Guest Commentary

Mary Crease

Dief & The Divorce

(Editor’s note: In the most unusual executive order in Canadian history, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker on May 6, 1959 personally arranged a divorce decree for a Québec couple, Mary Crease and Eric Reisinger. The province had no divorce courts under Roman Catholic law. Petitioners could only dissolve a marriage through an Act of Parliament. In a November 19, 2009 interview with Blacklock’s publisher Holly Doan, Ms. Crease told her story. Following is a transcription of her remarks.)

I met Eric when I was going on 16. He was 22. My parents forbade me to go out with him. He had been separated from his first wife, and Mom and Dad weren’t too pleased when they found out we were dating. This was my first big boyfriend. I had a crush on him.

Eventually my family came around and we planned our wedding. We didn’t know his divorce hadn’t gone through yet; the bill went to the Senate divorce committee and we just assumed it had passed. So, we set our wedding day.

It seems ridiculous now when you think about it. We’d made our wedding plans and then discovered the divorce bill hadn’t passed. It was hair-raising to go through that. Of course, we were panicked.

It was May 1959, our wedding was set. I said to Eric, “There’s only one thing to do: why don’t you go up to Ottawa and see if they’ll do something for us?” So, he drove from Lachine to Ottawa and spoke to some people in the government. He got an appointment with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and Mr. Diefenbaker, and the Prime Minister had the bill put through so our wedding could go on. The Chief Justice gave Royal Assent to Eric’s divorce bill.

I don’t know what we were thinking. You wouldn’t think you’d have to go that far, to ask a Prime Minister to give you a divorce!

Québec had no divorce courts. You had to go to Ottawa and have the Queen’s stamp on it. It was quite a rigmarole. We were back in the Dark Ages then. Their thinking was if they made it hard to divorce, maybe you’d change your mind halfway through.

We married. I was 19 when I got pregnant. In those days, as soon as you started to show, you had to quit your job. They made me leave my work after five months. Today women can work right through their pregnancy, but not then. And you couldn’t count on any promotions at work. You were always kept lower done. It was a terrible thing to do to women in those days.

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