Are the harms associated with polygamy significant enough to justify a limitation on freedom of religion?


June 2, 2011 :: Linda McKay-Panos and Pamela Dos Ramos
Moderated by Josh McIsaac

According to section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada, it is illegal for people to practice polygamy. Under s. 293, not only is any form of polygamy illegal but any type of polygamous union that purports to result from a rite of polygamy is illegal. Despite this prohibition, there is a community of polygamists in British Columbia called Bountiful which, to date, the authorities in British Columbia have refrained from prosecuting. The apparent rationale for the non-prosecution of polygamy practiced by Bountiful members has been a belief that s. 293 would not withstand a challenge under the freedom of religion provision, section 2(a), of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Could it be argued that the anti-polygamy provision in the Code impinges on the freedom of religion for the residents of Bountiful? Are the harms associated with polygamy significant enough to justify a limitation on freedom of religion? Would s. 293 survive a Charter s. 2(a) challenge?

Speakers: Pamela Dos Ramos, M.A. (Counseling). Ph.D. (Transformative Learning)
Linda McKay-Panos, B.Ed., J.D., LL.M.

Linda McKay-Panos is the Executive Director of the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre. She taught with the Calgary Board of Education for 7 years before obtaining a Law Degree. Linda received her Bachelor of Education, Juris Doctor and Master of Laws degrees from the University of Calgary. She is the President Alberta Association for Multicultural Education and the Past President of the Public Legal Education Network of Alberta. Linda is the author of several publications dealing with civil liberties, access to information, human rights, discrimination, equality and related topics. Linda received the 2001 Suzanne Mah Award and an Alberta Centennial Medal in 2005 for her work in human rights in Alberta.

Dr. Dos Ramos owns Pathways to Diversity, a Training, Counselling and Consulting company. She has worked in Diversity Management and counseling. Pamela is a human rights educator for the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre and is a board member of the Alberta Association for Multicultural Education. She has taught Multicultural Counseling to Master's Degree candidates at Gonzaga University's Calgary Centre since 1995. Pamela has worked for many years on issues of social justice, particularly human rights and equality and is very involved in Multicultural/Intercultural community groups and education.


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