Marriage in Canada

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The Government of Canada has exclusive authority governing marriage and divorce in Canada under section 91(26) of the Constitution Act, 1867. However section 92(12) of the Act gives the provinces the power to pass laws regulating the solemnization of marriage.

In 2001 there were 146,618 marriages in Canada, down 6.8% from 157,395 in 2000.[1] Prince Edward Island had the highest crude marriage rate (6.5 per 1,000 people) and Quebec had the lowest (3.0).

Marriages in Canada can be either civil or religious. Marriages may be performed by members of the clergy, marriage commissioners, judges, justices of the peace or clerks of the court. In 2001, the majority of Canadian marriages (76.4%) were religious, with the remainder (23.6%) being performed by non-clergy.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada nationally since 2005. Court decisions, starting in 2003, had already legalized same-sex marriage in eight out of ten provinces and one of three territories.

Marriage restrictions[edit]

The federal Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act [2] prevents the following persons from getting married:

2. (1) Subject to subsection (2), persons related by consanguinity, affinity or adoption are not prohibited from marrying each other by reason only of their relationship.
(2) No person shall marry another person if they are related lineally, or as brother or sister or half-brother or half-sister, including by adoption.

The provinces set additional rules governing who can get married.

Provinces[edit]

  • In Alberta, anyone 18 or over can get married. A person between the ages of 16 and 17 can get married with the consent of both parents. No one under 16 can get married; this does not apply to a female if a physician's certificate shows she is pregnant or the mother of a living child. There is no requirement for residency.[3]
  • In British Columbia, anyone 19 or over can get married. A person between the ages of 16 and 18 can get married with the consent of both parents. Under the age of 16, a person needs the consent of the Supreme or County Court. There is no requirement for residency.[4]
  • In Manitoba both parties must be 18 or over to get married. A person who is 16 or 17 can get married with the consent of both parents. Written consent of a Family Court Judge is required for persons under age 16.[5]
  • In New Brunswick, anyone 18 or over can get married. A never-married person aged 16 or 17 may marry with parental consent.[6]
  • In Newfoundland and Labrador both parties must be 19 or over to get married. A never-married person between the ages of 16 and 18 can get married with the consent of both parents.[7]
  • In Nova Scotia both parties must be 19 or over to get married. A never-married person between the ages of 16 and 18 can get married with the consent of both parents. No one under the age of 16 years can be married without the consent of the Court.[8]
  • In Ontario, both parties must be 18 or over to obtain a marriage licence. A person who is 16 or 17 can get married with the consent of both parents.[9] In order to get married, the parties need to obtain a marriage licence or to arrange for the banns to be published. There is no requirement for residency.
  • In Prince Edward Island anyone 18 or over can get married. A person aged 16 or 17 can get married with parental or court consent. A female under 16 can get married if a physician's certificate shows she is pregnant or the mother of a living child. [10]
  • In Quebec, the legal age for marriage is 16, but unemancipated minors (ages 16 or 17) require parental permission to marry.[11] Marriage is governed by the Civil Code of Quebec.
  • In Saskatchewan both parties must be 18 or over to get married. A person aged 16 or 17 can get married with parental or court consent. A person under the age of 16 needs the consent of a Provincial Court judge to marry. [12]

Territories[edit]

  • In Yukon anyone 19 or over can get married. A person aged 16 to 18 can marry with parental or a Supreme Court Order. [13]


  • Age restrictions are the same for opposite-sex and same-sex marriages.

Divorce[edit]

Termination of marriage in Canada is covered by the federal Divorce Act (RSC 1985 c. 3 (2nd Supp.)).[14]

A divorce may be granted for one of the following reasons:

  • the marriage has irretrievably broken down, and the two parties have been living apart for a year (s.8(2)(a) of the Act)
  • one party has committed adultery (s.8(2)(b)(i) of the Act)
  • one party has treated the other party "with physical or mental cruelty of such a kind as to render intolerable the continued cohabitation of the spouses" (s.8(2)(b)(ii) of the Act)

Key headings of the Divorce Act:

  • Interpretation[15]
  • Jurisdiction[16]
  • Divorce[17]
  • Child support orders[18]
  • Spousal support orders[19]
  • Priority[20]
  • Custody orders[21]
  • Variation, rescission or suspension of orders[22]
  • Provisional orders[23]
  • Appeals[24]
  • General[25]

Rates by year[edit]

