Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
July 2007

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Divorce in Canada

[to 1948]

Divorce. Under the British North America Act, the subject of marriage and divorce was assigned to the federal parliament; and the law, as laid down by parliament, is that divorce in Canada maybe granted only on the ground of adultery. From the beginning, however, the courts of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and British Columbia have continued to exercise the right, enjoyed by them before Confederation, of trying divorce suits; and only in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta have divorces been granted by legislation of the Dominion parliament. In 1918, by a decision of the judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the right of granting divorces in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta was transferred to the courts; and in 1930 an Act was passed conferring the same right on the courts of Ontario. Quebec is, therefore, now the only province where divorce may be obtained only by legislation of the Dominion parliament. Divorces from this province are dealt with by a special committee of the Senate, on the recommendation of which private bills are passed by the two Houses, generally as a matter of form.

For many years the number of divorces granted in Canada was small. The year 1903 was the first in which the total number exceeded 20. The years following the Great War and the granting of jurisdiction over divorce to the courts of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta saw a sharp rise in the number of divorces, which reached a total of 887 in 1932, a figure greater than the total number of divorces granted in the 48 years from 1868 to 1915.

See R. V. Sinclair, The rules and practice before the parliament of Canada upon bills of divorce (Toronto, 1915);

T. G. Mathers, A summary of the law of divorce (Winnipeg, 1920), and R. R. Evans, The law and practice relating to divorce (Calgary, 1923).


Source: W. Stewart WALLACE, The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. II, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 411p., p. 217.

© 2007 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College