Manitoba RM nation’s marriage mecca

Hanover a focus of nuptials documentary

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If you're tired of the singles scene, move to the RM of Hanover. It's the marriage capital of Canada, according to a CBC-TV documentary airing Thursday night.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/01/2011 (4339 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If you’re tired of the singles scene, move to the RM of Hanover. It’s the marriage capital of Canada, according to a CBC-TV documentary airing Thursday night.

The southern Manitoba municipality of 12,000 boasts the largest percentage of married adults in the country at nearly 70 per cent, said producer Sue Ridout.

The makers of Thoroughly Modern Marriage (Doc Zone, CBC, Jan. 20, 9 p.m.) interviewed people in Canada’s most-married region as well as Joliette, Que. which, at 27 per cent, had one of the lowest percentages of married adults in Canada.

PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Ed Barkman gives wife of 70 years Tina a kiss on the cheek Tuesday in their Steinbach home. They say marriage is a commitment and divorce was not an option.

The documentary features all kinds of married couples across Canada, including Ed and Tina Barkman. The Steinbach couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in June. They said their Mennonite faith has had a lot to do with their marriage lasting.

“Well, the commitment remains,” said Tina, whose maiden name is Kroeker. She said in a phone interview Tuesday they’ve had their ups and downs like any couple but divorce wasn’t an option — it never even came to mind, she said. The couple with 11 children, 36 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren is still together, living in a seniors’ home in Steinbach.

“It’s very much strong religious faith and example that is perpetuated generation after generation,” the producer, Ridout, said in an interview.

In Quebec, she found the least-married region, where people turned against the Catholic church during the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, and “marriage got turned against as well,” said Ridout.

On top of the rejection of religion, provincial legislation in Quebec has also deterred marriage, she said.

“There’s no such thing as spousal support, no matter how long you’ve lived together,” Ridout said. Men, typically the higher income-earners, have balked at nuptials: “‘Why would I possibly want to get married when there’s no penalty attached to living together?'”

She said they gleaned their married-people-per-capita statistics from the 2006 census.

The RM of Hanover is bordered on the east by the City of Steinbach and the west by the Town of Niverville, with five towns of between 500 and 1,500 people in between.

“It’s still small enough so that you know everybody,” said deputy reeve Bernie Stahn, who is married and has lived in the municipality all his life.

It doesn’t surprise him it’s the most-married place in Canada, but he thinks it’s about more than religion. “To say it’s just because they’re Mennonite — I don’t think that would be the case,” he said. “The area has diversified a lot over the years. Thirty to 50 years ago, it was strictly the Mennonite faith. Now, a lot of other people have moved into the area,” he said.

“There are common-law marriages,” said Stahn, who’s been married 30 years. “You wouldn’t be shunned if you did” live in a common-law relationship, said the resident of Mitchell, Man.

“People are very hard-working and family-oriented — whether that work ethic is at home or on the job or working on a marriage to ensure it’s successful and happy,” said Stahn.

Married couples in the RM tend to get involved in their communities to help themselves and the place they raise their kids, and newcomers — Mennonite or not — have embraced the lifestyle, said Stahn.

The documentary’s creator said she’s now more optimistic about the survival of marriage as an institution.

“Yes, there’s been a tripling in the number of common-law couples in this country but many couples are using common law as a testing ground for eventual marriage. They’re still getting married but getting married later. It used to be 23, now it’s 28 for women. The average groom used to be 25, now he’s 30,” said Ridout.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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