Just as families continuously evolve, so do the interpersonal relationships at the heart of family life. Every year, thousands of Canadians come together to form committed family relationships – some of whom decide to raise children together – and sometimes, a variety of reasons may compel them to end their relationship, which can result in diverse, unique and often difficult transitional experiences for the family.

Patterns of coupling or partnering and uncoupling or unpartnering have evolved throughout Canada’s history in response to social, economic, cultural and legal changes. This perpetual change is both a reflection of and a driving force behind some of the social, economic, cultural and environmental forces that shape family life.

Data released today by Statistics Canada from the General Social Survey as part of the Family Matters series explores marriage, common-law relationships, separation and divorce in 2017, providing a fresh look at long-term trends monitored and reported on by the Vanier Institute of the Family over the past several decades:

  • In 2017, 71% of the total population in Canada aged 25 to 64 were part of a couple (married or common law), down from 79% in 1981.1, 2
  • In 2017, 14% of Canadians aged 25 to 64 were separated or divorced, up from an estimated 8.2% in 1981.3, 4
    • The highest rate was found among women aged 50 to 54, more than 1 in 5 of whom (21%) were divorced or separated, up from 8.3% in 1981.
  • In 2017, 13% of Canadians aged 25 to 64 had never been married, up from 10% in 1981.5, 6
  • In 2017, Quebec remained the province with the highest share of 25- to 64-year-olds in common-law unions at 31%, nearly triple the rate of the other provinces (11%).7
    • Over the past two decades, the share of 25- to 64-year-olds living in common-law relationships has increased more significantly in Quebec (14% in 1991) than the rest of the country (8.2% in 1991).8

To book an interview with Vanier Institute CEO Nora Spinks, please contact executive-assistant@vanierinstitute.ca.

Learn more about coupling and uncoupling in Canada:

Published on May 2, 2019


1 Statistics Canada, “Family Matters: Being Married or Common-law in Canada,” Infographics, Statistics Canada catalogue no. 11-627-M (May 1, 2019). Link: https://bit.ly/2XWg0pd.
2 Anne Milan, “Marital Status: Overview, 2011” (Figure 4), Report on the Demographic Situation in Canada, Statistics Canada catalogue no. 91-209-X (July 2013). Link: https://bit.ly/2KXSjdj.
3 Statistics Canada, “Family Matters: Being Common-law, Married, Separated or Divorced in Canada,” The Daily (May 1, 2019). Link: https://bit.ly/2GVFnSs.
4 Statistics Canada, Estimates of Population as of July 1st, by Marital Status or Legal Marital Status, Age and Sex (Table 17-10-0060-01), page last updated May 1, 2019. Link: https://bit.ly/2NbDiC1.
5 Statistics Canada, “Family Matters: Being Common-law, Married, Separated or Divorced in Canada.”
6 Milan.
7 Statistics Canada, “Family Matters: Being Married or Common-law in Canada.”
8 Statistics Canada, Estimates of Population as of July 1st, by Marital Status or Legal Marital Status, Age and Sex.