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What's the child marriage rate? How big of an issue is child marriage?

There is no publicly available government data on child marriage in Canada.

According to 2019 research findings of an assistant professor at McGill University, Canada would had approved 3382 child marriages since 2000, the vast majority involving girls. Ontario sanctioned the most child marriages with 1353 since 2000.

Are there country-specific drivers of child marriage in this country?

Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that women and girls are somehow inferior to men and boys.

There is limited information on child marriage in Canada.

What has this country committed to?

Canada has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. Canada reported on progress made against target 5.3 including some of the foreign aid the government has given to countries to end child marriage as well as domestic figures on child marriage, during its 2018 Voluntary National Review at the High Level Political Forum, the mechanism through which countries report their progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.

Canada co-sponsored the following Human Rights Council resolutions: the 2013 procedural resolution on child, early and forced marriage, the 2015 resolution on child, early and forced marriage, the 2017 resolution on recognising the need to address child, early and forced marriage in humanitarian contexts, and the 2019 resolution on the consequences of child marriage. In 2014, Canada also signed a joint statement at the Human Rights Council calling for a resolution on child marriage.

Canada co-sponsored the 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2018 UN General Assembly resolutions on child, early and forced marriage.

Canada ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1981, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

Canada, as a member of the Organization of American States (OAS), is bounded to the Inter American System of Human Rights, which recognises the right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and calls to governments to strengthen the respond to address gender-based violence and discrimination, including early, forced and child marriage and unions from a perspective that respected evolving capacities and progressive autonomy.

At the London Girl Summit in July 2014, the government signed a charter committing to end child marriage by 2020.

Canada is a pathfinder country for the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children.

What is the government doing to address this at the national level?

Canada is a leading advocate and supporter of efforts to address child marriage globally. The government:

  • Co-sponsored the first ever United Nations General Assembly resolution to address child marriage in 2013.
  • Led the 2018 United Nations General Assembly resolution, which calls on Member States to accelerate action to address child marriage and emphasises the rights of married girls.
  • Introduced and supported resolutions at the United Nations Human Rights Council and La Francophonie.
  • Developed, in collaboration with Girls Not Brides, the Girls’ Voices photo exhibit, taking the stories of girls at risk of child marriage, and the community members advocating for change alongside them, around the world.
  • Convened, in collaboration with other countries and UN entities, high-level meetings at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (in March 2018) and at the United Nations General Assembly in New York (in September 2018) to discuss the situation on child marriage and female genital mutilation and highlight work that still needs to be done.

Between 2011 and 2016, the government committed CAN $80 million to end child marriage. It delivered support through mechanisms including the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, the Global Peace and Security Fund, and its development assistance programme.

Canada has also funded the UNICEF-UNFPA Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage, the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage, and the UNFPA Action for Adolescent Girls: Accelerating Action to End Child Marriage.

In March 2017, the government announced an investment of CAD$ 650 million over three years in funding for sexual and reproductive health and rights, which, in part, aims to prevent and respond to child, early and forced marriage. In June 2017, Canada launched its Feminist International Assistance Policy. The policy includes a renewed commitment to support comprehensive approaches addressing child marriage.

In June 2019, at the Women Deliver Conference in Vancouver, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the Government of Canada would raise its funding to reach an average of $1.4 billion annually by 2023, to support women’s, adolescents’ and children’s health around the world.

In November 2019, at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, Canada reiterated this commitment and stated that of those $1.4 billion, an average of CAD$700 million annually would be dedicated to SRHR. With a comprehensive approach to SRHR, this funding will also be dedicated to the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence, including child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation and cutting.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

Since 2015, federal law has set the minimum age of marriage at 16. Provinces and territories may set a minimum age higher than that.

In Canada the age of majority is set by province/territory at 18 or 19, so minors under this age need additional parental and/or court consent to marry.


Action Canada for Sexual and Health Rights, Press release: $650m for SRHR an important step towards Canada’s global leadership on women’s rights, [website], 2017, https://www.actioncanadashr.org/about-us/media/2017-03-08-650m-srhr-important-step-towards-canadas-global-leadership-womens-rights (accessed February 2020).

