By Dean Midyette,
While in Cranbrook on Tuesday I found myself walking through a gaggle of media types as I entered the courthouse.
I was told that the media, from local to national to wire services, were in town to cover the precedent-setting trial of Winston Blackmore and James Oler. Both Blackmore and Oler are members of a polygamist community in the Kootenay region and both are alleged to have multiple wives, which is a violation of current Canadian law.
Beyond the theatrics of the current court proceedings, the court will be asked to render a verdict that will weigh our freedom to practice our religion of choice against existing Canadian law.
The verdict in this case will have far reaching consequences and will almost certainly end up being heard by the Supreme Court of Canada.
One of the questions that the courts will have to answer is whether or not Canadas polygamy laws are, in fact, constitutional.
In 2011, the BC Supreme Court ruled that the laws banning polygamy did not violate religious rights guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but this ruling could be overturned by higher courts.
Looking to the extreme, the precedent setting ruling could have implications on whether Canadians, based on their religion, can practice rituals such as public nudity (Jainism), defleshing a corpse and feeding the parts to animals (Buddhism), or cannibalism (the Gimi in Papua New Guinea and other sects), all of which would be a violation of existing laws.
If the court rules in favour of polygamy, the door could be open.