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ISBN: 9781552212974

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Cruel Arithmetic

Inside the Case Against Polygamy

For thirty years, lawyers, pundits, professors, and politicians had said that section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada—the criminal prohibition of polygamy—was unconstitutional, a Victorian anachronism that, in a modern rights-based democracy, deserved to be swept aside in the name of individual liberty and religious freedom. Polygamy per se, it was argued, was harmless.

Beginning in 2009 in Vancouver, a small team of lawyers from the federal and provincial governments, along with a handful of allied public-interest groups, set out to prove the experts wrong and to show that there were devastating harms that inevitably flowed from polygamy’s “cruel arithmetic”: harms to women and children, to society at large, and even to the very foundation of democracy itself. The case against polygamy would proceed for almost two years, and was laid out through forty-four days of trial and more than 100 witnesses. The evidence ranged from the testimony of pre-eminent academics to stark and disturbing confessions of polygamists testifying under the shield of anonymity. The eventual 357-page decision of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, based on (in his words) “the most comprehensive judicial record on the subject ever produced,” defied all expectations and set the world of constitutional law back on its heels.

This is a remarkable insider’s story of a unique piece of litigation: the first trial-court “constitutional reference” in Canadian history. Craig Jones, lead counsel for the Attorney General of British Columbia, describes the argument he and his colleagues developed against polygamy, drawing from fields as diverse as anthropology, history, economics, and evolutionary psychology. Yet it was ultimately the testimony of real people that showed how the theoretical harms of polygamy’s “cruel arithmetic” played out upon its victims.

A Cruel Arithmetic describes how the author’s own views evolved from scepticism to a committed belief in the campaign against polygamy. This book is also an invitation to Canadians across political, philosophical, and religious spectrums to exercise their curiousity, approach the issue with an open mind, and follow along as the evidence converges to its powerful and surprising conclusion.


Craig Jones

Craig Jones, QC, BGS, LLB, LLM, holds law degrees from UBC and Harvard Law School. For six years he was the lead constitutional litigator for the Attorney General of British Columbia, where he argued a series of significant cases including the Safe Injection Site appeal, the Polygamy Reference, and challenges to the Braidwood Taser Inquiry. He is now a professor of law at Thompson Rivers University. He is the author of four books and dozens of articles on legal subjects.

Chapter Title Abstract Contributors Pages Year Price


Introduces the Polygamy Reference case, and is written by Andrew Coyne. 8 $0.80


Introduces the Polygamy Reference case in further detail, specifically focusing on the role of women and children’s rights in the case. The sources used throughout the book are also discussed. 5 $0.50


Discusses the beginnings of the Polygamy Reference case, including a description of the groups and organizations invovled. Some historical background is given, and the relevant laws are explored … 43 $4.30


This chapter generally considers polygamy and human nature. Specifically, arguments for and against polygamy are discussed, as well as the role of women in such arrangements. 19 $1.90


Discusses The Bountiful group’s history, and the relationship between The Bountiful group and the Canadian Charter on Rights and Freedoms is given considerable focus. The efforts of British … 21 $2.10


Discusses the different stages of building the case against Blackmore and Bountiful. Specifically, this chapter touches upon the arguments against polygamy, the problem of proving whether … 45 $4.50


Discusses the trial of the Polygamy Reference case, focusing in particular on the different stages of the trial and the different individuals involved with the trial, such as survivors and expert … 113 $11.30


Discusses the case built against polygamy in the trial, particularly focusing on the legal arguments. Both the Bountiful case and other polygamy cases, such as that of Warren Jeffs, are touched upon. 65 $6.50


This chapter focuses on the decision in the Polygamy Reference case. Chief Justice Bauman’s reasons for the judgement are discussed in detail. 20 $2.00


Discusses more generally the concepts of liberalism and the aftermath of the case, and touches upon similar cases. 11 $1.10


Footnotes and annotations concerning the Polygamy Reference case. 21 $2.10