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Fri 9 Jan 2015 In: Comment View at Wayback View at NDHA

Polygamy is unpopular in Canada With the impending loss of any traction against LGBT rights within the developed world, what happens to anti-LGBT political activism? What will it be replaced with? There are two possible scenarios, which consist of abandoning LGBT concerns altogether, represented by Canada on the one hand and New Zealand (and Australia) on the other. The two issues in question have tangential relationships to LGBT community needs. One is polygamy, while the other is euthanasia law reform. In the case of Canada, it seems to be further fallout from British Columbia's Bountiful Supreme Court decision back in November 2011. The Bountiful verdict was a 'reference case' that responded to contemporary questions about whether or not Canada's (anti-polygamy) Section 293 of its Criminal Code still encompassed its original prohibitionist meaning, in response to Canada's repudiation of the then-polygamist orthodoxy within the Mormon Church within Utah Territory before it abandoned that principle in 1890 in order to join the United States. In 1982, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was supposed to provide a more robust defence of human rights and civil liberties. After 1890, however, some Mormonoid factions did not accept the verdict of Salt Lake City's authorised successors to the Prophet Joseph Smith and still practised polygamy, often characterised by firearm abuse, spousal violence and pedophile child brides. More recently, there have been some attempts to sanitise the polygamist faction, with fictional and reality "suburban polygamist" television series such as Big Love and Sister Wives. However, the British Columbian Supreme Court upheld Section 293 and no higher Canadian court has overruled it. Now, the Harper administration has introduced its "Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices" Bill (S-16), which seeks to outlaw polygamy and honour killing of unfaithful or "disobedient" wives or gay men within some South Asian families. There is widespread support for the bill, although Canada's South Asian Legal Centre has argued that the bill's title is racist. Amusingly, given Family First New Zealand's Bob McCoskrie and his dismissal of the Bountiful verdict's significance during the marriage equality debate here back in 2012-13, anti-feminist REAL Women of Canada has praised both the original Bountiful verdict and Bill S-16. It has argued that given the relatively low incidence of Muslim and other South Asian calls for decriminalisation of polygamy in Canada, much of the law enforcement acuity of such legislation will be directed against the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints and similar organisations. Fortunately, in his original judgement, Justice Robert Bauman clearly distinguished polyamory from polygamy, arguing that polygamy was egalitarian, nonviolent and non-ceremonial, so it was still legal and not covered under anti-polygamy legislation. For that reason, the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association supported the original Bountiful decision back in 2011. Unfortunately, there seems to be little hint of its position on Bill S-16. Given that no members of LGBT communities are therefore tangibly harmed by this legislation and fundamentalist polygamist Mormonoids do undertake sexual violence against women and children due to residual anxieties about absolutist questions about "religious freedom" despite polygamy's illegality, other Canadian LGBT organisations have remained silent about Bill S-16, even usually radical LGBT media outlets like Xtra Canada. Should New Zealand introduce such legislation? Or should escape from violent and abusive polygamous relationships become a ground for refugee and asylum status? I'm inclined toward the latter view. However, the Canadian Ministry of Justice warns about possible headaches for bilateral relationships with those nations that do recognise the legality of polygamous relationships. Incidentally, these include Nigeria and Uganda, for those with romantic 'anti-racist' ideas about defending the rights of polygamists, and in Uganda, feminist organisations have been campaigning for the abolition and criminalisation of polygamy for years. Predictably, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni defiantly defends the practice against western criticisms. Nearer our own political concerns are the current formation dancing across the thorny question of euthanasia law reform on both sides of the Tasman. Thus far, there have been two attempts to decriminalise voluntary euthanasia/physician assisted suicide in New Zealand. The Death With Dignity Bill 1996 was introduced by erstwhile National MP Michael Laws and was heavily defeated by thirty votes at the end of its first reading that same year. In 2003, New Zealand First Deputy Leader Peter Brown introduced a second such euthanasia reform private members bill into Parliament, and then watched as the opposition of the New Zealand Medical Association and related organisations sank the legislative proposal, albeit with a much closer margin. From that point, the euthanasia law reform campaign switched to the Labour caucus, initially represented by former List MP and out lesbian Maryan Street -although not much consequent debate occurred over the issue there, either from HIV/AIDS or cancer survivors quarters. In September 2014, Labour suffered aggravated loss from the inept Cunliffe election campaign and its consequences and Street did not return to Parliament as a result. Palmerston North Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway then temporarily adopted the bill, until new Labour leader Andrew Little promoted him to the industrial relations shadow portfolio and then suggested that the euthanasia reform bill needed to be postponed while Labour focused more attention on the core policy area of opposing 'zero contracts." Meanwhile, on the other side of the Tasman, former rightist federal Prime Minister John Howard facilitated one of his ministers, Kevin Andrews, to pass legislation that overruled the Northern Territory's legislature which had temporarily decriminalised it. This was possible because under the Australian constitution, the federal Australian Parliament can do so. Indeed, it has also done so in the context of Canberra's Australian Capital Territory and its temporary marriage equality legislation. Now, however, current rightist Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is promising that the federal caucus will have a free conscience vote, in a desperate attempt to patch up his battered political image after the passage of Treasurer Joe Hockey's 'black budget' over the course of this year. Australians for Marriage Equality have asked why the same respect for freedom of conscience is not apparent when it comes to marriage equality in the same context, and rightly so. In our context, the question is whether or not any euthanasia bill would face overwhelming opposition from the New Zealand Medical Association and other medical practitioners professional organisations, given that their evidence-based rebuttals would probably carry the day in the event of any further euthanasia law reform debate. This will continue to be the case until the NZMA and colleagues change their minds over the issue, perhaps in the context of new pandemics in the event of accelerated climate change. Welcome to tomorrow. Recommended: Voluntary Euthanasia Society of New Zealand: http://www.ves Labour Party: http://www.labour Kate Marshall: "Tony Abbott commits to free vote on euthanasia" Melbourne Age: 20.12.2014: html Stephanie Levitz: "Senators Challenge Name, Need for Polygamy Bill" Globe and Mail: 04.12.2014: will article21954202/ Not Recommended: Family First: http://www.familyfirst REAL Women of Canada: http://www.realwomen. ca  Craig Young - 9th January 2015    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Friday, 9th January 2015 - 9:52am

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