(By guest blogger – Shanesmom)
Polyamory is a growing social phenomenon that is becoming more visible and whose members seek to challenge discriminatory laws and policies that would criminalize their families. This was a main theme of the April 11 Panel Discussion hosted by the Vancouver Polyamory Group (Vanpoly) at The Junction House Pub in Vancouver that drew about 150 supporters. The panel coincided with the closing arguments of the British Columbia Supreme Court hearing on the constitutionality of Canada’s anti-polygamy law (Section 293 of the Criminal Code). The case is hearing evidence on two issues: Is the anti-polygamy section of the Criminal Code consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and what are the necessary elements of the polygamy offence as it is set out in the Criminal Code? Even the supporters of the criminal law have given it 5 different interpretations and polyamorists are rightly concerned that some of their relationships—where more than two people live together in a marriage-like relationship—are capture by the criminal law.
The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) is an intervener in the case, and the group’s lawyer, John Ince, argued on April 13 that the Attorney Generals of British Columbia and Canada offered “no evidence of harm that justifies the criminalization of polyamorist families.”
The panel, facilitated by Zoe Duff, included Janet W. Hardy who is a writer and sex educator, and founder of Greenery Press. She lives in Oregon and is the co-author of The Ethical Slut; Terisa Greenan who is based in Seattle and has penned numerous short stories and two adapted screenplays; John Ince, author of The Politics of Lust and legal counsel for the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association; and Kiki Christie, the founder and facilitator of Victoria Poly 101, a polyamory discussion group in Victoria.
Zoe asked the panel a number of thoughtful questions that drew from the panelists’ expertise on polyamory. Janet Hardy replied to a question about how the popularity of polyamory has increased in the past decade by discussing the importance of the Internet to building community. She noted that queer communities have practiced loving multiple relationships for many years, but they didn’t call it polyamory. The Internet has facilitated more people to embrace a polyamorist identity.
In answering a question on discrimination, Terisa Greenan discussed how one of the actors who plays a character on her polyamory-themed hit comic web series “Family” was let go after shooting a commercial for an Australian olive oil company. Producers said that the owners had received links to “Family” and because of the nature of the show, no longer wanted the actor to represent them. Terisa said that the actor is not a polyamorist but was tainted by association. These experiences of discrimination are common for those willing to come out as polyamorist or for those just associated with the movement.
John Ince drew a parallel between polyamory and the lesbian and gay movement. He pointed out that it wasn’t until 1969 that gay sex was decriminalized in Canada, and that the progress made by lesbians and gay men would have been unfathomable in the 1960s and 1970s. Drawing a parallel, Ince told the audience that the current B.C. Supreme Court reference case will mark a turning point for the polyamorous community. The discrimination that polyamorists experience is now gaining more public attention as part of a broader conversation about whether their families should be criminalized.
Kiki Christie discussed how polyamorous communities have amazing consistency across the border. Part of this is due to the Internet and part is due to the amazing tolerance and welcoming environment that polyamorous communities support. Networking across the border has strengthened the movement and made it more resilient.
The panel discussion was following by a Q&A discussion with the audience, asking a range of questions from generational differences in the practice of polyamory to what can people do to help. All-in-all, this was an extremely successful event that highlighted the increasing cohesiveness and momentum of the growing polyamory movement.