Non-religious shortchanged by Canada's marriage laws
By: Humanist Canada
OTTAWA, Ontario - June 12, 2016 - PRLog -- Betrothed couples in nine of ten Canadian provinces do not have the option of a secular humanist wedding penalizing the non-religious, according to a study entitled: Humanist weddings in Canada: An examination of secular marriage as a post-feminist phenomenon. In releasing the study, Humanist President Eric Thomas explained, "This research demonstrates that the non-religious have a need for ceremony and the civil options available to them in most provinces are inadequate."
The report's author, psychologist and Humanist Canada board member Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson, analyzed census data, conducted telephone interviews, facilitated focus groups and administered an on-line survey. He noted that the institution of marriage, once thought to be oppressive of women, has endured despite legal changes aiding its dissolution and increased legal status given common law unions. "Despite an increasingly secular population, people are as likely to have been legally married at least once by the time they are 65 as they were in 1980." He observed, "While in law civil and religious weddings are equivalent, in reality marriage commissioners, judges and mayors are not normally trained in ceremony. This is unfortunate because people use ceremony to mark major transitions in their lives and the non-religious need ceremonies individualized to their values, norms and worldviews."
Robertson, who is also a marriage commissioner and a humanist officiant, said non-religious couples typically meet their need for ceremony through ad hoc strategies based on local resources. Some couples are forced to choose religious clergy or marriage commissioners who are not amenable to individualized ceremony. He elaborated, "In addition to being secular, humanist ceremonies differ from their religious counterparts by representing the diversity of human experience and understanding. Every couple is unique in some ways." Although participants in this research agreed with giving expression to this diversity, the majority said such individualization should reflect humanist values such as mutual respect, equality, secularism and freedom of conscience.
The report recommended that Humanist Canada begin a national program advertising the benefits of humanist ceremonies. It recommended that the national organization act as an "informational warehouse" providing local humanist groups with information and strategies drawn from the experience of peers in different parts of the country. It recommended that Humanist Canada establish a directory of marriage commissioners who are willing to provide humanist weddings, and offer workshops and webinars to those who wish to participate. It also recommended that Humanist Canada in cooperation with local affiliates, apply for the right to solemnize marriage in jurisdictions outside of Ontario.
For further information, contact:
Eric Thomas: (613) 242-5060
Lloyd Robertson: (306) 425-9872
Eric Thomas, president
Lloyd Robertson, researcher/director