Untying the knot: feminist expert evidence in the "remarkable" Polygamy Reference decision

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Adams, Brittney
University of Lethbridge. Faculty of Arts and Science
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Lethbridge, Alta : University of Lethbridge, Dept. of Women and Gender Studies
Following the arrests of Winston Blackmore and James Oler of Bountiful, British Columbia in 2009 polygamy has captured the attention of media, the legal system, and the general population of Canada. Overwhelmingly, the central discourse surrounding polygamy in the media has tended to be one of secrecy, forbidden religious practices, and oppression; this discourse of polygamy as harmful was substantiated by Chief Justice Bauman in the Reference re: Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada, referred to in this thesis as the Polygamy Reference. Conversely, feminist research on the topic of polygamy in Canada, conducted through myriad methodologies, challenges the claim that polygamy is inherently harmful. This thesis seeks to analyze the ways in which polygamy is addressed in the Polygamy Reference and the treatment of feminist qualitative research opposing criminalization of polygamy in the decision. The study examines the research question: In what ways does the Polygamy Reference integrate or dismiss qualitative feminist research in sustaining its central claim that polygamy is inherently harmful? Secondary research questions included: If this feminist research was not integrated in the Polygamy Reference, whose research was favored? What discourses and methods does Chief Justice Bauman draw upon to sustain the claim that polygamy is inherently harmful? By utilizing a feminist post-structural lens, and applying a critical discourse analysis and thematic coding to the Reference, this thesis argues that the Polygamy Reference marginalizes particular feminist research as one way to sustain its claim that polygamy is inherently harmful.
criminalization of polygamy , feminism , feminist qualitative research , law , polygamy , Polygamy Reference