Divorce Rate in Canada

Jodee Redmond
Canada's divorce rates were low until well into in the last century.

The divorce rate in Canada remained low well into the last century. There were two main reasons for this phenomena:

  • Divorce was considered unacceptable for both social and religious reasons.
  • Divorce was not available as a legal option in all parts of Canada.

The Divorce Act

In 1900, less than 15 divorces were granted in all of Canada. Prior to 1968, the only legal ground for divorce was adultery. In 1968, the Divorce Act came into effect. Under this legislation, a divorce could be granted on the grounds of marriage breakdown. (The couple had to have been separated for a period of at least three years.) As a result, the number of divorces granted between 1968-1970 jumped by almost 200%.

Amendment to the Divorce Act

In 1986, the Divorce Act was amended to shorten the length of time a separated couple had to wait to be divorced. Instead of a three-year separation, couples could be divorced after only 12 months. As a result, the divorce rate in Canada took another jump. In 1987, more than 90,000 divorces were granted.

Divorce Rates in Canada

Divorce by Province or Territory 1999 2000 20001 2002 2003
Canada 70,910 71,144 71,110 70,155 70,828
Newfoundland and Labrador 892 913 755 842 662
Prince Edward Island 291 272 246 258 281
Nova Scotia 1,954 2,054 1,945 1,990 1,907
New Brunswick 1,671 1,717 1,570 1,461 1,450
Quebec 17,144 17,054 17,094 16,499 16,738
Ontario 26,088 26,148 26,516 26,170 27,513
Manitoba 2,572 2,430 2,480 2,396 2,352
Saskatchewan 2,237 2,194 1,955 1,959 1,992
Alberta 7,931 8,176 8,252 8,291 7,960
British Columbia 9,935 10,017 10,115 10,125 9,820
Yukon Territory 112 68 91 90 87
Northwest Territories incl. Nunavut 83 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Northwest Territories N/A 94 83 68 62
Nunavut N/A 7 8 6 4

Repeat Divorces

According to Statistics Canada, in 1973, 5.4% of divorces involved men who had already been divorced at least once. By 2003, this number had jumped to 16.2%. The same trend holds true for women; 5.4% of women who divorced in 1973 had previously had a marriage end in divorce. Thirty years later, the number stood at 15.7%.

Divorce Rate by 30th Anniversary

Based on statistics from 2003, the percentage of marriages predicted to end in divorce by the 30th anniversary is 38.3%. Canadian divorce rates rise during the first three years after the wedding. After that point, however, the likelihood of divorce decreases the longer the couple has been married.

Divorce Rate in Canada