OTTAWA - Walk through the door of a Canadian home and chances are you'll still find a married couple. But those odds are slowly shifting as fewer of us get hitched, more of us shack up without tying the knot, or simply live alone -- continuing a slow but steady trend seen in this country over the past few decades.
Statistics Canada on Wednesday released new 2011 census numbers on the makeup of Canadian households. The agency found two-thirds of the families in Canada are made up of married couples. That's down slightly from 2006 numbers and represents a steep decline from 1961, when more than 90% of all households were made up of married couples.
"We're seeing families are much more complex today," said Jane Badets, the agency's director general of social and demographic statistics. "You can see how Canadian families, Canadian society has changed over time."
She noted the changes are based on demographics -- the aging population, for example -- as well as shifts in social norms.
The prevalence of common-law couples rose 13.9% since 2006 -- four times the growth of married couples in this country. In fact, the number of unmarried couples has more than quadrupled since 1981, when StatsCan began tallying that category of Canadian family, and now 16.7% of all Canadian couples are common law.
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Queen's University law professor Nick Bala said the picture the census paints of Canadian families confirms the portrait of Canadian families continues to grow more diverse, with trends he foresees having an impact on social policy and legal issues.
Bala pointed to the high profile the Eric v. Lola case heard by Canada's top court in January, which deals with issues over common-law spouses have access to the same legal right as married spouses.
Nonetheless, despite the shifts seen in Canada over 50 years that are likely to continue, "we're still a society that has a strong commitment to marriage, I don't see it disappearing," he said.
And in 2011, common-law couples outnumbered lone-parent families slightly for the first time. One-parent households make up 16.3% of all households in Canada, with about one in five children being raised by a single parent. We also saw a small - but significant, according to Bala - boost in lone-parent families headed by men.
"What that to me reflects is fathers are more involved in child care," Bala said.
The census found most kids in Canada (63.6%) live with married parents, and a growing share live with common-law parents. One Canadian child in 10 lives with a stepfamily.
It's the first time the number-crunching agency looked at stepfamilies and foster children in Canada. There are more than 464,000 stepfamilies in this country - representing 12.6% of all couples with children - and almost 30,000 foster children.
"Living arrangements of children are diverse," Badets said.
Canadian families have also grown smaller over time, with the percentage of couples without children (44.5%) outstripping couples with children (39.2%) -- a gap that's been widening since 2006. The percentage of families with only one child has also edged up slightly in the past 10 years.
More Canadians living alone: StatsCan
More and more, Canadians are choosing to live alone.
For the first time since Statistics Canada starting counting, there are more of use living solo than there are couples with children in this country.
The data collection agency counted more than 3,670,000 one-person households in the 2011 census. The figures were released by StatCan Wednesday.
The increase in Canadians living alone has been an ongoing trend for decades, hitting 27.6% of all households in 2011, the number growing 10.4% since 2006.
Quebecers and Yukoners are most likely to choose solitude, while the proportion of one-person households in Victoria, British Columbia is the highest in the country.
Almost half of all households in Canada's western-most municipality is made up of only one person.
The trend is partly due to the aging population, as the prevalence of couplehood drops off as people age.
Singledom is not unique to Canada, with the number of people living alone here roughly the same as figures in the U.K. and U.S.
The fastest growing type of household is actually on the other end of the spectrum. The number of two or more people living under one roof - but not as a couple or with parents - increased 18.4%, while homes with more than one family rose 16.4% over the past five years.
The only type of household that saw a decline was that of couples with children, a change StatCan links at least partially to the aging baby-boomers whose kids have moved out.
But it's not all empty-nesters. More than 42% of young adults in their 20s still live with their parents, having either moved back in or never left in the first place.
This figure hasn't changed much since 2006, but is higher than in 1991, when just over 30% of 20-somethings still lived at home.
Same-sex couples choosing marriage: Census
More Canadian same-sex couples than ever are tying the knot.
Figures from the 2011 census released Wednesday show the prevalence of same-sex couples in this country jumped 42.4% between 2006 and 2011.
There are now 64,575 same-sex families living in Canada - 43,560 of those common-law couples and 21,015 married couples.
Same-sex couples are walking down the aisle at a much higher rate than their opposite-sex counterparts, with the number of couples made up of a man and a woman increasing a modest 2.9% since 2006.
But there's a caveat.
Census manager Marc Hamel noted the agency may have overestimated same-sex married couples in Canada by up to 4,500, possibly due to confusion over the census questions.
The issue came to light when Statistics Canada data crunchers began noticing higher rates than average of reported same-sex marriage, especially in smaller communities.
"The concept of family on the census is very complex," Hamel noted, giving the example of temporary roommates who may be married - but not to each other - showing up in the data as a same-sex couple. That was especially true in oilpatch communities where many married men have travelled for work, rooming with other married men to save money.
StatsCan left out the numbers for smaller communities because of the issue and will review the census questions in the next national survey.
Still, Hamel underscored that even if the actual figures are overestimated "the trend is not. The data is comparable."
Same-sex couples tend to be younger, with 25.3% under 34, compared to 17.5% of their opposite-sex counterparts.
But same-sex couples are much less likely than opposite-sex couples to have children: less than 10%, compared to almost 50%, respectively. Lesbian couples make up the large majority (80%) of same-sex couples with children.
Still, same-sex couples are a tiny portion of couples tallied by StatsCan in 2011, accounting for just 0.8% of all partnerships in Canada.
Canada was the third country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, after the Netherlands and Belgium. Other countries have since passed similar laws, including South Africa, Denmark and Spain.