A 2018 Ipsos survey, found that 36 per cent of respondents are in favour of decriminalizing polygamy and 37 per cent felt that open or polyamorous relationships are acceptable.
When Canadian courts ruled that polygamy is indeed against the law in the Bountiful, B.C., community of fundamentalist Mormons, the issue appeared to go away.
But the CBC has discovered the practice still exists in some Muslim communities.
In a sting operation, an undercover producer for The Fifth Estate asked various imams to facilitate a second marriage. “Of the six imams who were approached, two declined to perform a Nikah ceremony for a married man. Two congratulated the undercover for his decision to take a second wife and recommended other Ontario imams whom they said would perform the Nikah.”
When an imam was later shown undercover video in which he counselled someone to pursue a second marriage, he was unrepentant. “Many women will not be able to get married because there are not enough men because men die in wars, children die early and there are more boys than girls. Plus you also lose some number of men to homosexual marriages,” said Aly Hindy.
But women need protection from potentially being forced into unwanted and illegal unions, argued commentator and author Farzana Hassan in the Toronto Sun.
“Canada needs to do more to monitor cases of polygamous unions that occur even here under the immigration guise of ‘other relationships.’ Remember the Shafia family? The first of the two wives was brought in as an aunt of the children.”
Clearly in certain religious communities, polygamy is practised.
Last year, Winston Blackmore and James Oler had their arguments rejected by the B.C. Supreme Court that they were being prevented from practising their religious beliefs by Canada’s laws.
“I’m guilty of living my religion and that’s all I’m saying today because I’ve never denied that,” said Blackmore.
The case came after a 2011 decision that ruled Canada’s polygamy laws are constitutional, even though it may violate a person’s religious freedom.
But religious communities are not the only ones who have trouble with Canadian marriage law: the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association has a web site and it “advocates on behalf of Canadians who practice polyamory (defined by Dictionary.com as the practice or condition of participating simultaneously in more than one serious romantic or sexual relationship with the knowledge and consent of all partners). It promotes legal, social, government, and institutional acceptance and support of polyamory, and advances the interests of the Canadian polyamorous community generally.”
The group makes a bold claim on its front page. “We’re here because we have a right to live with the people we love, and Canadian law doesn’t seem to recognize that. Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada purports to outlaw polyamorous people living together as families. It penalizes us as soon as we make a serious commitment to one another.”
The majority of those living in polyamorous relationships are in B.C., Ontario and Alberta, with almost 75 per cent between 25 and 44, according to a 2017 study by The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family called Polyamorous Relationships and Family Law in Canada.
These numbers indicate that although the 547 persons interviewed did not say they were engaged in polygamy, living together with multiple wives could be considered a hair’s width away from it.
As well, those surveyed felt that “despite concern about the impact of the Criminal Code prohibition against polygamy on public acceptance of their relationships, respondents are not significantly deterred by that prohibition from pursuing the relationships they choose.”
A 2018 Ipsos survey, produced for Global News, found that 36 per cent of respondents are in favour of decriminalizing polygamy and 37 per cent felt that open or polyamorous relationships are acceptable.
There is an appetitive out there for polyamorous marriages, despite the various court rulings, arguing for polygamy, but the law is crystal clear and it is not allowed.
“Every one who (a) practises or enters into or in any manner agrees or consents to practise or enter into (i) any form of polygamy, or (ii) any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time,” according to section 293 of the criminal code, are by definition committing polygamy and those who do so are guilty of an indictable offense and subject to as much as five years in prison.