Criminalization of Polygamy in Canada: Historical, Legal and Sociological Analysis

66 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2014 Last revised: 9 Dec 2014

Date Written: August 16, 2013


The Canadian Criminal Code criminalizes the act of polygamy pursuant to s.290, and bigamy (another act which is similar to polygamy) pursuant to s.293 under the assumption that such practices have an adverse impact on women and children. However, the history of the criminalization of polygamy in Canada suggests that it was enacted deliberately to marginalize a particular minority group.

This paper is divided into four chapters. Chapter I discusses the historical background of polygamy and indicates that the criminalization of polygamy in Canada was an adoption of the American legal approach to Mormonism. Chapter II analyzes the provisions of the Canadian Criminal Code and demonstrates that the criminalization of polygamy significantly limits the rights and freedoms of individuals that are protected under the Charter. It also argues that the limitation of those rights and freedoms are so severe that they cannot be justified in a free and democratic society. Chapter III discusses the social aspects of the criminalization of polygamy. It describes how prohibition on polygamy creates an adverse impact on the society and promotes inequality and discrimination in the name of equality. Chapter IV provides a summary of the benefits that can be achieved if polygamy is legalized in Canada.

Keywords: polygamy, criminal law, family law, Canadian law, Constitutional law, Charter, s.293, s. 290, polygyny, bigamy, women, equality, inequality, justice, family, children, Mormon, FLDS, Muslim, plural marriage, sister wives, history, America, Canadian Criminal Code

Suggested Citation

Ahmed, Washim, Criminalization of Polygamy in Canada: Historical, Legal and Sociological Analysis (August 16, 2013). Osgoode Legal Studies Research Paper No. 78/2014, Available at SSRN: or

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