Canadian Vital Statistics - Marriage Database
Detailed information for 2020
This is an administrative survey that collects demographic information from all provincial and territorial vital statistics registries on all marriages in Canada.
Data release - November 14, 2022
This is an administrative survey that collects demographic information from all provincial and territorial vital statistics registries on all new marriages in Canada.
The data are used to calculate basic indicators on marriages occurring in Canada, such as number of events and mean ages. Information from this database is also combined with demographic estimates to compute statistics, such as the crude marriage rate or age-specific marriage rates.
For Canada as a whole, it was impossible to compile a satisfactory series of vital statistics prior to 1921. Eight provinces initially joined the cooperative Canadian vital statistics system, leading to the publication of the first annual report for Canada in 1921; that report included Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. Quebec began to participate in 1926 and Newfoundland in 1949 (after joining Confederation) and their data were included in the tabulations from those years onward (with information later added retrospectively to 1921). Basic data from the Yukon and the Northwest Territories were published as appendices to the national tables from 1924 to 1955; their data were first included in the Canadian total in 1956. Nunavut came into being officially as a Territory of Canada on April 1, 1999. The name Northwest Territories applies to a Territory with different geographic boundaries before and after April 1, 1999.
Prior to 1944 all vital events were classified by place of occurrence. Since 1944, births, stillbirths, and deaths have been classified by area of reported residence, with births and stillbirths according to the residence of the mother. Marriages continue to be classified by place of occurrence (that is, where the marriage was solemnized).
Reference period: Calendar year
Collection period: Provincial and territorial vital statistics registrars transmit the information to Statistics Canada in the months following the end of the reference period
- Families, households and housing
- Marriage and common-law unions
- Population and demography
Data sources and methodology
The target population of the Marriage database is new marriages of Canadian residents.
The actual (survey) population of the Marriage database is new marriages of Canadian and non-Canadian residents occurring in Canada.
The formation of other types of unions such as common-law relationships, civil unions, and partnerships registered with partnerships registries are not included.
This methodology does not apply.
This survey is a census with a cross-sectional design.
No sampling is done.
Responding to this survey is mandatory.
Data are extracted from administrative files.
Provincial and territorial Vital Statistics Acts (or equivalent legislation) render compulsory the registration of all live births, stillbirths, deaths and marriages within their jurisdictions. These Acts follow, as closely as possible, a Model Vital Statistics Act that was developed to promote uniformity of legislation and reporting practices among the provinces and territories.
The Canadian Vital Statistics system operates under an agreement between the Government of Canada and governments of the provinces and territories. The Vital Statistics Council for Canada, an advisory committee set up by an Order-in-Council, oversees policy and operational matters. All provincial and territorial jurisdictions and Statistics Canada are represented on the Vital Statistics Council. Under the agreement, all registrars collect a specified set of data elements, although any of them may decide to collect additional information.
The new spouses complete the form for the registration of a marriage, and the officiant is responsible for filing it with the local registrar.
The central Vital Statistics Registry in each province and territory provides data from marriage registrations to Statistics Canada. However, changes received after a cut-off date are not reflected in published tabulations.
Prior to the reference year 2009, provinces and territories provided Statistics Canada with individual information on each marriage registration form. For the reference year 2009 and beyond, provinces and territories provide their own tabulations of the number of marriages broken down by different characteristics of the spouses (age and legal marital status).
Imputation is used to fill in all missing ages at marriage and legal marital statuses. In general, the annual number of records subject to imputation is minimal.
This methodology does not apply.
Upon completion of the annual national marriage data base, Statistics Canada carries out a series of quality checks that include: 1) producing a set of verification tables which consist of basic tabulations for the majority of variables in the database by province or territory of occurrence; 2) comparing tabulated data to those published by the provinces and territories, where available; 3) checking for internal consistencies, for example, running frequencies and looking for outliers on certain data elements; and 4) comparing the most recent data year with past data years to detect any unusual or unexpected changes.
Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects that 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.
Revisions and seasonal adjustment
Revisions are made on an occasional basis. When data for the 2009 to 2020 reference years were released, the rates for years 1991 to 2008 were revised: the numbers of marriages in the numerators remained the same, but the most recent demographic estimates were used as denominators. Data for 2019 and 2020 are considered preliminary.
Seasonal adjustment does not apply to this statistical program.
Since the registration of marriages is a legal requirement in each Canadian province and territory, reporting is virtually complete. Undercoverage is thought to be minimal but is being monitored. Undercoverage may occur because of late registration. Some marriages are registered by local authorities, but the paperwork is not forwarded to provincial or territorial registrars before a cut-off date. These cases for 1996 represent approximately 430 marriages, 9 years after the year of marriage (accumulated late records), or three-tenths of one percent of the total records.
Undercoverage will occur when Canadian residents marry outside of Canada. There are no estimates for this, but it is thought to be relatively small. Statistics Canada does not receive any data from other countries for these marriages. Overcoverage occurs when non-Canadian resident couples marry in Canada and when there are duplicate marriage records.
Unlike the other vital statistics databases, marriage data are presented only by province or territory of occurrence, and not by province or territory of residence. The variable "province or territory of residence" has not been captured by several provinces or territories over the years, the largest being Ontario. Without complete reporting, records for non-residents cannot be consistently excluded from the Canadian marriage statistics. This type of overcoverage, however, can be estimated by studying the resident status for records from the provinces and territories that do capture these variables. Using 2004 data, 4.7% of the records had one or both spouses as non-resident. In over one-half of these marriages (or 2.8% of all records), both spouses were non-residents. These might be tourists or recent emigrants who return to Canada to wed. Where both spouses were non-residents and residents of the same country, 69% were from the United States. Assuming that all the non-resident couples continued to reside outside of Canada after the marriage, and that some percentage of the non-resident/resident couples decided to reside in Canada, this type of overcoverage can be estimated at approximately 2% to 5% percent of all marriages in Canada. This estimation assumes that those provinces that do not report the residence of each spouse have the same proportion of non-residents than the ones that do report it. This proportion, however, may vary from one jurisdiction to another. As such, it is important to note that some provinces or territories have a greater percentage of marriages that take place between non-Canadian residents.
- Canadian Vital Statistics - Marriage Database: Definitions and Methods