British Columbia's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Canada's 121-year-old criminal law banning polygamy is constitutional.
The ruling stemmed from a failed prosecution in 2009 of two leaders of a breakaway Mormon sect in British Columbia and might have implications for followers of other religions that allow polygamy. In a 335-page decision that followed 42 days of hearings, Robert J. Bauman, the court's chief justice, found that women in polygamous relationships faced higher rates of domestic, physical and sexual abuse, died younger and were more prone to mental illnesses. Children from those marriages, he said, were more likely to be abused and neglected, less likely to perform well at school and often suffered from emotional and behavioral problems.
"The law seeks to advance the institution of monogamous marriage, a fundamental value in Western society from the earliest of times," Justice Bauman wrote. "It seeks to protect against the many harms which are reasonably apprehended to arise out of the practice of polygamy." He also made reference to reports of plural marriages among Muslims in Canada before concluding, "There is no evidence that it is a widespread or mainstream phenomenon."