When it comes to marriage, the times certainly are changing in Canada. For the first time in Canadian history, single people outnumber married people. Thoroughly Modern Marriage, a documentary by filmmaker Sue Ridout, takes a closer look at the institution of matrimony in our country. Metro recently had a chance to interview Ridout.
We know that single people in Canada outnumber married people right now. But we also know that there has been a 33 per cent increase in mixed-race couples in Canada in less than a decade. So how will Canada’s growing multiculturalism affect marriage numbers in the future?
Multiculturalism certainly does have an effect on the marriage rate, but not to such an extent that we’d see a pronounced spike in the numbers. The number of families headed up by married couples in Toronto and Vancouver, for example, tends to be slightly higher than the average number for the rest of the country, and Statistics Canada attributes that to the high rates of immigration to those two cities.
Immigrants are more likely to get married than native-born Canadians, but it is also true that as the number of common-law couples continues to rise, and the number of arranged marriages in immigrant groups continues to decline, the overall effect on the national marriage rate will not be huge.
Compared to other G8 countries, where do you think Canada ranks in terms of our marriage numbers?
It sounds very Canadian, but Canada tends to sit somewhere in the middle.
The U.S. marriage rate is usually about double that of Canada — Americans are much more conservative in their attitudes toward marriage versus cohabitation,but it should be added that while they get married more, they also get divorced more, too. Canada’s rates of marriage and cohabitation are always affected by the inclusion of Quebec, which overwhelmingly rejects marriage in favour of common-law unions.
Overall, Canada’s statistics on marriage, divorce and cohabitation tend to be somewhere between a more conservative U.S., and a less conservative Europe and the U.K.
Marriage is seen as a status symbol for many. As well, there is a multibillion dollar industry devoted to it. So, how would the world be different if marriage didn’t exist? Do you think we need marriage in society?
Marriage hasn’t always been a status symbol, but it certainly is today and I think that’s tied into our quest for personal fulfillment. We see it as the capstone, as a way of telling our friends and families that we have “made it” and can now celebrate our partnerships.
In the old days, young people were married off by their families in a union that was seen as a way of advancing economically and socially. For a woman, it was important to make a “good” marriage and marry a man whose family was better off than yours.
Now, because of longer post-secondary education and a tighter job market, people are waiting longer — five years on average, which statistically is significant — to get married, and their families have less and less to do with it. They start a career, they buy a condo or house, they even have children together — and then they say to one another, this seems to be working out and we’re settled now, so why not get married? It’s become a symbol of personal achievement.
The number of common-law unions may be climbing, but many of them still culminate in a marriage. Seventy five to 80 per cent of Canadians still get married at some point in their lives.