! Potluck, discussion (on the court case and otherwise) , fun times and old/new friends. We’ll also figure out a way to raise a few bucks for the CPAA!

November 17 – What is Polyamory? Panel Discussion, 7-9 pm at the David Strong Bldg, C103, UVic, Cash donations to CPAA . Sponsored by Poly101 on Campus and Victoria Poly 101 in Victoria, BC

Remember to message me with your events at and I'll post them here and tweet them from polychickbc