Canadian court upholds ban on polygamy, rejects religion argument
Canada’s ban on polygamy does not violate the Constitution’s guarantees of religious freedom, freedom of association or liberty, a British Columbia Supreme Court judge ruled on Wednesday.
In a landmark case to decide if Canada’s 120-year-old law against polygamy should be struck down, Chief Justice Richard Bauman ruled that the prohibition on multiple marriages is consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and should remain.
The case was brought by the British Columbia government, which wanted to test the constitutionality of the law before taking legal action against members of a breakaway Mormon sect that practices polygamy at their Bountiful settlement in the southeast of the province.
Authorities have been wary of prosecuting members of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) out of fear the 19th century anti-polygamy law ran afoul of more recent civil rights protections and would not hold up in court.
A central issue in the case has been the question of whether the practice of polygamy involves the potential for abuse of women and children in polygamous communities.
The FLDS says it is exercising its religious freedom. The group’s critics say it subjugates women, requires underage girls to marry older men and creates other social ills, including forcing young unmarried boys onto the streets.