Archive for December, 2010

Polygamy and the Rights of Women: Opinion Summary–Booklet from Status of Women Council Quebec

Direct Link to Full 18-Page Document:


Professor Rose McDermott

In court this week Professor Rose McDermott, professor of political science, Brown University, and specialist in studies on Iraqi women testified for the Attorney General Canada.  Today, Thursday, December 16, I am informed she is still undergoing cross-examination by groups supporting the Amicus.

I am appending her research paper:


Here is Professor McDermott’s power-point presentation–the last few slides outline clearly her conclusions re the effects of polygamy on women, children and society:

McDermott PP

Nancy Mereska, President
Stop Polygamy in Canada

11 Recommendations of the Status of Women Council Quebec

Hello Blog Readers,

It is always a boost when a campaign member goes the extra mile and makes my job a little easier. Following are the 11 recommendations of the Status of Women Council Quebec which a campaign member copied into a separate document and sent to me.

I was also honoured to receive a package containing a letter from Madame Pelchat, a copy of the report, and the booklet containing the opinion summary which has the long-form explanations after each recommendation.

Thank you to all, sincerely,

Nancy Mereska, President
Stop Polygamy in Canada

Conseil du statut de la femme (Status of Women Quebec)

15. Accordingly, after taking into account the three dimensions of law, immigration and
society, the. Conseil set forth the following 11 recommendations in its opinion on polygamy:

1. . The criminalization of polygamy in Canada must be maintained, and governments must vigorously support the constitutionality of Section 293 of the Criminal Code before the courts.
2. Intervention policies must be developed to strengthen and focus state action against polygamy.
3. Existing laws against the delegation of family law to religious authorities must be maintained and strengthened.
4. Canada, and Quebec especially, must deny admission to any immigrant who is engaged in a polygamous marriage, in order to avoid increasing the number of polygamous families living here.
5. Strengthen the rule by which citizenship obtained through misrepresentation regarding polygamy can be revoked, to cut down on fraud.
6. Exercise greater vigilance toward private confessional schools of all origins to ensure the following three indispensable conditions:
a) that the curriculum taught in such schools complies fully with the requirements of the Ministere de I’Education; .
b) that girls receive a complete education, identical to that of boys, so they can have access to all professions;
c) that there be no promotion of polygamy, or any content of a misogynist or racist character in religious or other instruction. Ultimately, subsidies must cease to schools that in any way promote polygamy and inequality between the sexes.
7. Adequate training should be provided to social workers in communities from polygamous societies, to help them recognize and understand the social implications of polygamy and protect the rights of women and children.

8. The rights of women and children should be actively promoted among new immigrants and in communities where polygamy is accepted, to ‘prevent any increase of polygamous marriages here.
9. Existing programs should be bolstered with provisions to protect women and children in polygamous families, including measures specifically adapted to their needs.
10. Support must be given to women and girls wishing to escape polygamous situations.
11. Finally, in view of the complexity of the issues surrounding polygamy, studies should be funded on polygamous and formerly polygamous women, to create a better understanding of their needs and realities. In the same vein, issue tables should be created for discussions with people in civil society, including the women, affected by polygamy, with the goal of stopping and eliminating this practice out of respect for the rights of women and children.

Another Woman Speaks Out about Polygamy

Dear Blog Readers,

I received this letter from Susan Ray Schmidt and have her permission to post it to my blog.  For her CBC interview, I suggested that she tell her story and discuss the lost boys and young men; that there are people in Canada who still ask:  What is polygamy?

