November 22, 2010
The atmosphere in Court Room 55 today was alive with the excitement of the day—the first day of our history-making “trial” of our polygamy law to test its constitutionality. Ex-FLDS sisters Kathleen and Rena Mackert and I garnered seats in the gallery right behind our team of lawyers, Brian Samuels, Kieran Bridge, Rob Deane, and Jennifer Chan. The court sketch artist sat just a few seats away. As her sketch slowly came alive on her sheet, we saw the caricatures of Brian and Kieran. (I can’t draw a stick-man and get it right, but I love art & admire artists of all genre.)
The first item on the agenda was the petition put before the court last Friday by CBC to video the proceedings: Craig Jones argued that no witness should have his/her testimony broadcast without their permission. The Amicus, Mr. George MacIntosh, Q.C., argued that the timing of this petition is very late. “We are working on a very tight schedule”. . . “the arguments for each witness would be one-half hour or more.” I haven’t agreed with the Amicus on many points, but today I did! In my opinion, this is not the States where lengthy court cases (remember O.J. Simpson?) become soap operas.
After a two-hour lunch break where His Lordship Chief Justice Bauman could review the arguments, he came back with a negative reply to CBC’s request, but said he would be open to arguments for coverage of the final arguments. He will also give consideration to allowing news interviews in the hallway behind Courtroom 55.
Finally it was time for the Opening Statements to begin. AGBC attorney Craig Jones started these proceedings. Craig’s opening statement is 44 pages; and, none of it is “dry” or “dull”. He stopped at page 16 today. Some highlights:
- Those wanting the polygamy law struck down want to see the only Western Nation decriminalize polygamy. Other nations are turning their backs on polygamy.
- If it does not cause harm, the Amicus says polygamy is legal.
- Sections of the Charter cited were 1, 2, 7, 15 & 28.
- The main task before the court is assessing harm.
- If the law was enacted predominately as a religious or discriminatory purpose, then it must be struck down. Craig explained how in the early days of our polygamy law, Mormons were still allowed to immigrate to Canada, not polygamy practices. (Personal note: my children’s great-great grandfather, Thomas Rowell Leavitt, had three wives. Only one came into Canada with him.)
- Dr. Joseph Henrich will be the lead witness for the AG’s office—with expertise in anthropology & psychology among others.
- Polygamy leads to a rigid patriarchal social structure.
- The level of proof in the social harm of polygamy is almost unprecedented. (I had to ask one of our lawyers, Kieran Bridge, what “almost” means. He replied the “in comparison to other laws”—oh the joys of making my 64-year-old brain work, work, work around these legal terms and the context in which they are used!
- Civil Libertarians’ position of good polygamy and bad polygamy is as inadequate as arguments for good marijuana and bad marijuana.
- Bountiful did not create polygamy, Polygamy created Bountiful!
- The Amicus would have us believe that polygamy is a constitutionally protected practice.
- He gave the example of the problems in France.
- Professor Angela Campbell’s conclusions are coming into question.
- Our polygamy law reaches back to the Blackstone Law of 18th Century England. It is Canada’s response to the Blackstone Law.
- The Lord’s Day Act had more ecclesiastical implications than the law banning polygamy.
- Canada has obligations to its international commitments.
That’s my synopsis of seven pages of notes for today. For those living outside of Canada, The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms can easily be accessed on the internet. It is Canada’s Supreme Law—all laws must measure up against it in Canada.
I’m glad this process is not being turned into a television spectacle. I want to see the integrity and dignity of all witnesses kept intact. I will say this, however, if such were the case and the public could watch these proceedings on television, I could just see some young women swooning over a very dashing young lawyer by the name of Craig Jones. I’m glad he is not on television but using his brilliant mind for “our” side!
Nancy Mereska, President
Stop Polygamy in Canada