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Unmarried cohabitants’ property entitlements : a gendered approach Cochard, Renee


Webcast sponsored by the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre and hosted by the UBC Faculty of Law. Until the late seventies/early eighties, women who were separating from their spouses had no right to claim property acquired during marriage unless it was registered in their names. The SCC decision of Murdoch v. Murdoch rendered in 1975 exposed the inequalities of the law. Beginning in the late seventies provincial governments began passing matrimonial property legislation which allowed for equal division of marital property. The legislation only applied to married persons and unmarried persons were left to apply for division of property under the equitable rules of trust, a complicated and costly process. In 2001 a challenge by Susan Welsh to the NS Matrimonial Property Act came before the SCC. In a surprising decision, the SCC held that excluding unmarried cohabitants from Matrimonial Legislation did not contravene section 15 of the Charter. Despite that ruling several provinces have revised their property legislation to include unmarried persons but the vast majority of unmarried Canadians are not protected. This exclusion has a gendered perspective and affects women and children to a much larger extent.

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