Marriage in Canada

Marriage in Canada

The Government of Canada has exclusive authority governing marriage and divorce in Canada under section 91(26) of the Constitution of Canada.[1] However section 92(12) of the Constitution 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.[2] 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.


Marriage restrictions

The federal Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act (S.C. 1990, c. 46) [3] 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
(a) lineally by consanguinity or adoption;
(b) as brother and sister by consanguinity, whether by the whole blood or by the half-blood; or
(c) as brother and sister by adoption.

The provinces set additional rules governing who can get married.

  • In Alberta, anyone 18 or over can get married. A person between the ages of 16 and 18 can get married with the consent of both their parents. Anyone under 16 cannot 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.[4]
  • 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 their parents. Under the age of 16, a person needs the consent of the Supreme or County Court. There is no requirement for residency.[5]
  • In Ontario, Both parties MUST be 18 years of age or over to obtain a Licence. A person who is 16 or 17 can get married with the consent of both their parents.[6] In order to get married, they will need either a marriage licence or for the banns to be published. There is no requirement for residency.
  • In Québec, the legal age for marriage is 16, but people under 18 may marry with consent from their parents or their tutor.[7] Marriage is governed by the Civil Code of Québec.
  • In New Brunswick, anyone 18 or over can get married. A never-married person aged 16 or 17 may marry with parental consent.[8]

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada since 2005. Age restrictions are the same as for marriage between a heterosexual couple.


Termination of marriage in Canada is covered by the federal Divorce Act (RSC 1985 c. 3 (2nd Supp.)).[9]

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)

See also


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