Survey of Maintenance Enforcement Programs (SMEP)

Detailed information for 2022/2023





Record number:


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

Data release - March 28, 2024


The Survey of Maintenance Enforcement Programs (SMEP) collects information on child and spousal support payments and cases from provincial and territorial maintenance enforcement programs (MEPs). These programs exist in each province and territory to assist in the collection and enforcement of child and spousal support payments.

The SMEP data provide information on the volume and type of cases enrolled, enforcement actions taken, support amounts due and compliance with support payments, among other measures. The data do not cover all support cases in Canada, as not all support orders are registered in MEPs.The SMEP is a microdata survey that provides more detailed information than the former aggregate Maintenance Enforcement Survey (MES) (see legacy version of record number 3324).

The survey is 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 month


  • 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

SMEP data collection tools and data requirements were developed with the assistance of representatives from provincial and territorial departments responsible for maintenance enforcement programs in Canada.

Microdata are extracted electronically from administrative databases by means of a software interface and submitted to Statistics Canada in an electronic format. Prior to data collection commencing, these interfaces are extensively tested to ensure the required data standards are met.


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: 2022-05-01 to 2023-04-30

Responding to this survey is mandatory.

Data are extracted from administrative files.

The Survey of Maintenance Enforcement Programs draws 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 as microdata. These data files are forwarded to the Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics (CCJCSS) electronically according to a reporting schedule.

Error detection

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

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

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

The SMEP central processing system contains an automated edit module that examines all incoming data for format and consistency.


SMEP field values that do not meet specifications or are out of range are deemed to be 'not available' and are re-coded accordingly such that processing may continue. Imputations such as donor imputation are not performed.

Records that are missing key fields (province or territory, case identification number, reference month and year, date of enrolment and reciprocal status) are rejected.


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

The SMEP data have been subjected to a confidentiality procedure known as "random rounding". Under this method, all SMEP data involving counts of individuals or cases are randomly rounded either up or down to the nearest multiple of 5. Thus, a case count of 32 would become either 30 or 35 when rounded. While providing strong protection against disclosure, this technique does not add significant error to the SMEP data.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

This methodology type does not apply to this statistical program.

Data accuracy

The survey collects 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.

Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan (not including 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 and 2021/2022 and 2022/2023), Alberta, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut (2011/2012 only) participate in the SMEP.


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