In December, 2009, the BC Supreme Court agreed to answer a reference question put to it by the provincial Attorney General as to whether Canada's Criminal Code s. 293 is inconsistent with the Charter of Rights. That section makes it illegal for more than two people to be in a conjugal relationship, whether formally married or not, and carries a 5 year sentence. It also similarly criminalizes anyone else celebrating or assisting in a rite involving a multiple conjugal union or marriage.
The section was originally (1890's) aimed at Mormon polygamists and there is social pressure in British Columbia to again apply the section to the Mormon subsect of polygamists in Bountiful BC to address alleged abuses going on there.
While only one person has ever been found guilty under s. 293 (over 100 years ago, an aboriginal man), and only one person has been charged (unsuccessfully) under that section in the last 100 years, the fact that the section is there affects how polyamorists conduct their lives. It also affects other aspects of government policy, including immigration laws.
In response to the pending litigation, Vanpoly moderators and members have started an ad hoc working group to intervene in the litigation to present the case of polyamorists as to whether the section infringes Charter rights. We put out notices to various Canadian poly yahoo lists requesting potential witnesses who could attest that they are living in multiple conjugal relationships. We have been contacted by some poly families interested in acting as potential witnesses, though we are still interested in hearing from you if you are interested (please email firstname.lastname@example.org for details). We have been joined on the working group by fellow polyamorists and moderators from VanIsle Poly and from Montreal and are now working on forming a Society, tentatively named the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association, and preparing the formal documents for the application to court. These documents are due into court on January 28, 2010.
We will keep you posted as things progress.
Carol (Vanpoly moderator and ad hoc working group member)