Media Releases

Media Advisory: British Columbia Supreme Court to rule on constitutionality of polygamy prohibition

November 23, 2011

Vancouver – On Wednesday, November 23, 2011, the British Columbia Supreme Court will release its decision in the Polygamy Reference case. The decision will be made available on the British Columbia Supreme Court’s website after 10:00 a.m. (PST) or 1:00 p.m. (EST):

The Court will provide its opinion on whether the prohibition against polygamy in the Criminal Code of Canada is constitutional by answering the following reference questions:

a. Is section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?  If not, in what particular or particulars and to what extent?

b. What are the necessary elements of the offence in section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada?  Without limiting this question, does section 293 require that the polygamy or conjugal union in question involved a minor, or occurred in a context of dependence, exploitation, abuse of authority, a gross imbalance of power, or undue influence?

The Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children (CCRC) and the David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights (the Asper Centre) were interveners in the case. They argued that the rights of children need to be seriously considered and that when children’s rights are seriously violated by the practice of polygamy, it is justified to prohibit the practice under criminal law. The CCRC and Asper Centre addressed what rights children have and how those rights are violated by the sustained inculcation and practice of polygamy in close communities, such as in Bountiful, BC.

The reference questions were put before the court by the Attorney General of British Columbia following a stay of proceedings in the polygamy prosecutions of Winston Blackmore and James Oler of the Bountiful community in British Columbia.

Brent Olthuis and Stephanie McHugh of Hunter Litigation Chambers, and Cheryl Milne, Executive Director of the Asper Centre, represented the Asper Centre and the CCRC. The argument they filed in the case is available at:

Counsel for the interveners, Brent Olthuis and Cheryl Milne, and Kathy Vandergrift, Chair of CCRC will be available for interviews.


Vancouver: Brent Olthuis, (Counsel) Hunter Litigation Chambers :  or 604-649-7966

Toronto: Cheryl Milne, (Counsel) Executive Director, Asper Centre: or 416-978-0092

Ottawa: Kathy Vandergrift, Chair, CCRC : or 613- 820-0272