Mixed marriage in Canada: Forces for and against

I wouldn’t marry someone connected to another country ever again and that is what I’m telling my children. My marriage to my Iranian husband destroyed our lives and we will never fully recover until my children are older … if we’re lucky. Click here to read the full article or an excerpt below.


Statistics Canada has discovered in recent years that about four per cent of all Canadian couples, or 290,000 people, are in mixed unions. That percentage grew by one-third between 2001 and 2006.

They are most popular among the young. Canadian supporters of inter-ethnic relationships can feel boosted by knowing the rate of mixed unions is almost double the national average among adults under age 35.

or instance, StatsCan reports 40 per cent of visible minority members in the small cities of Trois-Rivières and Moncton are in mixed unions. But in Toronto only 11 per cent of visible minorities are doing so. In Vancouver the proportion is 12.2 per cent.

While 75 per cent of couples with at least one Japanese person included partnerships outside their visible minority, only 17 per cent of couples involving an ethnic Chinese person were mixed unions. That figure drops to 13 per cent for South Asians.

There is no doubt more Canadians are having wedding rituals that blend traditions, clergy and officials from multiple spiritual world views.

Even though StatsCan’s data on inter-faith marriages is old, it shows 19 per cent of couples were in interfaith relationships in 2001. More recently, the Pew Research Center found in 2010 that 42 per cent of all U.S. marriages are interfaith.

In addition, many of the almost one million Muslim immigrants to Canada come from regions where women are forbidden to marry non-Muslims. Imams don’t want wives, and especially their children, lured outside Islam.

Disturbingly, in countries such as Pakistan, Egypt and Iraq (which are major sources of immigrants to Canada), the Pew Research Center found more than half fail to condemn “honour killings.” And two out of three Muslims who say Shariah should be the law of the land “favour the death penalty” for those who convert to another religion.

However, it’s not only ultraconservative religious people who are wary of mixed unions. Some North American liberals are also starting to question them.

The author of 'Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage Is Transforming America (Oxford University Press) shatters rose-coloured views of interfaith marriage. But she's in one herself.
The author of ‘Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage Is Transforming America (Oxford University Press) shatters rose-coloured views of interfaith marriage. But she’s in one herself.

Naomi Schaefer Riley’s new book, ‘Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage Is Transforming America (Oxford University Press), shatters rose-coloured views of interfaith marriage.

She unveils how hard such unions can be.

Despite being in a challenging but fruitful interfaith marriage herself, Riley has performed extensive studies on the rise of what she describes as this “bittersweet trend.”

While the public face of interfaith marriage is often one of harmony, Riley has assembled evidence showing some harsh hidden realities, particularly regarding children.

“My survey suggests,” Riley writes, “that interfaith marriages are generally more unhappy – with lower rates of marital satisfaction – and often more unstable.”

Partners in interfaith relationships often don’t realize until years into their marriage, after having children, how important their original religion is to them.

“Faith is a tricky thing,” Riley writes. “It sneaks up on people.”

Riley warns people against believing love always triumphs and that any objections to marriage based on religion are misguided.

Tolerance, she astutely says, cannot solve every relationship problem.

Indeed, both Riley and the Pew Research Center have found that divorce rates are generally higher among interfaith couples.

Still, Riley maintains interfaith marriages can be successful, as long as partners are willing to put in extra relationship work.

Despite the evidence for and against, many open-minded people continue to dream mixed unions will become the blessed norm in North America and beyond.

But reality suggests this vision remains an optimistic projection. It’s far from inevitable.



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