Maintenance Enforcement Survey (MES)

Detailed information for 2005/2006





Record number:


This survey collects statistical and descriptive information on child and spousal support payments from provincial and territorial maintenance enforcement programs.

Data release - January 11, 2007


The Maintenance Enforcement Survey (MES) and the Survey of Maintenance Enforcement Programs (SMEP), collect statistical and descriptive information on child and spousal support payments and cases. The information is collected from maintenance enforcement programs (MEPs). These programs, which exist in each province and territory, assist in the enforcement of child and spousal support payments. The data do not cover all support cases in Canada, as there are also orders that are enforced privately. Thus, while the MES does not provide information representative of all support orders, it can be considered a census of a sub-population of those cases, the ones registered in a MEP.

The MES gathers aggregate information from program information systems on some of the key characteristics associated with cases enrolled in MEPs. Data include the caseload of the MEP, sex and median age of payors and recipients, number and median age of children affected, typical support amounts, legislation under which the order for support was made, compliance rates, information on arrears, frequency and amounts of payments, and types of actions that programs have to initiate in order to enforce the cases. The SMEP is a microdata survey that provides more detailed data than previously available through the MES.

Both the MES and the SMEP are designed to provide information for use by government policy-makers, maintenance enforcement programs, researchers, the media and the public. Information relating to the management of support orders will support the administration of justice nationally by providing data about caseload and case characteristics.

Statistical activity

The survey is currently administered as part of the National Justice Statistics Initiative (NJSI). Since 1981, the federal, provincial and territorial Deputy Ministers responsible for the administration of justice in Canada, with the Chief Statistician, have been working together in an enterprise known as the NJSI. The mandate of the NJSI is to provide information to the justice community as well as the public on criminal and civil justice in Canada. Although this responsibility is shared among federal, provincial and territorial departments, the lead responsibility for the development of Canada's statistical system remains with Statistics Canada.

The survey is currently administered as part of the Courts Program. The objective of the Courts Program is to collect and disseminate information on the operation of the court system in Canada.

Reference period: The 12-month fiscal period between April 1st and March 31st

Collection period: During the month following the reference period (for annual data) and during the month following the reference month (for monthly data)


  • Civil courts and family law
  • Crime and justice

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The universe includes all support cases that are enrolled in maintenance enforcement programs (MEPs).

Instrument design

This methodology does not apply.


This survey is a census with a cross-sectional design.

Data are collected for all units of the target population, therefore, no sampling is done.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: 2005-05-01 to 2006-04-30

Data are extracted from administrative files.

Both the Maintenance Enforcement Survey and the Survey of Maintenance Enforcement Programs draw on information from the administrative databases in operation in the maintenance enforcement programs (MEPs) in the provinces and territories. The data are collected so as to conform to a set of national definitions, rather than provincial or territorial level definitions.

Computer interfaces are developed that map survey concepts to the information system of each participating MEP. The data are then electronically pulled off the system in either aggregate form (MES) or as microdata (SMEP). These data files are forwarded to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS) electronically according to a reporting schedule.

Error detection

A number of tools have been developed for the MES to minimize or correct errors.

System error may be introduced during the extraction and transcription of provincial or territorial data into MES or SMEP format. The CCJS has minimized this source of error by implementing a standard interface development methodology that requires a complete testing of the software by both the CCJS and the province or territory prior to implementation.

To ensure system error is not introduced by the MES and SMEP data processing systems, the MES and SMEP data processing systems were subject to logic testing by the developer, user acceptance testing performed by the CCJS and/or the Methodology Division of Statistics Canada, and volume testing performed by the system developer.

For the MES, the maintenance enforcement programs provide data for the survey's 16 standard tables. A number of these tables have control totals, i.e. totals that are the same. The data are verified to ensure that these totals match. Data are also verified to ensure that table sub-totals and totals match the sum of their components. For the SMEP, the SMEP central processing system contains an automated edit module that examines all incoming data for format and consistency.


This methodology does not apply.


This methodology type does not apply to this statistical program.

Quality evaluation

The incoming data are assessed for consistency and completeness. Every year, a data quality report and a set of verification tables are sent to reporting jurisdictions for their review and verification prior to release. These reports also highlight problems, if any, that were observed during analysis of the data, and include an historical trend analysis of the main indicators such as caseload, total monthly amount due and compliance.

The products from this survey are subject to both institutional and peer review (directors of maintenance enforcement programs, justice departments, etc.).

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects which could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data

For both the MES and the SMEP, the data have been subjected to a confidentiality procedure known as "random rounding". Under this method, all figures, including totals and sub-totals, have been randomly rounded either up or down to a multiple of 3. While providing strong protection against disclosure, this technique does not add significant error to either the MES or the SMEP data.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

This methodology type does not apply to this statistical program.

Data accuracy

Both surveys collect census data as extracted and compiled by maintenance enforcement programs. Formal data quality indicators, beyond annual respondent verification and review for accuracy and consistency, are not part of the survey methodology.

Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon and the Northwest Territories participate in the surveys. These ten participating provinces and territories represent about 95% of Canada's population.

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