African Union, Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa: Call to Action, 2013, https://au.int/sites/default/files/pages/32905-file-campaign_to_end_child_marriage_in_africa_call_for_action-_english.pdf (accessed February 2020).

Canada International, Girls Voices Exhibit: Speaking Out Against Child Marriage, [website], 2016, http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/united_kingdom-royaume_uni/eyes_abroad-coupdoeil/CEFMPhotoExhibit.aspx?lang=eng (accessed February 2020).

Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH), La Infancia Y Sus Derechos en el Sistema Interamericano de Protección de Derechos Humanos (Segunda Edición), OEA/Ser.L/V/II.133, 2008, https://cidh.oas.org/countryrep/Infancia2sp/Infancia2indice.sp.htm (accessed March 2020).

Girl Summit 2014, The Girl Summit Charter on Ending FGM and Child, Early and Forced Marriage, [website], 2015, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/459236/Public_Girl_Summit_Charter_with_Signatories.pdf (accessed February 2020).

Girls Not Brides, It Takes A Movement: Reflecting On Five Years Of Progress Towards Ending Child Marriage, 2016, https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/IT-TAKES-A-MOVEMENT-ENG.pdf (accessed February 2020).

Girls Not Brides, UN General Assembly Adopts 3rd Resolution On Child, Early, And Forced Marriage, [website], 2018, https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/un-general-assembly-adopts-3rd-resolution-on-child-early-and-forced-marriage/ (accessed February 2020).

Girls Not Brides, United Nations General Assembly Adopts 2013 Resolution On “Child, Early And Forced Marriage”, [website], 2013, https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/united-nations-general-assembly-adopts-resolution-on-child-early-and-forced-marriage/ (accessed February 2020).

Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, Canada, [website], https://www.end-violence.org/impact/countries/canada (accessed February 2020).

Government of Canada, #56 – Support the full range of reproductive health services and close the gap in the Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Initiative (MINE), [website], 2019, https://www.international.gc.ca/gac-amc/publications/transparency-transparence/govcan.aspx?lang=eng (accessed February 2020).

Government of Canada, Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy, [website], 2017, https://www.canada.ca/en/global-affairs/news/2017/06/canada_s_feministinternationalpolicy.html (accessed February 2020).

Government of Canada, Canada’s Implementation Of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Voluntary National Review, 2018, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/20312Canada_ENGLISH_18122_Canadas_Voluntary_National_ReviewENv7.pdf (accessed February 2020).

Government of Canada, Project profile — Action for Adolescent Girls: Accelerating Action to End Child Marriage, [website], https://w05.international.gc.ca/projectbrowser-banqueprojets/project-projet/details/d002465001 (accessed February 2020).

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Joint statement on child, early and forced marriage, HRC 27, Agenda Item 3, [website], 2014, http://fngeneve.um.dk/en/aboutus/statements/newsdisplaypage/?newsid=6371ad93-8fb0-4c35-b186-820fa996d379 (accessed February 2020).

Nairobi Summit, Key Actions for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action of the ICPD, the outcomes of its reviews and Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, [website], 2019, http://www.nairobisummiticpd.org/commitment/key-actions-further-implementation-programme-action-icpd-outcomes-its-reviews-and-0 (accessed February 2020).

National Post, Child marriage ‘legal and ongoing’ in Canada, researcher finds, [website], 2019, https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/child-marriage-legal-and-ongoing-in-canada-researcher-finds (accessed February 2020).

UNFPA-UNICEF, Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage Annual Report 2018, 2019, https://www.unfpa.org/resources/global-programme-accelerate-action-end-child-marriage-annual-report-2018 (accessed February 2020).

UNICEF-UNFPA, Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage, 2017, https://www.unicef.org/protection/57929_92681.html (accessed February 2020).

United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg5 (accessed February 2020).

Fait référence au pourcentage de femmes âgées de 20 à 24 ans qui ont été mariées ou en concubinage avant le l’âge de 15 ou 18 ans.