CPAA Reacts to BC Supreme Court Decision

For Immediate Release

CPAA Relieved That Polyamorist Relationships Are Not Criminalized

VANCOUVER — November 23, 2011 — The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) is relieved by BC Chief Justice Robert Bauman’s decision today clarifying the interpretation of Canada’s anti-polygamy law.

“Polyamorists are relieved they can be in loving egalitarian conjugal relationships without criminal sanction,” said CPAA legal counsel, John Ince, “Common law relationships are clearly not prohibited. Polyamorists who are dealing with immigration or family custody issues for instance now need no longer worry about being considered to be criminals”.

Many polyamorous women, as well as men, have multiple partners, and polyamorists think men and women have equal freedom to define their relationships. The CPAA says the decision will relieve most polyamorists but, alarmingly, will harm those who make certain formal commitments.

“The decision still criminalizes a segment of the polyamorous community if they have a marriage ceremony,” said Zoe Duff, a CPAA director and spokesperson. Duff also represents one of the five polyamorous families who provided evidence to the court. The decision clarifies that she is living legally with her two male partners.

“Polyamorous Canadians are responsible citizens who work toward sustaining healthy, loving, egalitarian relationships and it is wrong for Canada’s laws to continue to criminalize any of us,” continued Duff, “The number of people in any given relationship is not the issue. The health of the relationship and family is the issue.”

The CPAA intervened in the case because the wording of the 120 year old statute — which was aimed at patriarchal relationships — might have caught the modern egalitarian and secular relationships practiced by polyamorists. The judge ruled that the law does not apply to unformalized polyamorous relationships.

The CPAA emphasizes that any abuse or exploitation in family situations can and should be addressed under abuse or exploitation laws — independently from the question of how many people are living together. The CPAA is concerned that the polygamy law actually makes it more difficult to help victims of abuse and exploitation.

The CPAA’s mission is to represent Canadians who are polyamorous. It expects to participate if today’s court decision is appealed, and to work with Parliament on any legislative response. The group says that funding and resource concerns may limit its activities but notes a broad and growing volunteer base across Canada.

For more information on the CPAA, visit or email
The CPAA is on Facebook at


John Ince,
Zoe Duff,


In a court process called a “reference”, the BC government put a question to the BC Supreme Court to test the constitutionality of Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada (the so called “polygamy law”). The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) has intervened in this court proceeding on behalf of polyamory and polyamorous Canadians.

It is the CPAA’s position that adults should be free to choose to enter into multi partner intimate relationships without state interference as long as they are freely consenting and there is no criminal exploitation or abuse. Canadians have Charter rights to do so (rights of association, religion, equality, and of life, liberty and security of the person).

Polyamory (“many loves”) is the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved. Among the concepts critical to the understanding of consent and of ethical behaviour within polyamory are gender equality, self-determination, free choice for all involved, mutual trust, and equal respect among partners.

Polyamory is very different in philosophy from the patriarchal polygamy practiced in religious communities such as at Bountiful, BC. Polyamorous relationships may take a great variety of forms and are based on individual choice. In polyamory, women are free to choose more than one male partner and vice versa. And women are among the most active facilitators in polyamorous communities. Polyamory, which tends to be secular, is grounded in gender equality, self-determination, and free choice for everyone involved.

Newsweek Magazine reported that polyamory is a thriving phenomenon in the United States, with over half a million families openly living in relationships that are between multiple consenting partners. It is our experience that there is a similar proportion of polyamorists to the remainder of the population in Canada. See

Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada does far more than criminalize polygamist men in fundamentalist patriarchal religious groups. It criminalizes people in any kind of “conjugal union” where more than two people live together, even if there is no formal marriage ceremony. This includes polyamorists. 5 year jail sentences are possibilities for people in those relationships and to anyone who attends a celebration of those relationships.

Section 293 victimizes a group of people in this country who do no harm, who are striving to create families centred around love, and who, by any other measure, are not substantially different from average Canadians. The incredible irony is that this law, regardless of its actual interpretation in court, brands polyamorists as criminals without any evidence of any actual harm being done and in the process actually harms polyamorists and their children.

It is important to realize that if the criminal law is struck down, this does not mean that the courts will automatically say that the law must recognize multi-partner marriages. That is a different legal issue. Decriminalization of homosexual relationships did not lead to the recognition of gay marriage until 30 years later. No doubt it will take some time for Canadians to determine whether they ever want to recognize multi-partner marriages.

The CPAA is taking part in this litigation because people have a right to live with the people they love, and Canadian laws, such as Section 293, do not recognize that. Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada purports to outlaw polyamorous people living together as families. It penalizes them as soon as they make a serious commitment to one another.

The CPAA advocates on behalf of Canadians who practice polyamory. It promotes legal, social, government, and institutional acceptance and support of polyamory, and advances the interests of the Canadian polyamorous community generally. It is a nonprofit society, incorporated in the province of British Columbia.

The CPAA started in 2009 with ideas circulated by members and moderators of the Vanpoly discussion group. Those Vanpoly members circulated a “call for interveners” in response to the province of British Columbia’s test of Section 293 of the Canada’s Criminal Code. Those Vanpoly members were joined by members and facilitators of the VanIsle-Poly group, and then by others. The CPAA now has active members, volunteers, and intervening witnesses from across Canada, including Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.

For more information or to contact the CPAA, visit or email
The CPAA is on Facebook at

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