From Susan:

K Dee gave me your email. Thanks for what you’re doing in Canada. Can I help in some way? Here is my background:

 I was raised in the LeBaron polygamist group and married one of the LeBaron leaders when I was barely fifteen, becoming Verlan LeBaron’s sixth wife. I went through the usual hell; maybe even worse than the usual hell as my group became targeted by my brother-in-law, Ervil LeBaron, who split from our group and and began a rapage of blood atonement that left close to 30 people dead and many lives destroyed, all in the name of God. This  happened 30 years ago, but polygamy is still alive and well in Colonia LeBaron where I was raised. All those sweet little kids running around while I was there have grown up and many are practicing polygamy today. It sickens me to see my young nieces and nephews following in their parent’s footsteps. Especially as they do it in total ignorance. They blindly follow the distorted teachings and practice of their leaders, who tell them polygamy is commanded by God. How I thank God that my own children are free and live normal, productive, and happy lives.

Anyway, I left with my five children when I was 23. I’m a Christian today. I have a burning desire to see the practice of polygamy eradicated and the men who abuse women and children locked up. 

CBC has contacted me a couple times, wanting my comments on their evening news.(I’ve written a book about my life in polygamy and I’ve been visible and outspoken, so it was easy for them to find me.) I’m going to agree to do it but I want my comments to be power-packed and if possible to make a difference. I haven’t followed the Winston Blackmore case (I met the man years ago). I’ve just not been paying attention; I’ve been involved in other things. Do you have suggestions in what tactic I should take during the interview? 

How else can I help?

All the best! 

Susan Ray Schmidt,

Author and Speaker 

Favorite Wife:Trapped in Polygamy

Nancy, perhaps you will find time to go to my website linked above. There you will find the video “Lifting the Veil of Polygamy”. Click on it and you can watch the whole video there on the website. I’m in this video and I also happen to be on the distribution board for it and other videos on Mormonism. See if any of the information in this video will be of assistance to any of the “good guys” fighting this battle there in Canada.

Madame Christiane Pelchat’s Affidavit

Dear Blog Readers,

Please find below the Affidavit of Madame Christiane Pelchat, lawyer, President and General Director of Status of Women Quebec. Madame Pelchat served in the Quebec National Assembly from 1985-1994 as the Member for the riding of Vachon.

In July 2009, the Status of Women Quebec commissioned an independent feminist researcher, Yolande Geadah, author of three books and several publications, “to prepare an opinion on polygamy and women’s rights.” Her report was completed in November 2010.

The Status of Women Quebec “after taking into account the three dimentions of law, immigration and society” made 11 recommendations regarding polygamy (pp. 5-6 of affidavit) And, on November 25, 2010, the National Assembly of Quebec adopted the following motion:

  • That the National Assembly affirms that polygamy is not part of the fundamental values of Quebec society; and
  • That it considers this practice to be contrary to the right to equality between women and men, and that it approves the position taken in this regard by the Conseil du statut de la femme  (Status of Women Quebec)

This, by far, is the most remarkable event to happen in to happen in the course of the Reference (as it has come to be known) yet! 

The first recommendation is that “(t)he criminalization of polygamy in Canada must be maintained, and governments must vigorously support the constitutionality of Section 293 of the Criminal Code before the courts.”  Go to the affidavit and read for yourselves the recommendations set out by Status of Women Quebec that are now adopted by the Quebec National Assembly. 

Oh, that other legislatures would be so diligent in the fight for equality of women’s rights. 

Thank you, Status of Women Quebec and the Quebec National Assembly.

Nancy Mereska, President
Stop Polygamy in Canada

National Assembly of Quebec Support

Affidavit #1 Christiane Pelchat swn December 7 2010

Daphne Bramham’s article on Dr. Henrich’s Reference Testimony

Legalized polygamy would be an attack on hard-won rights 

By Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun December 11, 2010
Imagine a fight between Indiana Jones and Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. That’s how lopsided the battle is, as the trial to determine whether Canada’s polygamy law nears its midpoint.

As the primary witness for the attorney-general of British Columbia, Prof. Joseph Henrich was almost unassailable this week as he made a convincing case about the sweeping harms associated with legalizing polygamy.

