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Generally, young people were expected to choose mates of their own faith. The fundamental split in Canada was between Roman Catholicism and the Protestant churches. There was a good deal of suspicion, even hostility, between the two groups. Falling in love with a person of the "wrong religion" could lead to serious familial opposition (Noël, 58).
Technically, Roman Catholicism forbade marriage between Roman Catholics and people outside the church. In practice, such marriages happened, if not commonly, and the church turned a blind eye.
Aside from his deep emotional reluctance to lose his daughter, James Westcott's fundamental objection to Amédée Papineau's courtship of his daughter Mary was the young man's Roman Catholicism. Amédée's beliefs were conventional, though not impassioned, but Mary was strongly Presbyterian.
Mary herself had trouble reconciling the differences in their religious beliefs. "You think my friend you could love a wife who did not believe you right in the most sacred of opinions-(the mode of serving & worshiping God) as truly & devotedly as one who in heart responded sans reserve with you. Nay-you express still more,-'that you would prefer a different faith.'-This is a serious query to us both-oh! must not a union in holy things compose an indissoluble tie for other affections?" (MEW to LJAP, March 6, 1844)
Mary's stepmother wrote to her: "I said so to Mr. P-your family and friends will look upon Mary as a Heretick (sic), how shall we feel do you think?" Amédée protested that his family was quite liberal and Mary would not be pressed to change her beliefs. They agreed not to quarrel, but Mrs. Westcott was still concerned (Noël, 57).
In the end, the problem turned out to be illusory. Mary and Amédée were married in her father's parlour by a Presbyterian minister, without a Roman Catholic dispensation. Their son Louis-Joseph was baptized by Amédée's uncle, the Roman Catholic Curé Bruneau. Mary never converted to Roman Catholicism, and their religious differences seem never to have been a problem.
Canada's Jewish population was so small, marriage posed even more difficulties. In his youth, Abraham Joseph, son of a prosperous Montréal merchant, flirted madly with every pretty girl who crossed his path, regardless of religion. But when the time came for him to look for a wife, he felt obliged to find someone of his own faith.
This was not easy. Abraham lamented not having been born a Roman Catholic: "how my attention would have been directed to such charming dear creatures as Lida Larue-Charlotte & Caroline Mondelet" (Noël, 38). But his attachment to his own faith was strong and sincere (Noël, 40).
Living in Québec City in the summer of 1845, Abraham encountered Sophia David. They had known each other from childhood and their families were allied (Noël, 40). Abraham had been a little in love with her older sister Fanny, but Fanny had married elsewhere.
His courtship of Sophia was complicated by her strong attachment to a cousin (Noël, 38). Eventually, Abraham writes, she agreed to "yield all and be my wife" (Noël, 40). Married in 1846, they had 20 years of happiness and 13 children before Sophia's death in 1866.
Mary Eleanor Westcott Papineau fonds, 1810-1889. Textual record. Library and Archives Canada. Archival reference no.: R4386-0-7-E; (MG24-K58).
Noël, Françoise. Family Life and Sociability in Upper and Lower Canada, 1780-1870: A View from Diaries and Family Correspondence. Montréal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2003.