Polygamous marriages drain taxpayer dollars

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The Article

It was a rude awakening for British and Canadian taxpayers when news emerged this week to confirm that their tax dollars were being used to support polygamous marriages.

After all, polygamy is not only morally objectionable to the majority of citizens in both countries, it’s illegal. Despite the current tendency to naively legalize any and all family arrangements, Canadian and British laws still call for polygamists to be punished by prison sentences of up to five and seven years, respectively.

So the question is obvious: If the laws call for a visit to the Ol’ Grey Bar Hotel, why are we paying polygamists social benefits?

British legislation from 2003 opened the door to the current situation by allowing multiple wives to inherit assets from a deceased husband. More recently, the government investigated claims that polygamists were taking advantage of the welfare system. It should have led to fines and legal crackdowns on abusers; instead it led to the creation of a new set of rules that allow polygamists to claim welfare benefits for more than one wife.

The government obviously wasn’t that proud of its innovative actions, since it acted quietly and without public consultation in agreeing to pay polygamists subsidies for additional housing and to grant additional tax benefits. Worse still, all payments bypass the wives and are given directly to the husband.

British citizens only found out about these changes when a newspaper broke the story last week.

At the same time, Canadian Muslim leaders admitted that hundreds of Muslim men in Ontario are now claiming welfare and social benefits for their multiple wives. This is welfare fraud. The system is supposed to prevent applicants from claiming welfare for more than one spouse, but the fraud works because they don’t check for independent applications from multiple spouses in the same household.

Under Muslim (Sharia) law, men are permitted to have up to four wives. If the paperwork is handled properly, that can put taxpayers on the hook for a huge monthly payment of social benefits.

Tolerating other cultural practices that are contrary to Canadian values is one thing. Supporting them with our tax dollars is quite another.

The problem in Britain stems from an initial choice to recognize polygamous marriages conducted in jurisdictions outside the country that allow polygamy. The problem in Ontario is that the Ontario Family Law Act actually recognizes multiple spouses from polygamist marriages, providing they were legally married in a country that supports polygamy.

Wives in polygamist marriages are recognized as spouses under the Ontario Family Law Act, providing the marriage was “celebrated in a jurisdiction whose system of law recognizes it as valid.”

In any other situation, a bigamist would be prosecuted. But thanks to our far-sighted and open-minded legislators who thought changing the definition of spouse wouldn’t matter, any attempts to stop the welfare fraud could lead to the full recognition of, and support for, polygamy.

Indeed, some Muslims are now preparing to use this situation to ask that polygamist marriages (and ALL wives) be recognized by federal immigration laws. From there, it’s a very short journey to the full legal recognition of polygamous marriage.

This was long touted as a potential consequence of changing the definitions of spouse and marriage. Once society says marriage has nothing to do with sex (as in gender, not sexual orientation), then it’s difficult to argue why we should discriminate on the basis of number. I hate to say it, but . . . I told you so.

Polygamy violates Canadian values such as the principles of equality and the rights of women. The act demeans and discriminates against women, and reduces them to slave-like status. Most repugnant is that it often involves the sexual abuse, exploitation and rape of minors.

Why should Canadian laws sanction an institution that enslaves women and forces children to have sex with adults?

It is ironic that Canada’s military is valiantly battling the oppressive Taliban regime, changing a culture to bring about equality for women and freedom to live their lives as they see fit. Even the United Nations is urging Saudi Arabia to end the practice of polygamy because it runs contrary to the principles of equality.

Yet, even as we fight for such freedoms in other countries, we are opening the doors at home to these same repressive practices. We are fearful of prosecuting a polygamous community in British Columbia and we are reluctant to tell the Muslim culture that some of their practices are simply not welcome here.

Surely we owe it to our troops and the international community to, at the very least, protect our own home front from the deplorable practices that we battle elsewhere.

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