The B.C. judge who recently declared that a woman in a polyamorous family relationship be named as a legal parent, alongside the child’s birth parents, said the ruling will bridge “a gap in the legislation,” but some say definitions of parent should be settled by elected officials, not judges.
Conservative MP Arnold Viersen says he would rather have Parliament re-examine questions of marriage and parental rights than leave it to the courts.
“I think that these are political discussions that we should have. Our laws are fairly clear on most of that. I don’t think that the court should be redefining. Those are political discussions and political decisions,” Viersen told The Epoch Times.
The issue has taken on new relevance in recent months. On April 23, Justice Sandra Wilkinson of the B.C. Supreme Court added a second mother to a child’s birth certificate, which previously included only the biological parents. The petitioners have lived together in a “triad” since 2017 and the child was born in the fall of 2018.
“I find that there is a gap in the [Family Law Act] with regard to children conceived through sexual intercourse who have more than two parents,” Wilkinson wrote. “Put bluntly, the legislature did not contemplate polyamorous families.”
Provincial courts have repeatedly weighed in on parental issues over the past 15 years.
In 2007, the Ontario Court of Appeal granted an application by the partner of a child’s biological mother to have her name listed as the child’s parent along with the names of the biological father and mother.
In another case, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled in 2019 that the sperm donor to two women who are in a couple relationship could have his name listed as a parent on the birth certificates of the two children who were born as a result, one to each of the two women.
In 2018, two partners in a three-way polyamorous relationship with a woman in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, won their application to identify all three on their child’s birth certificate. It was not known which man was the biological father.
Gwendolyn Landolt, national vice-president and legal counsel for Real Women of Canada, believes judges are running away with public policy.
“You would have great difficulty getting [poly]amory legislation at this point through the legislature, but the judges are doing it starting the trend right now. And the public has no space. The public is cut out of all conversation,” Landolt said in an interview
B.C.’s attorney general objected to the addition of a third legal parent, saying the precedent would open the floodgates for parentage declarations in the future. He preferred guardianship to be granted.
But Wilkinson wrote in her decision that “I do not think this concern is warranted.” She said it was up to the legislature to “clarify when (and if) a child may have more than two legal parents if they are conceived through sexual intercourse.”
“A declaration of parentage is a lifelong immutable declaration of status, and the rights and responsibilities that come along with that status.”
Landolt believes polyamory relations could be unstable and the transient nature would be damaging to children.
“A couple or two or three or four people living in the [poly]amory situation—they’re very flexible, they come and they go,” she said. “And we don’t have the protection for children who are simply caught up in what can only be called a very feeble and unstructured relationship, which is going to damage them.”