That reference case concluded in 2012 with the B.C. Supreme Court upholding the law on the basis that polygamy’s harms were sufficient to warrant a limit on religious freedom as well a freedom of association and expression.
Referring the law to the court was initially recommended a decade ago by the first special prosecutor, Richard Peck. He said a reference was preferable to a trial, which could be “a cumbersome and time-consuming process”.
Peck said “an authoritative statement from the courts” was needed because since the 1990s, the B.C. attorney general’s ministry had refused to press charges based on legal opinions suggesting that the law was invalid.
Peck disagreed and wrote that the harms of polygamy were extensive enough that they would likely be considered a reasonable limit on Charter-protected freedoms.
“Religious freedom in Canada is not absolute,” he said. “Rather it is subject to reasonable limits.”