The perfect polygamy storm
By MINDELLE JACOBS
Sat, January 14, 2006
Whoever thought that the notwithstanding clause of the Constitution and polygamy would become hot issues in the federal election campaign?
Aside from academics and history buffs, virtually no one is familiar with the notwithstanding clause, which allows Ottawa to temporarily override certain charter rights if our politicians don't agree with the courts.
Everyone know what polygamy is--pompous men (probably with small penises) with a God complex who take multiple wives because they get a kick out of exploiting women.
The two issues have abruptly collided, throwing the increasingly rickety Liberal election campaign even further off kilter. What a joy it is to watch.
In a surprise move during Monday's English-language leaders debate, Paul Martin announced he'd get rid of the notwithstanding clause. That would mean the Supreme Court--not our democratically elected MPs--would rule Canada.
Also this week, The Canadian Press got its hands on a report done for the federal Justice Department that urges Ottawa to legalize polygamy.
It's the perfect storm for poor, befuddled Martin. One of these days, the members of B.C.'s polygamous commune in Bountiful will likely challenge our anti-polygamy law as a violation of freedom of religion.
The courts, which have already decided that same-sex marriage is valid, might very well conclude that plural marriage is a constitutional right as well.
But Martin wants to hand over the reins of power to judges. He doesn't think politicians should have the ultimate say in setting policy. That's practically a green light for the polygamist crowd to file a charter suit.
Polygamy will remain illegal, Justice Minister Irwin Cotler sputtered this week. "At this point, the practice of polygamy, bigamy and incest are criminal offences in Canada and will continue to be," he said. But if the courts decide otherwise and the Liberals ditch the notwithstanding clause as Martin has promised, our judges really will be supreme.
Martin wants it that way. I am not making this up. He calls the notwithstanding clause a "hammer." I prefer to view it as a wise balance of powers.
Where the future legal status of polygamy fits into this remains unclear, since we don't know who's going to win the election.
But Martin has unwittingly become a hero in the eyes of the pro-polygamy weirdos because of his ill-conceived remarks during the TV debate, and that can't be good for Liberal fortunes.
It should be noted that if Canada legalized polygamy, it would be breaching United Nations policy.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women has stated that polygamous marriage contravenes a woman's right to equality and ought to be prohibited.
Cultures that practise polygamy tend to dismiss women's rights, says University of Alberta sociologist Stephen Kent.
"It's impossible to advocate equality of the sexes and allow polygamy to operate," he says.
Polygamy causes enormous harm, including pressure on young women to marry, early pregnancy, jealousy, limited education and inheritance problems, he says.
Teen boys also get turfed out of polygamous communities because they're competitive threats to the older men who want young brides, he adds.
"The way polygamy gets practised in the real world has had damaging consequences for almost everybody involved," says Kent, an expert on alternative religions.
Women's groups in the developing world are battling to get rid of polygamy and Canadian academics are suggesting we embrace it. This is multiculturalism gone amok. And the Grits would sit back and let it happen.
© Canoe Inc. 2006