Polygamy : Human Rights And Civil Liberties

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Polygamy: Human Rights v. Canadian Constitution

Collins Njoroge
Crim 335 - Human Rights and Civil Liberties
Instructor: Danijel Ristic
24TH March, 2015 Cesar Chavez, an American civil rights activist and labor organizer, once stated that the “[p]reservation of one 's own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures” (University of Florida, n.d., para. 14). This oft-quoted aphorism is particularly relevant in Canada, a multicultural country where certain cultural practices — such as polygamy — are proscribed. In opposing polygamy, critics argue that the cultural practice is incongruent with Canadian values, perpetuates gender inequality, and is inherently harmful to women and children (Reference re: section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada, 2011). On the other hand, proponents of polygamy contend that prohibition infringes on their Charters of Rights and Freedoms, specifically section 2(a) or freedom of religion (Bala, Duvall-Antonacopoulos, MacRae, & Paetsch, 2005). In light of the foregoing, this paper will evaluate the polygamy legislation in Canada for consistency (or lack thereof) with the Constitution.
Acknowledging the complexity of the polygamy debate, this paper will borrow from two competing human rights perspectives — universalist and cultural-relativist perspectives. The former is predicated on individual rights, with a greater focus on civil and political rights, and the latter is predicated on collective rights
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