Polygamy in its many different forms and practices has been frowned upon for many years. Since 1888 when the first Mormons came to Canada from the United States, the controversial practice of male devotees taking multiple wives was largely degraded. In 1890, as mainstream and dissenting Mormons who still favoured multiple spouses settled on the Prairies, this is when Canada passed its first laws against polygamy. An estimated three billion people around the world still believe in Polygamy and it is practiced throughout many religions. Polygamy is still currently illegal in Canada. Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada explicitly bans polygamy and threatens offenders with a five-year prison term. Bigamy is named as a similarly serious crime in Section 290. Polygamy can be defined as the simultaneous union of either a husband or wife to multiple spouses. This includes the practices of bigamy; the act of going through a marriage ceremony while already married to another person. The practice of polyandry; in which a woman has more than one husband. As well as polygyny; in which a man has more than one wife.Many factors come into polygamy as an issue, including social, economic and health experiences. Is banning polygamy consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Can harm come out of these polygamous relationships? These are some of the many concerns about this lifestyle many mormons as well as other religions choose to live. Throughout Canadian Government and time there have been many discussions and debates as whether to update or get rid of polygamy laws altogether. One crucial argument about the banning and criminalization of polygamy is that it goes against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that the law in fact is an affront to the most basic rights guaranteed under the charter – freedom of religion and the freedom of association. If you love more than two people should it really be a crime if you decide you want to legally marry both of them? In most recent years same-sex relationships, divorce and extramarital sex have all endured considerable increases in public support but polygamy still remains a degraded topic. If all these different relationships are shown support then why not the ones where husbands or wives consent to having multiple spouses? British Columbia’s Attorney General Wally Oppal states “There’s been some suggestions that if two or more women want to marry a man, or vice versa, and they all do it by consent, what business does the state have intervening in that?” The banning of polygamy puts a strain on how far religious groups can take their beliefs and that is 100% going against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In many polygamous cultures, a constant concern for outsiders is the extremely low status of the women in these forms of relationships, being often considered property of men and as well as being raised in their forms of religions, women are taught not to expect more for themselves. Most North American families in polygamous situations are on welfare or food stamps. The men in these families can not financially support all the women and children and the women are generally not permitted the freedom to choose a career and work outside the family compound. This shows a concern for the stability and health of those involved in polygamous marriages. Legal polygamy could cause great issues for Canada’s immigration. An immigrant could claim to be wed to half a nation of women and demand that they all be brought to Canada. Polygamists can arrive at the border and demand refugee status because of persecution. Sorting out all those various types of claims would be impossible, since most nations refuse to give legal status to such marriages. One very famous polygamy case involves Winston Blackmore, the religious leader of the polygamous community of Bountiful, B.C. Its residents have been under scrutiny for over two decades for their lifestyle choices and activities. Winston Blackmore is a husband to 27 and a father to 145 children in accordance with what he claims are sacred religious beliefs. He is considered one of Canada’s most notorious polygamists. Blackmore and this brother-in-law James Oler both face charges of polygamy. They also now face the more serious criminal charge of taking children under the age of 16 out of Canada for illegal purposes and the intent to commit a sexual offence (now referred to as the child trafficking law). Conviction carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Blackmore and Oler first faced charges of Polygamy in 2009 but they were thrown out after the judge said there had been unfair interference by Wally Opal (B.C’s Attorney General at the time). Since the decision a special prosecutor has been investigating with some of the new charges coming from American authorities. Questionably Blackmore is not facing any charges of sexual offences against children despite having admitted to having wives under the age of consent of sixteen. “Yes, just barely” quotes Blackmore when asked if any of the women were under sixteen when he married them. On August 14th of 2014 Winston Blackmore is charged with one count of Polygamy. As of November 14th 2016 no date has been set for Blackmore’s trial on other pending charges. Polygamy is not an easy topic to discuss, but after having done my research on the pro’s and con’s of its nature I have established my own opinion on the issue. There were many polygamous relationships that I did not approve of, but in the end that is none of my business and none of the state’s. I personally feel that Polygamy should be decriminalized but there should be set limitations on how far it can be taken. An individual should be able to present their case as to why they wish to be married to more than one person as well as all parties involved should consent to the three way marriage. New additions to polygamous families should also be approved by all members to maintain healthy relations. All members MUST be of the age of consent. A multiple sexual partners lifestyle is not and should never be illegal in Canada as well as having children with multiple partners or sharing one father for several women’s children should never be illegal either. There is no easy solution to Polygamy, but its 2017. Let’s let people love who they love and live with the freedom to practice their chosen religion or lifestyle. Even if it is not something you approve of.
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