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People in polyamorous relationships encouraged to 'stand up and be counted' during census

Last Updated Apr 23, 2021 at 12:13 am PDT

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Group representing polyamorous Canadians says they feel left out of the questionnaire

The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association believes up to one fifth of Canadians are in non-traditional relationships

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Canadians will be invited to fill out census forms next month, but one group finds the questions especially awkward.

That’s why the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association is encouraging people in their community to improvise.

“We need this to be able to advocate for people in the polyamorous community, for services and housing and we need to stand up and be counted,” says Zoe Duff, a Vancouver Island woman who has lived with two partners for the last 15 years.

The census is conducted every five years to give governments and other institutions a better idea of the composition of the country. At bare minimum, the numbers reveal population data, but thanks to the long forms, religious affiliation, ethnic make-up and household configurations of Canadians are also unveiled.

Both the short and long forms ask Canadians to describe the people who live in the same household, and their relationships to one another.

The association wants people in polyamorous relationships to say so, where it indicates “other relationship” – by writing in the word ‘polyamorous.’

She knows people will be nervous about being completely honest in the questionnaire, but she stresses privacy is protected. She says the simple step will finally get the community some recognition, legally and culturally.

“All kinds of things are set up for monogamous relationships. When you have more than one partner, you have no idea how much that gets in the way.”

For example, she has had problems picking up a prescription for her partner, because she isn’t his wife.

“In terms of inheritance and pensions, all kinds of things are set up so that only one spouse can be named,” she notes.

She says with better data, the government can think about changes – like allowing multiple parents be listed on birth certificates, and for polyamorous partners to be legally recognized as family.

She believes up to a fifth of Canadians are in some sort of polyamorous situation.

“People will use different names when referring to themselves. They will use ‘ ethical non-monogamy,’ ‘consensual non-monogamy,’ ‘radical relationship,’ ‘ relationship anarchy’ when they describe what they practice. But for the census, they should all use the word polyamorous, so that the statistics pick up on it and the category carries more weight.”

She says the short-term goal is to get the word ‘polyamorous’ on a future census form, and the long-term goal is more recognition.

“In order to advocate our need for inclusion, we need to demonstrate our numbers. Our hope is that in areas with a high concentration of polyamorous individuals and families (such as Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal), the responses we suggest below will be statistically significant enough to warrant polyamory-inclusivity by Statistics Canada studies in the future.”

Census day is May 11.