The attorneys general of Canada and B.C., Rob Nicholson and Michael de Jong, want to “criminalize loving families”, according to Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association director John Ince.
Ince was referring to government statements filed as part of a B.C. Supreme Court case examining whether a ban on polygamy violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“This is staggering to us not only legally, but more so politically,” he told the Straight by phone. “We think it’s completely untenable—the charter was created to protect precisely that sort of intrusion into the domestic sphere.”
The B.C. attorney general’s opening statement declares that Section 293 of the Criminal Code—which bans polygamy and threatens offenders with five years in prison—should also apply to cohabiting polyamorous families. According to a statement filed by B.C. government lawyer Craig Jones, the problem with leaving polyamory out of the Criminal Code is that “the distinction [between polygamy and polyamory] is not capable of definition for identification and enforcement purposes”.
Ince asserts that it’s ridiculous to think the government can’t distinguish between a patriarchal sect in which women have no rights and modern polyamory.
“Simply ask them one question: ”˜do women have the right to marry more than one man?’ ” he said. “And if the answer is no, then bang, it couldn’t be any simpler.”
Federal and provincial lawyers have advanced the position that multiple conjugal relationships are harmful to the state, and in particular to women and children.
But Ince pointed out that the same concerns were once expressed about same-sex and interracial marriages. He called the governments’ arguments in this case a “huge step backwards”.