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The constitutional reference case on Canada's polygamy law under way in B.C. Supreme Court features starkly opposing viewpoints on the practice, including accounts from women who say they live happily and by choice in polygamous relationships. Those views are outlined in affidavits submitted to the court, including some filed by witnesses identified not by name, but by number. In September, Chief Justice Robert Bauman ruled that witnesses from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints could submit affidavits, and potentially testify, anonymously. The FLDS said that its members would be reluctant to participate in the case without that option because they feared prosecution if the law is upheld.

Some excerpts:

Witness No. 13

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A 38-year-old resident of the FLDS community in Short Creek, on the border of Utah and Arizona, this witness says her father was married to three women. She knows many people who have left the FLDS community, including her husband's four siblings and her mother.

Her mother "left my father when I was 15 years old. My mother took my younger brother and sisters with her. I have been in contact with my mother and my brother, but we do not talk very often as our worlds are very different."

She has chosen to remain.

"I am not sheltered and I have access to information and people outside of the FLDS community. I am happy with my life and I wish to be left alone to live in accordance with my beliefs."

Witness No. 2

In her affidavit, this woman says she lives in Bountiful, was married at 16 and has one "sister wife" and nine children, ages 7 to 26.

Costly, drawn-out legal battles have put a financial strain on the community, she says.

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"The biggest barrier I have seen to education is that we are living in poverty level due to the fact that the government in the United States has kept us having to pay thousands of dollars to keep church leaders out of jail for as long as I can remember."

The criminal prohibition against polygamy and associated stigma makes life difficult for her and her children, she says.

"I work outside the community. I feel I have to keep my life secret from every co-worker that is not of my faith and every government official. My children feel like if they say the wrong thing to a dentist or doctor their father could go to jail."

Christine Wayman

In her affidavit, Ms. Wayman says she grew up in Riverton, Utah, as part of a large, polygamous family.

"Growing up in a polygamous culture has always been a joyful experience for me," she says in her affidavit. "I was able to grow up with at least one parent home at all times, so I never had to have a babysitter."

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"Growing up in a polygamous family did not make me a deprived person, like some people have thought it does. I have parties, play volleyball, soccer and basketball, go to ball games, watch television and have a computer. I received an education and am like any other American citizen."

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About the Author
National correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Wendy Stueck has covered technology and business and now reports on British Columbia issues including natural resources, aboriginal issues and urban affairs. More

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