Selected Statistics on Canadian Families and Family Law:
Second Edition



The marriage rate for Canada in 1997 was 526 marriages per 100,000 people (see Table 3). Marriage rates for most provinces did not vary greatly from the national rate. However, the Northwest Territories (311) and Quebec (322) showed the lowest rates for that year. In contrast, Prince Edward Island (699) and the Yukon (759) had the highest marriage rates in 1997.

Table 3: Number and Rate of Marriages and Divorces,
Canada and Provinces/Territories, 1997
  Marriages Divorces
Number Rate
per 100,000
Number Rate
per 100,000
Canada 159,350 526 67,408 223
Newfoundland 3,235 574 822 146
Prince Edward Island 960 699 243 177
Nova Scotia 5,525 583 1,983 209
New Brunswick 4,340 570 1,373 180
Quebec 3,875 322 17,478 236
Ontario 67,540 592 23,629 207
Manitoba 6,620 578 2,625 229
Saskatchewan 5,700 557 2,198 215
Alberta 17,860 627 7,185 252
British Columbia 23,245 591 9,692 246
The Yukon 240 759 101 319
Northwest Territories 210 311 79 117

Source: Statistics Canada.Marriages 1997, and Divorces 1996-1997.

The marriage rate in Canada was similar to the rate observed in the United Kingdom (523 per 100,000) and Australia (570 per 100,000).The marriage rate in the United States was 1.5 times higher than in Canada in 1997 (890 per 100,000).


In 1997, the overall divorce rate for Canada declined for the fifth consecutive year.There were 223 divorces per 100,000 people, or 67,408 divorces granted in 1997 (see Table 3).The lowest divorce rates were in the Northwest Territories (117) and Newfoundland (146), while the highest rates were in the Yukon (319) and Alberta (252).The rate was generally lower in the Atlantic provinces (Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) and higher in three of the four most populous provinces of the country (Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia).

Canada's divorce rate was lower than in most industrialized nations. For example, the United Kingdom and Australia have a slightly higher divorce rate than in Canada (273 and 280 per 100,000 respectively) and the American divorce rate was almost double the Canadian rate (430 divorces per 100,000) in 1997.

Trends in Marriage and Divorce

Figure 7 illustrates the trends in marriage and divorce in Canada over the last 30 years. Marriage rates reached their peak in the early 1970s (920 marriages per 100,000 people in 1972) and have slowly declined since. There was, however, a slight increase in the rate between 1986 and 1989, which may represent the backlog of people who were able to marry again after their divorce was finalized following the 1985 amendments to the Divorce Act.Since the early 1990s, marriage rates have been decreasing.

Figure 7: Marriage and Divorce Rates in Canada, 1967-1997

Between 1982 and 1985, the divorce rate declined, most likely in anticipation of the 1985 amendments to the Divorce Act. With the amendments, it became easier to obtain a divorce. The necessity to prove fault was reduced, and marriage breakdown (separation for at least one year) became the most frequently cited ground for divorce. In the two years following the implementation of the amendments, the divorce rate rose significantly; it reached its peak in 1987 at 362 divorces per 100,000 people. Since then, the divorce rate in Canada has fallen and in 1997 it was 223 divorces per 100,000 people.

Duration of Marriage and Age at Time of Divorce

In 1997, the median duration of marriages in Canada was 11 years at the time of divorce, compared to 10 years in 1995. There were variations at the provincial level. For example, the median duration of marriage reached a high of 13 years in both Newfoundland and Quebec and a low of 8 years in the Northwest Territories.

Figure 8 shows that age at the time of divorce has been rising for both men and women since 1993, and that women are generally younger when they divorce than men. The median age at the time of divorce varied by province. It was slightly higher than the national median age in Quebec and the Yukon, and lower in the Northwest Territories.

Figure 8: Median Age at Time of Divorce, 1993-1997