REVIEW OF A CRUEL ARITHMETIC: INSIDE THE CASE AGAINST POLYGAMY, by Craig Jones

Craig Jones, QC, BGS, LLB, LLM, holds law degrees from UBC and Harvard Law School. For 6 years he was the lead constitutional litigator for the Attorney General of BC, and is now a professor of law at Thompson Rivers University. He was also the lead counsel who successfully argued for the BC government in the 2011 Polygamy Reference case, called to determine the constitutionality of S. 293 CC, which proscribes polygamy. The Polygamy Reference case–perhaps driven by a public outraged by years of prevarication by BC governments–is without precedent  in Canada, which makes it supremely important. The title, A Cruel Arithmetic is actually the succinct phrase coined by Daphne Bramham of the Vancouver Sun, who has been unstinting in her fight to inform Canadians of the evils at Bountiful and to urge our reluctant BC government to act.  Ironically enough, Craig Jones started out as a civil libertarian who believed that adults have the right to choose for themselves, but as the evidence of polygamy’s harms mounted, his eyes were opened and he began to change his mind. Jones is a born writer, and in spite of the inevitable legal jargon, the reader is easily able to follow the various arguments, both pro and con polygamy. The book is divided into 7 parts, plus copious notes and an index, and begins with the opening of the case in December 2010.  Step by step, Jones takes the reader through discussions on human nature and how men first began collecting women as concubines in harems, before gradually realizing that monogamy best answers the needs of human society for stable family relationships and the nurture of children. The reference case was almost like a battlefield, with Jones and his team racing against the clock as they discussed strategies, and how best they could counter the arguments of the side favouring decriminalization, led by court-appointed Amicus Curiae, George Macintosh, QC. Jones discusses how difficult it was to establish that polygamy causes verifiable harm–especially when a minority of women actually support the practice–and then gives an even-handed account of the Affidavits of each of the interveners, including our own Nancy Mereska, and such luminaries as Doctors Joe Henrich, Rebecca Cook, and Stephen Kent, plus witnesses such as Carolyn Jessop and Truman Oler, to whom the book is dedicated. The arguments of those supporting the decriminalization of polygamy are also given equally scrupulous attention. It’s fascinating to see how the evidence mounts that polygamy is an anti-social act that cruelly treats women as commodities, harms children, but also harms men, setting poorer men against their richer brothers who can afford to collect many women as “wives,” i.e., concubines in harems. It also reveals how polygamous societies where poorer men have to battle for a wife are dangerous societies, and that the most dangerous group of all is young men who have no hope of having a family of their own. (After all, Nature has made the sexes almost equal in number.) Research shows that the search by men for more than one wife drives down the age of girls for marriage, so that 12 year-old girls and even younger ones become sexual targets. He also reveals how some so-called “experts” called by the Amicus to support decriminalization, turn out to be woefully lacking in genuine scholarship and expertise, and singles out Professor Angela Campbell in particular. Even Chief Justice Robert Bauman said that she was “somewhat naive,” (p. 322) an opinion that supports those of us who wondered how anyone could be called an expert witness when they had only been in Bountiful for 10 days, and only spoken to about 10 of Winston’s “wives.” Thankfully, Chief Justice Robert Bauman saw clearly that polygamy is an anti-social act, and on November 23, 2011, ruled that S.293 CC is constitutional. The book ends with Jones bewildered by the continuing lack of action by BC’s government in spite of irrefutable evidence of criminal activity by Bountiful’s elders, especially Winston Blackmore, who has impregnated nine underage girls. Jones ends with the grim comment that he wonders if anybody at Bountiful will ever be charged, a frightening thought that puts the BC government in bed with the criminals of Bountiful. “A Cruel Arithmetic” is a superbly written, highly entertaining and informative book that deserves a permanent place on your book shelf, and should be read by all who are concerned with justice, with the equality rights of women, and with what lies ahead for Canadians in our multicultural society. The book is available from Irwin Law Inc., 14 Duncan St., Suite 206, Toronto, ON M5H 3G8, www.irwinlaw.com, ISBN 978-1-55221-297-4. A soft cover version will be available in due course.

 

Jancis M. Andrews: author of Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let Down Your Hair and Other Stories (Ronsdale Press);  Walking on Water and Other Stories (Cormorant Books); and The Ballad of Mrs. Smith:Poems), (Hedgerow Press)

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