• Canada;
  • cohabitation;
  • marriage;
  • nonmarital births;
  • partnership transition;
  • union instability.

This article aims first to contrast the trends of marriage and cohabitation across different regions in Canada, and second, to assess whether cohabitation constitutes a new stage in the progression to marriage, or an alternative to marriage altogether. Based on various empirical demographic indicators, the analysis shows profound differences across the country. In Quebec, cohabiting unions are now widely accepted as forming the basis for family life, whereas they still largely constitute a childless prelude to marriage elsewhere in Canada. The authors discuss the role of different religious and cultural backgrounds, and of recent changes in the relationships between men and women, in accounting for the divergent evolution observed.