"Who/If/When to Marry, It's a Choice": A History of Forced Marriage in Canada, 1948-2008
Sapoznik, Karlee Anne
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This study of the regulation of marriage without consent provides irrefutable evidence of the longstanding history and persistence of forced marriages in Canada. Between 1948 and 2008, profound changes took place in the rhetoric about forced marriage, its regulation by the Canadian state, the ways in which it was contested, and the realities for persons in forced marriage situations. Drawing on archival research, case law and interviews, I argue that the freedom to choose who/if/when to marry in this period nevertheless remained fundamentally constrained. By accepting and assuming full and free consent to marriage was possible, as outlined in laws and human rights instruments in this period, Canadians ignored, overlooked and denied the structural dynamics, challenges, constraints and patriarchy that made full and free consent for all impossible. Beginning in a period where there is clear international and national prohibition of marriage without consent, this dissertation is periodized based on key legal reforms, changes, moments and themes involving Canadians and global actors who exchanged ideas, participated in events, actions and conversations on the issue of forced marriage. I provide conceptual clarity on what constitutes legal consent in marriage and when forced marriage meets the threshold of slavery. I analyse the many forms and contexts in which forced marriages took place, how and why they were perpetrated, accepted, negotiated and resisted. Importantly, feminist work to combat forced marriages in the period revealed fundamental flaws, structural inequalities, power dynamics and violence not only at the heart of forced marriages, but central to the institution of marriage as a whole. Further, contrary to racialized and anti-immigrant stereotyping, forced marriage in Canada cannot be reduced to an international, Aboriginal, immigrant or Muslim problem. As I demonstrate through a diverse range of complex cases, the history of forced marriage in Canada as a source, transit and destination country between 1948 and 2008 was far more complex.