His premise appears to be that basically, the state has no business meddling in the bedrooms of its citizens as long as all other rights are respected. Actual abuses should be prosecuted separate from the polygamy issue.
He suggests that we should accept the status quo, because:
Oppal has also been advised to ask the courts to rule on the validity of the polygamy law. The risk here is that it might well be overturned, leading to profound changes affecting tax and immigration legislation.
Better to leave well enough alone. The state frequently does no better in the bedrooms of the nation than did the meddling priests of old.
But is that good enough? Should we keep a law on the books that is absolutely untenable and will never be enforced?
Why not decriminalize polygamy and thereby bring it out from under the cover of silence and secrecy into an environment where abuses against women and children will be easier to detect?
When I first heard about the Bailey report in early 2006, I was outraged. But now I'm thinking that perhaps Martha Bailey was just ahead of her time:
A new study for the federal Justice Department says Canada should get rid of its law banning polygamy, and change other legislation to help women and children living in such multiple-spouse relationships.
"Criminalization does not address the harms associated with valid foreign polygamous marriages and plural unions, in particular the harms to women," says the report, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.
"The report therefore recommends that this provision be repealed."
The research paper is part of a controversial $150,000 polygamy project, launched a year ago and paid for by the Justice Department and Status of Women Canada.
The paper by three law professors at Queen's University in Kingston argues that Sec. 293 of the Criminal Code banning polygamy serves no useful purpose and in any case is rarely prosecuted.
Instead, Canadian laws should be changed to better accommodate the problems of women in polygamous marriages, providing them clearer spousal support and inheritance rights.
Currently, there's a hodgepodge of legislation across the provinces, some of whom — Ontario, for example — give limited recognition to foreign polygamous marriages for the purposes of spousal support. Some jurisdictions provide no relief at all.
Chief author Martha Bailey says criminalizing polygamy, typically a marriage involving one man and several wives, serves no good purpose and prosecutions could do damage to the women and children in such relationships.
"Why criminalize the behaviour?" she said in an interview. "We don't criminalize adultery.
"In light of the fact that we have a fairly permissive society . . . why are we singling out that particular form of behaviour for criminalization?"
Maybe I'm turning into a bleeding-heart Liberal. Yikes!