July 12th, 2024

Hatters keen on saying ‘I do’

By Collin Gallant on August 3, 2017.


Medicine Hat has a higher percentage of couples that are legally married compared to the province as a whole or the nation, according to new census data.

But, hold on romance fans, there is also a higher percentage of people who described themselves as divorced or separated.

Add in a higher than average rate of widowed individuals, and the data seems to suggest that if you’re in Southeast Alberta, there’s a good chance that you’ve said “I do.”

“I think that makes sense,” said Wendy Klassen, a marriage commissioner for about 10 years in Medicine Hat.

She estimates that she’s been the officiant at more than 1,000 weddings, which she said all had various circumstances — from young couples in love, to family blendings, to retirement home residents seeking companionship.

“We’re a city, but we still have very strong rural ties. I think that for the most part, people have respect for the institution.”

Wednesday’s release of the 2016 census data on living situations and language states that 45.6 per cent of all Canadians over the age of 15 are legally bound in matrimony.

The same figure for Alberta is 49.9 per cent, just shy of the Medicine Hat’s mark of 50.9 per cent.

Of the 62,515 adults living in the Medicine Hat census agglomeration area, nearly 31,900 described themselves as married. Another 6,220 were in a common-law relationships as part of a couple.

That living situation accounts for about 10 per cent of the local adult population, about the same as the rest of the province. It is, however, lower than the national rate of 12 per cent.

On the other end of the spectrum, 1,600 other respondents were “separated” and 4,665 were “divorced.”

Combined, they account for 10 per cent of the population — about 1.75 per cent higher than rates throughout Alberta or Canada.

Local divorce attorney Emma Alves, of Stringham LLP, says the people she also deals with present a variety of reasons for wishing to end their marriage.

“We see everything from very young couples, to those with one or two kids to retirees,” said Alves.

She felt it was difficult to make generalizations about why couples go their separate ways, but she will say Medicine Hat has a very busy and efficient family dispute resolution system.

“Monetary issues certainly have an impact,” she said. “A year or 18 months after the oilpatch crash we did see an uptick… Research does show that financial difficulties usually give rise to divorces.”

About one quarter of Hatters, about 14,500, described themselves as being single having never married.

Locally, 5.9 per cent of the population is widowed, again higher than provincial (4.2) or national (5.5) averages.

The average size of a family in Medicine Hat is 2.8 people. The national average was 2.9.

Among other highlights of the census data:

— Couples with children made up 26.5 per cent of all households, down from 31.5 per cent in 2001.

— Three in 10 children in Canada were living in non-traditional family arrangements, such as in a lone-parent family, a stepfamily, with grandparents or other relatives, or as foster children.

— Multigenerational households — at least three generations of the same family — was the fastest-growing household type in 2016, growing by 37.5 per cent accounting for 2.2 million Canadians in 2016.

There were 72,880 same-sex couples in Canada in 2016, a 60.7 per cent increase over 2006. One-third of them were married, and about 12 per cent — most of them women — were living with children.

— While married couples still dominate, 21.3 per cent of all couples were living common-law in 2016, compared with 6.3 per cent in 1981.

— There were 72,880 same-sex couples in Canada in 2016, a 60.7 per cent increase over 2006. One-third of them were married.

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