Ken MacQuuen, John Geddes, and Barbara Righton highlight the ongoing presence of polygamy and its large following in Canada due to the lack of political action against the crime in their article “Polygamy: Legal in Canada”. The article draws attention to the large number of pro-polygamy websites that advocate the practice with little regard for the lack of legality involved in openly participating in a polygamous marriage. The flagrant disregard for law is attributed to the fact that in Canada, polygamous unions are rarely sanctioned.
The reason suggested is that if the law would not be able to survive a constitutional dispute that would then catapult the entire country into a permissive polygamist environment. The ramifications of this would include the sanctioning of child abuse and sexual exploitation of young girls, who are many times wed to older polygamist men. Women’s rights are seriously curtailed in this highly traditional and patriarchal system, which undermine the equality of women in these relationships, as well.
The problem that Canada faces is that since same-sex marriages are currently recognized under the equality section of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a civil institution, polygamy may very well fit into the Charter, as well. Without some provisions for the sanctioning of the abuses sometimes involved in polygamy, removed from the act of practicing a polygamous lifestyle itself, Canada may be facing a future of harboring criminals due to their lack of legal action. Not all polygamist marriages involve abuses and, at the very least, simply involve a extremely patriarchal and misogynistic union.
Supporters of polygamy, both those who practice it and political officials, realize that polygamy is legal in other countries and that religious freedoms should be a part of the Canadian system. Muslims, for instance, legally practice polygamy in many Islamic-dominated societies. All supporters realize that challenging the court could change the face of their culture permanently in their favor. Dissidents of polygamy realize that although, same-sex marriage acceptance may create a window of opportunity for legalized practice, there has been instances where the unions have remained illegal under judicial pressure.
The United States, India, and the European Union in its entirety, all have forgone the idea of holding religious freedoms in the forefront and have made and continue to make polygamy illegal. Though, the article reveals that polygamy is rarely brought under legal fire in the United States unless some other crime is a part of the practice (i. e. child exploitation). Therefore, many polygamist do not fear their governments and believe that their age-old practice was encouraged before the advent of government and, therefore, should not be subject to governmental regulation.
In closing, the very thought-provoking article relays to the reader, the problems with lack of prosecution in polygamist unions. The Charter allows individual freedoms in Canada and have included the acceptance of gay marriages, making a future for legal polygamy very real. While some believe it should be brought to test in the judicial system, others fear the precedent that this may set.
Ken MacQueen, John Geddes, & Barbara Righton. “Polygamy: Legal in Canada” in Maclean’s. (June 25, 2007). 16.