The Attorney-General of British Columbia, Wally Oppal, has named a special prosecutor to weigh charges against individuals in the village of Bountiful which houses a community of polygamists.
Bountiful has been a headache for B.C. officials for years. But there are conflicting opinions on whether polygamy (punishable by five years in the penitentiary) is protected by the Charter as a religious right. Some legal scholars argue that the ban on polygamy is unconstitutional.
The Attorney-General disagrees: “I happen to think that the law regarding polygamy is a valid law and if people are violating that law, it’s up to us to prosecute.” Among other things, Mr. Oppal believes there is sexual abuse and exploitation of women in Bountiful.
If that is so, why not just go ahead and lay charges that women and children in Bountiful are being abused? These offenses are covered by the Criminal Code.
Let us go further and pose the question: why should polygamy be a crime at all? Is it evident that a situation where a man has three wives and ten children is inherently evil and should be punished by the criminal code. It is not evident to me. Where is the exploitation if the women agree freely to this arrangement? Where is the sexual abuse in such a loving family. Remember, the courts in Texas have just over- turned a decision that would separate children from their polygamous parents because there was insufficient evidence of any abuse.
So if there is abuse and exploitation, prosecute the polygamists under the relevant clauses of the Criminal Code. But if there is just a loving polygamous family (one husband and several wives) let them live in Bountiful in peace. Remove polygamy from the Criminal Code as an offense punishable by five years in prison. That would remove any necessity of referring cases to the courts to determine whether polygamy as an exercise in religion violates the Charter.
Do you agree polygamy should no longer be a crime?