Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Women's Labour, Relationship Breakdown and Ownership of the Family Farm

Document type Article
Author Chambers, Lori
Journal Canadian Journal of Law and Society
Volume 25
Date 2010-06-23
ISSN 1911-0227
Pages 75-95


The dominant story of matrimonial property law reform in English Canada treats the farming family case of Murdoch v. Murdoch as the great catalyst for change, but there are persistent inequalities affecting farm women, even in provinces that have made progressive changes in the law of relationship breakdown. The farm is the quintessential family business and is both place of residence and source of income. Since the farm is not readily divisible, it is not surprising that all the major marital property law cases to reach the Supreme Court of Canada have involved farm property. What is surprising is that most provincial property reforms, though inspired by the Murdoch case, explicitly exclude farms from division, and those that include farms in the property to be divided still have mechanisms that tend to favour husbands. This article examines Canadian courts’ gendered conceptualization of what constitutes a family business by examining the cases on farm property and the related legislative reforms. Feminists, and all women who have benefited from matrimonial property law reform, have an obligation to recognize the problems created by our persistent failure to understand the farm as simultaneously home and place of business.