As many of you blog readers well know, I have been criticized (I believe unfairly) because I have not taken up the cause of what appears to be a problem of “relationship overlap” and the division of marital property in Saskatchewan. Earlier I wrote that I could recall penning a letter to Premier Brad Wall; and, could not at the time recall receiving a response. That really pricked at my conscience, but family responsibilites and a needed rest over the holidays prevented me from digging into my files and searching my computer for answers.
Well, dear blog readers, and those who have been harmed by Section 51 under the Saskatchewan Family Property Act, here is the response I received in March 2009 to my February 7, 2009, letter to Premier Brad Wall on this matter:
March 10, 2009
Stop Polygamy in Canada
TWO HILLS AB T0B 4K0
Dear Ms. Mereska:
Thank you for your letter of February 7, 2009, to Premier Brad Wall, which has been forwarded to me for response. I understand you are concerned that Sharia Law allowing polygamy is written into the marriage statutes in Saskatchewan.
Polygamy is illegal in Canada under the Criminal Code. Further, Saskatchewan’s Marriage Act, 1995 reinforces the federal prohibition through the procedures under that Act in place to prevent a person from being legally married to more than one person at a time. Polygamy is prevented by requiring every person wanting to marry under the Act to obtain a marriage licence and declare their current marital status. A marriage licence will only be issued to persons who declare themselves to have one of the following marital statuses: 1) never married; 2) widowed; 3) divorced; or 4) their previous marriage was annulled. Persons who have had a previous marriage dissolved through divorce or annulment must provide a copy of their Certificate of Divorce or Decree of Nullity of Marriage.
In Saskatchewan it is possible to enter into a spousal relationship without that relationship being solemnized under The Marriage Act, 1995. The Family Property Act provides framework to deal with situations where spousal relationships overlap in time. This most commonly occurs when two people married under The Marriage Act, 1997 separate without going through the formal divorce procedures for a number of years. The separated spouses may enter into new common law spousal relationships prior to the finalization of the divorce of the previous marriage. The Family Property Act ensures that the assets from both relationships are divided fairly between the parties. However, the common law relationship cannot be solemnized under The Marriage Act, 1995 until a Certificate of Divorce is issued in relation to their previous marriage.
Thank you for providing me an opportunity to discuss this important issue with you.
Don Morgan, Q.C.
Minister of Justice
and Attorney General
cc: Honourable Brad Wall, Premier of Saskatchewan
The ban against the practice of polygamy is a Federal Statute in Canada, but it is up to each Province and Territory to legislate marriage laws pertaining to marriage; e.g. when Canada passed laws allowing gays and lesbians to marry, the Province of Alberta (where I live) used the “notwithstanding” clause and did not legislate marriage laws that include gays and lesbians.
In re-reading Honourable Don Morgan, Q.C., Justice Minister for the Province of Saskatchewan’s letter, I, too, find Section 51 troublesome. This means that property is divided fairly not only between the legally married spouses but the division is extended to include anyone that one of the spouses decided to live common-law with without having divorced his/her previous spouse.
Also, this being the case, Muslim Sharia Law does not have to be implemented in order for Muslim polygamy (or any other type of polygamy for that matter) to take place in Saskatchewan, because The Family Property Act Section 51 allows for the “fair” distribution of property whatever the word “fair” means here.
I am certainly not a lawyer, so if I am misinterpreting this law, please correct me. Nor do I know if other Provinces in Canada have such laws. Clearly, there is a problem here regarding “relationship overlap.”
But, my advice to those who have badgered me for months regarding this issue wanting me to take up their banner, is still the same–you live in Saskatchewan. If you have been harmed by Section 51 of The Family Property Act, please gather your resouces and support and work to change this law.
From the criticisms I have received, both men and women feel they have been harmed by this law. I certainly would not want to see my husband start living with another woman without a divorce; and, when it came time for the divorce, see part of my property rights that I achieved through my marriage be given to his common-law spouse. Nor would I start living with another man without divorcing my husband first.
Frankly, this is both a social and legal problem. Either as a society, we return to our basic Christian values of monogamy, or we’ll continue seeing our culture erode into a convoluted mess where social problems we never dreamed could happen will happen.
And, my biggest concern re Saskatchewan’s Section 51 is, what about the children who are involved in this mix? Someone has to draw a line in the sand somewhere–and those of you who have been harmed by Section 51 need to start drawing that line.
I hope someone points out this letter to Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.
Nancy Mereska, President
Stop Polygamy in Canada