Last week, McGill law professor Angela Campbell was grilled for most of a day before Chief Justice Robert Bauman of the Supreme Court of B.C. qualified her as the primary witness for the amicus curiae. (The amicus has been appointed by the court to argue against the governments of British Columbia and Canada, and in favour of striking down the law.)

Campbell testified that polygamy and equality rights can coexist, and that women in plural marriages and their children suffer no more harm than those in monogamous unions.

But before her testimony began, Campbell had already admitted she had no expertise in sociology or sociological research methods, and that her conclusions were based on the word of 22 self-selected women and 12 days spent in Bountiful, B.C., Canada’s only known polygamous community.

Henrich, on the other hand, has an astonishing resume. Still in his 30s, he has already changed careers once from aerospace engineer to distinguished multi-disciplinary scholar, holding the Canada Research Chair in Culture, Cognition and Evolution at the University of B.C., where he is a tenured professor in both psychology and economics.

In 2004, he went to the White House to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. Last year, Henrich received the Human Behaviour and Evolution Society’s Early Career Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions.

And the Indiana Jones stuff? It comes from the fieldwork: nearly a year in Fiji, 10 months in southern Chile and six-and-a-half months with the Machiguenga in Peru.

Henrich testified in B.C. Supreme Court to his conclusions that polygamy is harmful to both the participants and society as a whole.

Using slides to illuminate his research, he drew on evolutionary biology and mating psychology to explain why polygyny (men with multiple spouses) is widespread and monogamy relatively rare.

The Ethnographic Atlas, which includes information about marriage in 1,231 societies, indicates that only 15 per cent of those societies are monogamous. Frequent polygyny is found in 48 per cent, occasional polygyny in 37 per cent, and polyandry (women with multiple spouses) in 0.3 per cent.

One problem with the data, Henrich noted in his court affidavit, is that it is based only on observation; there is no distinction drawn between societies where monogamy is enforced (such as Canada) and where it is preferred, or where only the leaders or the wealthy have multiples wives.

Henrich went on to explain how certain cultures — starting with the ancient Greeks — evolved norms that favour monogamy.

The reason, Henrich argues, is that polygyny has predictable effects. Those include an increase in the pool of low-status men, who engage in risky and criminal behaviour. And high-status men invest in attaining more wives, with the result that infant and child mortality rates rise and educational attainment falls.

Also, competition for brides drives the age of first marriage down, widens the age gap between husband and wife and results in greater inequality, higher rates of domestic violence and increased psycho-social stress for the women.

If Canada were to become the only developed, western nation to reject imposed monogamy, Henrich predicts it would result in “a non-trivial increase in the incidence of polygyny.”

Immigration of high-status men from other polygynous countries would probably increase, and high-status men such as actors and athletes already living here would probably take multiple wives, setting off a wave of copycats, he said.

The amicus, George Macintosh, was dubious about that and asked whether Henrich had ever heard men talking about their desire to take more than one wife.

Henrich replied that he had, several times, during the year he spent living among the polygamous Machiguenga.

But what about in North America? Macintosh asked. Henrich said no, he hadn’t, but he pointed out that Canadian men are no different in their biological or psychological makeup than others.

Henrich had earlier noted an experiment he had done with his female third-year students.

If polygamy were legal and they fell in love with two men — one a married billionaire, the other an unmarried man with a moderate income — whom would they choose?

Seventy per cent chose the billionaire.

Lawyer Monique Pongracic-Speier of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association called it “highly implausible” that legalizing polygamy would have deleterious effects, since Canada, she said, is overwhelmingly monogamous, “highly democratic and highly rights-respecting.”

But is it?

“We tend to think that it can’t happen in five years or 10 years,” Henrich said. “But in 50 years? It doesn’t seem implausible.”

In fact, given what the chief justice has heard so far, it’s hard to see how he can conclude that legalizing polygamy would be anything but an attack on the fabric of Canadian society and our hard-won rights.

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