Marriage is a union between two consenting adults, and in many countries, it is prohibited between close relatives. You cannot get married to your brother or sister, parent, or half brother or sister.
In the case of Canada, it applies to adopted and biological relatives for moral and physiological reasons. Regardless, there is a possibility of first cousins getting married in Canada.
Marriage Between Relatives
Marriage between relatives is a criminal offense punishable, with up to five years in prison. In Canada, however, marriage between cousins is not prosecuted under the same law.
Canadian law enforcement only arrests those who broke the law by committing incest with close relatives.
Also, the crime is easy to prosecute if a child was harmed, even if there was parental consent involved in the case.
At the same time, this law does not apply to other related family members. In fact, under the Canadian criminal code, marriages between close relatives are still legal, like an aunt and nephew or niece and uncle.
Marriage Between First Cousins
In the past, some provinces, such as Alberta and Ontario, had similar legislation against marriage between first cousins, but the laws were eventually repealed. As a result, no blood test is required to prove the partners are related.
In Canada, marriage between two cousins is legal. Also, it is only illegal if they are not directly related by blood. As per Canadian laws, if children in a marriage are under 18 years old and have been lawfully adopted by their parents, marriage between cousins is prohibited but not illegal.
Federal Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act of 1990
According to this act, a first cousin couple must meet the following criteria to marry one another legally.
- They must be at least 25 years old,
- They must have completed high school or its equivalent,
- They must have resided in Canada for not less than three years,
- They should possess health insurance for both spouses for at least 12 months.
It is worth knowing that this law does not stop them from getting married if they meet the above qualifications.
Some critics of marriages between relatives claim marriages between relatives do not just entail physiological problems. They believe it has a negative impact on mental health.
On the other hand, no current studies support this claim. The claims are more of theories than facts.
According to the law of the land, marriage between relatives is illegal in Canada. However, there are several exceptions to this law. They include:
Incestuous marriages were once legal under Canadian common and statutory law, but the “Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69” made incest a crime for the first time in 1969. In addition to criminalizing incest itself (under section 155), this act prohibited marriage between first cousins.
However, two years later, in 1971, the “Criminal Law Amendment Act” repealed section 146 of the “Criminal Code,” which prohibited marriage by common-law spouses.
Therefore, it is now lawful for a man and a woman to get married if the couple has cohabited for at least one year or if they are related and have a valid marriage license. In other words, first cousins can legally marry if they are not related by blood.
Who Is a First Cousin?
A first cousin is a relative that shares a common set of grandparents. For example, the children of siblings are of the same generation.
Also, they are two generations away from the shared grandparents. The close relations between first cousins make people assume a marriage could lead to offspring with complications.
Does Blood Relate to First Cousins?
Yes, first cousins are related by blood. In the case of marriage between first cousins, marriage is always allowed by law. However, a condition must be met before it can legally take place.
The condition is called consanguinity, and it states that they cannot be closely related by blood or born within one year of each other. Under this law, they must also both be over 18 years old.
Is It Beneficial To Marry Your Cousin?
Marriage between the first cousins is nothing new as it has been practiced by different cultures for various reasons. Some communities practice it because there are limited external partners while others do it to reserve family fortunes. It is also claimed that marriage between cousins strengthens family ties in a community.
Some scholars claim their findings prove marriage between cousins increases the survival of children. Also, it is likely that in some communities, married cousins may have more children compared to normal unrelated couples. However, this is claimed to depend on the family’s capability to provide for their offspring.
How Common Are Cousin Marriages in Canada?
Marriage between first cousins, also called consanguineous marriage, is not uncommon in Canada. It is the most common type of cousin marriage. In 2016, it accounted for 4% of all legal unions in Canada.
It is not very common in other parts of the world. The only countries where this type of marriage is allowed include Sudan and Yemen and a few U.S states such as Idaho and Utah.
What Are the Risks of Marrying a First Cousin?
The risks of marrying a first cousin include congenital disabilities, developmental delays, and a higher risk of genetic diseases. As per specialists in Canada, there are no significant health risks associated with marriage between first cousins.
Scientific Views on Marrying Cousins
As claimed by most scholars, genetic disorders can affect the children of first cousins. Some of them are passed through recessive genes. Both parents should have the gene for these diseases to appear in a child.
These diseases can be caused by an allele that hides the dominant gene. When two dominant genes meet, it causes a recessive gene to be revealed, and it may lead to disease. It is why marriages between first cousins may lead to more genetic disorders in their offspring.
The two most common disorders in children related to consanguineous marriage include Down syndrome and cystic fibrosis.
There are other less common medical conditions such as spina bifida and congenital heart disease that can also be affected by consanguinity. At the same time, marriage between cousins does not guarantee disorders; it is just a matter of chance.
Marriage between cousins is not illegal in Canada. The couple must be of age, at least 18 years old, and consent to the wedding.
Some people are against marriages between relatives for ethical or physiological reasons, but some cultures support the idea.
Regardless, Canadian law supports it as long as it is not a marriage between two direct relatives like a father and daughter or brother and sister.