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Bramham: The hard evidence of polygamy's damage is bountiful
B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman has taken it upon himself to be the one who rules on the ground-breaking constitutional case involving polygamy when it goes to trial sometime next year.
Bauman, who was appointed in September, will decide whether polygamy is a justifiable limitation on religious freedom. Regardless of what he decides, it's almost certain that this case will be appealed first to the B.C. Court of Appeal and then the Supreme Court of Canada.
Lawyers for both the B.C. and Canadian governments will argue that polygamy should not be allowed because of its inherent harm to women and children.
So, before the case even gets to trial, Bauman will have to decide whether to appoint someone to argue that the practise of polygamy is protected by the guarantee of religious freedom.
Until six years ago, the B.C. government held the view that the polygamy law was unconstitutional. As a result, for more than a decade it refused to lay charges against fundamentalist Mormon leaders in Bountiful.
The province's about-face gives some idea of how controversial and difficult the case is likely to be.
In law, harm doesn't have to be imminent. In two disparate cases -- Malmo-Levine, where the criminal offence of marijuana possession was upheld, and a child pornography case involving Vancouverite John Robin Sharpe -- the Supreme Court of Canada said it was enough that both generally cause harm.
Still, government lawyers need to show harm. They might start by looking at the medical research.
Dr. Susan Stickevers, an assistant clinical professor and residency program director at State University of New York with a longstanding interest in ensuring that polygamy remains criminalized, is certain the evidence is there.....
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