Marriage and Divorce in Canadian
A Personal Opinion
By Aspi Maneckjee
In the Zarathushti religion, marriage is a sacrament, with its roots in pre-cosmo genesis and unfolding of the soul in the spiritual world. It is a divine process in which two souls ‘ join’ together by a sacrament ( Ashirwad ceremony) for their spiritual progression. Marriage is the first step in the process of ensuring the perpetuation of the family; I see it as a link in a chain for the continuity of our community.
Love to me is s many splendid things; love is work, discipline, commitment, and self sacrifice. When you love your partner/soul mate, you nurture, fulfill and cherish him/her emotionally, sexually and finacilially. You work at the relationship to make it beautiful. You communicate your needs and resolve your problems by talking about them openly and honestly. Dependency is not love. Love is when you and your partner can live without each other but choose to live together to make each other happy.
Unfortunately, nowadays in Canada, large numbers of marriages end up in divorce. Some ‘new age’ ideas have contributed to many desertions and divorces, with much result in pain and suffering.
Many Parsi and Irani Zathushtis in North America have been influenced by the modern lifestyle and moral values of American society, which are very different from what I was brought up with in Karachi. I am now in Ottawa, the capital city of Canada, with all the best amenities in the world, but I am lonely and feel discarded by my wife and fellow Zarthushitis; however, I am managing my life as spiritually as possible.
In 1984, I went to India to marry a Parsi wife. What I didn’t know was that Indians have an exaggerated view of the western world in terms of morals, and the affluent life as portrayed in Hollywood movies.
In India, many women, while they pursue careers, do not have to rely on their job for survival; many live in extended households where the house is already paid for, or subsidized by the community. In Canada, for the first generation of immigrant Parsi/Irani families, many couples are forced to work because of the high cost of living, purchasing a home, educating the children and saving up for old age. Many who come to Canada do not understand the realities of living within modest means.
One reason for the many divorces in the West is the lack of traditional support systems to deal with the problems in marriages. This explanation is relevant to my separation. Perhaps with the buffers of other family members with Zarathushti values, I may have been able to salvage my marriage.
Marriage/divorce statistics in the Canadian population:
Canada’s 1995 marriage rate was the same as that of Australia at 5.4 marriages per 1000 population; the US is higher at 8.9 per 1000. Canada’s divorce rate of 2.7 per 1000 is comparable to rates of 2.7 in Australia, 3.0 in UK and 4.0 in the US.
Over the last 30 years, in Canada, the trend has been for marriage rates to go down and divorce rates to increase. Of particular interest is the impact of the Divorce Act of 1985. With these amendments, it became easier to obtain a divorce as the necessity to prove fault was reduced. Marriage breakdowns (separation for at least one year) became the more prominent ground for divorce. Due to those waiting for the new divorce laws, the divorce rates rose significantly during the following years.
The above percentages are derived counting all individuals in the population including children.
Using only married couples as a basis, the rates are even higher, at 12 per 1000 married couples ( or 1.2%) per year in 1995. Of course, the lifetime risk of divorcing for a couple is much higher, at around 31%.
I tried to get some information from the FEZANA demographic survey about separation and divorces, and was told that no such figures were available. In Ottawa, nine Zarathushti women, ( including my wife) have left their Zarathushti husbands out of approximately 25 to 30 married couples. Similar trends in Zarathushti women leaving their husbands has led to increase divorces amongst Zarathushti communities in California and Florida.
Consequence of divorce:
The two most salient consequences of divorce are; poverty and increased risks for the development of problems amoungst the children whose parents divorce.
Divorce is a direct cause of poverty for a large proportion of men, women and their children. Many will experience the consequences of poverty and the short term following divorce and many will suffer its effects for an entire lifetime.
At all age levels, children of divorced parents have higher rates of emotional, behavioral, social and academic problems than children in two- parent families. In a nutshell, children whose parents are divorced (and even after they are remarried) are far more likely than children whose
parents remain together, to suffer from depression, anxiety and other emotional disorders.
Many divorced parents are so burdened emotionally and financially that they become depressed, at least temporarily, while others initiate a desperate search for a new mate that makes them far less available to their children.
In Ottawa, children of Parsi/Irani women who left their husbands have either married or are co-habiting with non-Zarathushti from this area to this unfortunate assimilation.
The phenomenon of divorce is a far more complexes issue than generally believed. Furthermore, statistics pertaining to divorce are difficult to understand and frequently misinterpreted. Overall, between a third and a half of all marriages in Canada end in divorce and the rate is somewhat higher for remarriages.
Divorce and remarriage are usually not in the best interest of the children. Divorce is an industry in North America - one that has branched out into virtually every aspect of American culture, and now employs thousands of individuals and professions with the exchange of huge sums of capital ( estimated to be 36 billion dollars/year). These capital exchanges involved moneys extracted from divorcing spouses, usually the father/husband, by attorneys, family courts, child support collection agencies, federal bureaucracies that administer welfare, abortion services, children’s protective services, crime and violence control, legal services and child care services.
There is a common sentiment among a majority of our community in North America, ‘In order to make a living, accept the changes and forget our old religious ways.” When I ask these liberal-minded members of our community what we have to show for adapting to the North American lifestyle, they have no answers except to say that they have accumulated material possessions, albeit at the expense of losing the family, the community and peace of mind.
What are we Zarathushti doing now in North America? Should we continue to follow the western ways despite all the warning signs of being assimilated? Or should we go back to our Zarathushti religious ways and to our community values?
I think it is time to live and promote our spiritual ways of life, and be model for our youth and for North Americans.
Dr. Aspi Maneckjee
is a toxicologist at Health Canada in the Health Protection Branch. He has a Ph. D. in biochemistry/toxicology from Memorial University of Canada. His present interests include research in “Health related effects of Hormone Disruptors,” physical fitness, cooking Parsi food, traveling and meeting with other Parsis (If you are in the Ottawa area please call me up by dialing (613) 526-9956), helping our community, and learn about our religion and history. Aspi also represents Zarathushti at the Interfaith Council of the National Capital Region.