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It’s a Start! Saskatchewan Introduces New Legislation To Tackle Predatory Marriages

Justice Minister Don Morgan recently introduced a new Bill to amend The Marriage Act, 1995 and to make consequential amendments to The Wills Act, 1996.[1] The Bill passed first reading on October 31, 2019.

The Bill aims to protect seniors from being preyed upon by spouses who try to gain control of their assets by allowing the court to declare that a valid marriage was not effected or entered into if the court determines that one of the parties did not provide valid consent to enter into a marriage.[2]

Once the new legislation is passed, family members, any other person who has a close personal connection to one of the parties to the marriage, or the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee, if it is the guardian of person or property or an administrator of one of the parties to the marriage, will be able to apply to Court for a declaration that the marriage be declared invalid, by bringing supporting documents from a medical professional explaining the mental capacity of the exploited spouse.[3]

With the aim of prohibiting predatory marriages, the Bill also prohibits a marriage of a minor under the age of 16.[4]

Lastly, the Bill seeks to revoke the current state of the law, that a marriage or a common-law relationship invalidates an existing will.[5]

With the rise in predatory marriages in Canada, these changes are welcomed by legal practitioners that deal with such cases, as well as family members who have a loved one that has fallen prey to such a marriage and have no standing to bring the application to court.

In many Canadian provinces (except British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec), marriage automatically revokes a Will or other testamentary document. The exception is where there is a declaration in the Will that it is made specifically in contemplation of marriage.[6]

It will be interesting to see if Saskatchewan’s Bill No.175 encourages other provinces to take action and follow suit.

Saskatchewan’s Bill No. 175 and the explanatory notes can be found online at: https://www.legassembly.sk.ca/media/1398/progress-of-bills.pdf

[1] Bill No. 175, An Act to amend The Marriage Act, 1995 and to make consequential amendments to The Wills Act, 1996.

[2] Bill No. 175, section 32.1(1), of the proposed new changes to The Marriage Act, 1995. c M-4.1 (“The Marriage Act”).

[3] Bill No. 175, section 32.1(2) and 34, of the proposed new changes to The Marriage Act.

[4] Bill No. 175, section 19(1) and (2), of the proposed new changes to The Marriage Act.

[5] Bill No. 175, section 16 and 17 of the proposed new changes to The Wills Act, 1996.

[6] Marriage revokes a will in all provinces except, British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec. See the Wills Act, RSNB 1973, c W-9 (New Brunswick), Probates Act, RSPEI 1988, c P-21 (PEI), Wills Act, RSNL 1990, c W-10 (Newfoundland), Succession Law Reform Act, RSO c S 26 (Ontario), The Wills Act, CCSM c W 150 (Manitoba), The Wills Act, 1996, c W-14.1 (Saskatchewan), Wills Act RSNWT (Nu), 1988 c W-5 (Nunavut, Northwest Territories), and Wills Act, RSY 2002 c 230 (Yukon).

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