The Cleavers would be shocked

Earlier this week Statistics Canada released the results from its latest census on Canadian households.

The polls, taken during 2006, found Canada is perpetually diversifying its familial structures; stats show that same-sex couples, single parents, and common law marriages have all increased since 2001, with married couples in decline.

In Thursday’s Globe and Mail, the census and its numbers were the subjects of apprehensive, almost xenophobic commentary. Both the Globe’s editorial and columnist Margaret Wente’s commentary oversimplified the institution of marriage while at the same time wagging antiquated fingers at anyone who wasn’t a member of a husband-wife-2.1 kids family.

Raising kids properly, according to the editorial, is almost entirely reliant on their being brought up by married parents. Common law parents aren’t included in this label, and can’t provide the same “solidity” of a traditionally married couple simply because they statistically separate sooner into the relationship, according to the article.

But what the Statscan census is really saying is that alternative lifestyles are becoming increasingly common—this perception of an apparent “norm” no longer applies in Canada.

Just because kids from single mother or father families are more likely to “possess poorer language skills,” as the Globe’s editorial suggests, doesn’t mean a parental reconciliation is going to get the kid straight A’s.

Wente creates an aggressively capitalist spin on her interpretation of the census and simplifies marriage as part of a process to achieving financial wealth, wherein a child is the final product. This demonstrates a shallow and utilitarian take on a very personal lifestyle choice.

Both the editorial and Wente’s commentary perpetuate stigmas attached to same-sex, single-parent and common-law families, entrenching biases with Canadian institutions that make it more difficult for less-than-“mainstream” couples to raise a family.

It’s important to acknowledge that not everyone believes the nuclear family is the ideal one. As we, as a society, continually redefine the notion of “family,” it becomes apparent that marriage is no longer necessary to validate one’s life. Instead, Canadians are realizing that validation can come in other ways than just saying ‘I do.’

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