Divorce Rate (per 100,000 residents per year) in Canada, by year[26]
Year Rate
1950 39.3
1951 37.6
1952 123.1
1953 41.5
1954 38.7
1955 38.6
1956 37.3
1957 40.3
1958 36.8
1959 37.4
1960 39.1
1961 36.0
1962 36.4
1963 40.6
1964 44.7
1965 45.7
1966 51.2
1967 54.8
1968 54.8
1969 124.2
1970 139.8
1971 135.2
1972 145.8
1973 163.2
1974 197.4
1975 218.7
1976 231.2
1977 233.4
1978 238.5
1979 245.7
1980 253.0
1981 272.6
1982 280.4
1983 270.3
1984 254.5
1985 239.8
1986 300.0
1987 363.8
1988 311.7
1989 296.9
1990 283.4
1991 274.7
1992 278.6
1993 272.7
1994 272.0
1995 264.9
1996 241.6
1997 225.4
1998 229.1
1999 233.2
2000 231.8
2001 229.2
2002 223.8
2003 223.9
2004 218.0
2005 221.0
2006 229.3
2007 222.2
2008 210.8

Polygamy[edit]

In Canada, polygamy is a criminal offence[27] but prosecutions are rare. As of January 2009, no person has been prosecuted for polygamy in Canada in over sixty years.[28] In 2007, an independent prosecutor in British Columbia recommended that Canadian courts be asked to rule on the constitutionality of laws against polygamy.[29] The Supreme Court of British Columbia upheld Canada's polygamy laws in a 2011 reference case.[30][31]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Marriages". The Daily. Statistics Canada. November 20, 2003. 
  2. ^ Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act, S.C. 1990, c. 46.
  3. ^ "Marriage Act, RSA 2000, c M-5". Canadian Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 2012-02-22. 
  4. ^ "How to Get Married in British Columbia". British Columbia: Vital Statistics Agency. 
  5. ^ "Guide for Getting Married in Manitoba" (PDF). Manitoba Vital Statistics Agency. March 2010. 
  6. ^ "Getting Married" (PDF). Service New Brunswick. Retrieved 2010-11-12. 
  7. ^ "Statutes of Newfoundland and Labrador 2009: CHAPTER M-1.02 AN ACT RESPECTING MARRIAGE IN THE PROVINCE". Office of the Queen’s Printer. 
  8. ^ "Solemnization of Marriage Act: CHAPTER 436 OF THE REVISED STATUTES" (PDF). the Speaker of the House of Assembly. 10 May 2013. 
  9. ^ "Marriages". Ministry of Government Services (Ontario). Archived from the original on 2006-12-12. 
  10. ^ "CHAPTER M-3: Marriage Act" (PDF). Legislative Counsel Office. Retrieved 21 October 2014. 
  11. ^ "Marriage". Ministry of Justice (Quebec). 
  12. ^ "Marriage Unit: Frequently Asked Questions". Family Justice Services Branch. Retrieved 22 October 2014. 
  13. ^ "How to get married in Yukon". Yukon Health and Social Services. Retrieved 6 December 2014. 
  14. ^ "Divorce Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. 3 (2nd Supp.))". Justice Laws Website. Department of Justice (Canada). 2007. 
  15. ^ Interpretation. Canadian Legal Information Institute.
  16. ^ Jurisdiction. Canadian Legal Information Institute.
  17. ^ Divorce. Canadian Legal Information Institute.
  18. ^ Child support orders. Canadian Legal Information Institute.
  19. ^ Spousal support orders. Canadian Legal Information Institute.
  20. ^ Priority. Canadian Legal Information Institute.
  21. ^ Custody orders. Canadian Legal Information Institute.
  22. ^ Variation, rescission or suspension of orders. Canadian Legal Information Institute.
  23. ^ Provisional orders. Canadian Legal Information Institute.
  24. ^ Appeals. Canadian Legal Information Institute.
  25. ^ General. Canadian Legal Information Institute.
  26. ^ "Divorce and suicide rates, per 100,000, Canada, 1950 to 2008". Statistics Canada. 
  27. ^ "Section 293", Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c C-46, Statutes and Regulations of Canada (Federal), Canadian Legal Information Institute, retrieved 2011-12-05 
  28. ^ Lak, Daniel (January 21, 2009). "Canada's polygamy legislation". CBC News. Retrieved 2011-12-05. 
  29. ^ Dowd, Allan (August 1, 2007). "Canada urged to review legality of polygamy ban". Reuters. Retrieved 2011-12-05. 
  30. ^ "Canada's polygamy laws upheld by B.C. Supreme Court". CBC News. November 23, 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-05. 
  31. ^ "Reference re: Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada", 2011 BCSC 1588, Canadian Legal Information Institute