There are several cases scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2012 that are noteworthy for their potential impact on the lives of Canadian individuals and families. One case that will be heard on January 18, 2012 is A.G. Quebec v. A., which is a s. 15 Charter equality rights argument on the Quebec Civil Code’s exclusion of “de facto” spouses (common law spouses in Ontario) from the matrimonial property division and spousal support provisions that benefit Quebec couples that are either married or in civil unions. The appeal has the potential to affect not only the many Quebec couples that cohabit but also all Canadian common law couples if the court decides to make a decision on property rights. At this time, Quebec is the only province that does not grant de facto (common law) spouses the possibility of obtaining spousal support under its family law regime.
The issue of the exclusion of common law couples from matrimonial property division was last raised in the case Nova Scotia (Attorney General) v. Walsh in 2002. In that case, the court refused to require provincial matrimonial property laws to treat common law spouses the same as married couples. They decided that unmarried couples made the “choice” to not marry and this choice had to be respected.It will be interesting to hear the court’s decision on this Quebec case – keep you posted!