Polygamy: Individual Rights versus Community Rights

Polygamy is illegal in Canada.  The large polygamous community settled in Bountiful, B.C. has posed a challenge to B.C. governments for decades, but charges did not proceed, largely over concerns that they would not stand up to a constitutional challenge.

The two heads of rival factions in Bountiful were each charged with polygamy in 2009, but the cases bogged down in procedural disputes. The province pursued a reference through the B.C. Supreme Court, which finally ruled that Canada’s criminal prohibition against polygamy should be upheld, citing harms to women and children that result from the practice. A special prosecutor has been appointed to look into potential crimes and charges, including offences against minors, such as under age marriage and sexual assault.

Polygamy poses the classic question of individual human rights versus rights of the larger community. Where should we draw the line between them? 

About Audrey Rockingham Gill

Audrey Rockingham Gill, communications and public affairs consultant. Born and brought up in Vancouver, Audrey obtained her Hons BA in history and political science from McGill. She worked as a journalist in the Parliamentary Press Gallery in Ottawa, then free lanced while raising two children. Audrey then became Director of Communications for the Liberal Party of Canada, then Director of Policy Development for 11 years.  She moved to Toronto as Manager of Government Relations in a public affairs consulting firm; then returned to Vancouver in 1994. Her full-time client for 10 years was the Bill Reid Foundation, helping create the Foundation and establish a gallery. 

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