Connolly, an HBC employee, traveled to Northern Alberta, and married a Cree woman in 1803, according to Cree customs. When he returned to Quebec, he indicated that he planned to marry his wife in a government-recognized Catholic ceremony, but instead he married a different woman in a Catholic ceremony. The Cree woman he had originally married according to Cree custom was then moved to a convent in Winnipeg. The validity of the first marriage was called into question after his death, with questions of whether the first wife should be included in his inheritance. The marriage between Connolly and the Cree woman was upheld. This court case was the first to establish the legality of Aboriginal marriage practices under Canadian law. According to the decision made in this case, Aboriginal marriages would be upheld by the courts, though their divorces would not be.
Traditional Indigenous marriage practices were recognized by the courts when they conformed to Christian-style values of monogamy and permanence. However, divorce and polygamy, which were accepted within certain Aboriginal communities, were not accepted within Canadian laws.
Rural or Urban
Establishment of the Legality of Aboriginal Marriage