Canada: 'Limited' polygamy

Stop Polygamy in Canada
Multiple-wife marriages have been legally recognized in Canada to award spousal support and inheritance payments.
While the former Liberal government maintained that polygamy is criminal in Canada, documents released to Sun Media through access to information show that polygamous marriages have been recognized "for limited purposes" to enforce financial obligations of husbands with multiple wives.
The censored documents, which include departmental background papers and ministerial briefing notes, outlined the last Liberal government's position on the controversial subject, which erupted during debates on gay marriage.

Allowing same-sex couples to marry will enhance democratic values by promoting the equality and dignity of the individuals, while the practice of polygamy has the potential to erode those values, the documents state.

But Dave Quist, executive director of the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada, insisted amending the traditional definition of marriage for gay couples opened the door to other claims for legal recognition -- including polygamy. The fact that plural marriages have already had legal recognition should be a "grave concern" for all Canadians, he said.

Polygamy is set to ignite in public debate again as MPs revisit the thorny issue of same-sex marriage with a free vote as pledged by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Diane Watts, a spokesman for Real Women, a Christian-based group that is lobbying MPs, warned the government will have few grounds to defend its anti-polygamy law if it faces a constitutional challenge on religious grounds.

A polygamous community has been operating in B.C., for years, but authorities have been reluctant to lay criminal charges because it could trigger a charter challenge.


Mike Storeshaw, spokesman for Justice Minister Vic Toews, said any criminal charges would be left to provincial authorities but the feds would use their full weight to fight a constitutional battle to end the polygamy ban.

While Justice Department spokesman Patrick Charette said polygamous marriages have never been recognized as legal by the federal government, he pointed to a study commissioned earlier this year that cited cases where provinces have recognized them for marital property division, spousal support and potentially for public law benefits and burdens.

Toronto Sun, Thu, June 1, 2006