This week we\’re finishing up by looking at Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.
As stated in Part 1, divorce was handled provincially beginning in 1920. It is handled by the Court of Queen\’s Bench. In 1994, a separate division of the court was created to deal solely with family law.
The Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan has divorce files up until 1930. These are listed under court records for the King\’s Bench (remember Queen Elizabeth had not ascended to the throne yet, so we still had a King). According to the section of court records on their website, they have docket books, or indexes, for most of their records. The majority are open to researchers, but you can only access on site. You can fill out a request form on their records here.
After 1930, you will have to go through the particular courthouse that handled the proceedings. The Courts have a pdf on access to records here. Scroll down to page 25 for access on Family Law cases.
The Courts of Saskatchewan website has the contact information of Queen\’s Bench Courthouses here.
Decisions of the court are public information. The Law Society of Saskatchewan has a database online of Court of Queen\’s Bench decisions on the CanLII (Canadian Legal Information Institute) website. You can find decisions from as early as 1900 right up to present day. Not all years are available. You can search by year, or you can search with specific terms. There are almost 4,000 cases with the keyword \”divorce\”. When I added the last name \”McDonald\” it shrunk down to 4 results.
Like Saskatchewan, divorces were handled at the provincial level as of 1920. This is handled by the Court of Queen\’s Bench.
The Provincial Archives of Alberta has divorce files in their holdings from across the province. I used their search function with the keyword \”divorce\”. I then narrowed it to \”Government and Private Collections\”. There are 68 collections in their holdings. The years ranch from the early 1900\’s to 1979. The collections appear to be grouped by location. From what I could see, very little if any of them are microfilmed. As such, you will have to make an onsite visit.
After 1979, you will have to go through the particular courthouse. You can get contact information of the various courthouses through the Alberta Courts website here. According their pdf on public and media access, there are no mandatory restrictions on divorce cases.
You can search CanLII for Alberta Queen\’s Bench decisions here. The year range is 1912 to present day, with the year 1933 not available. There are over 3,000 decisions on the site with the keyword \”divorce\”. Adding \”McDonald\” for a surname narrowed it down to just 2.
BC is one of those provinces where divorce has always fallen under provincial jurisdiction. These are handled by the Supreme Court. The BC Archives has an Introduction to Divorce Records pdf. Included in it is a history of divorce law in British Columbia, and resources you can use.
Records are routinely transferred to the BC Archives. They have put together a short pdf about court records in general in their holdings. This will give you an idea of what they have and access. Note under access that while the divorce orders and judgements are open access, the case files of the actual divorce proceedings are not. They have a research guide on divorce records themselves. According to the guide, they hold records up to 1983. these are not microfilmed that I could see, so you will only be able to access onsite.
After 1983 you will have to go through the courthouse that handled the divorce. The Courts of British Columbia has in interactive map of courthouse locations here. Click on a location and it will give you the contact information. According to page 21 the Courts of British Columbia\’s pdf on public access to records, only the party\’s involved and their lawyers can access the court files. You must otherwise obtain written permission from either the divorcing parties or their lawyers to gain access.
You can also search CanLII for judgements here. It covers the years 1912 to present day, with 1933 missing. The keyword \”divorce\” gave me over 9,000 results. Narrowing it to include \”McDonald\” gave me 10 results.