By Keith Fraser, The Province
April 4, 2011
 
Canada’s polygamy law causes harms against women and children, rather than protects them, a court-appointed lawyer argued Monday.

Proponents of the law have submitted that the legislation should be interpreted to exclude women and young girls who might be exploited by the practise of polygamy.

But George Macintosh, a lawyer who is representing parties that oppose the polygamy law, said the legislation does not “carve out” exemptions on who it applies to.

He said the law, section 293 of the Criminal Code, does not save girls as young as 13 who might be involved in a polygamous union.

“The section makes them criminals as well, because they are part of everyone who is practising polygamy.”

Macintosh’s comments were part of his final submissions during the constitutional reference case in B.C. Supreme Court.

“I submit section 293 is harm-causing, it is not harm-protecting,” Macintosh told B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman.

“It is properly interpreted as making criminals out of three or more people in a committed relationship.”

Macintosh added that the law applies not only to cases where one man has more than one wife, as suggested by a lawyer for the B.C. government.

And he said it applies not only in marriage-like settings, as asserted by a lawyer for the Canadian government.

Macintosh argued that the law is therefore too broad and unconstitutional and should be struck down.

He said that if the law is struck down, “society as a whole and Parliament will decide on the appropriate next steps” to take.

The issue of whether the law is constitutional was referred to Bauman after two fundamentalist Mormon leaders in Bountiful had their polygamy charges stayed in 2009.

Final submissions are adjourned until next Monday.

kfraser@theprovince.com

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