Illegitimacy in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Nova Scotia: A Legislative History

Faculty Author Type

Emeritus Faculty [Susan B. Boyd]

Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Illegitimacy; financial support; legitimation


Over time, provincial legislation in Canada modified the common law position on the “illegitimacy” of children born outside marriage. They first imposed liability on parents for the support of illegitimate children. Second, they provided for the legitimation of children whose parents subsequently married. Finally, they abolished the concept of illegitimacy. This article describes and compares the legislative histories in four Canadian provinces, which all took somewhat different approaches: British Columbia (BC), Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Saskatchewan. Part II traces the complex history of the legislation dealing with the financial support of illegitimate children; Part III addresses the legislation dealing with legitimation; and Part IV reviews the short history of the abolition of distinctions between legitimate and illegitimate children in all Canadian provinces and territories, except for Nova Scotia. We take a chronological approach within each Part. The article is co-authored with Jennifer Flood.