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.
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 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 2017 Human Rights Council resolution recognising the need to address child, early and forced marriage in humanitarian contexts, and the 2015 Human Rights Council resolution to end child, early and forced marriage, recognising that it is a violation of human rights.
Canada co-sponsored the 2013, 2014 and 2016 UN General Assembly resolutions on child, early and forced marriage, and the 2013 Human Rights Council resolution on child, early and forced marriage. In 2014, Canada signed a joint statement at the Human Rights Council calling for a resolution on child 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.
At the Girl Summit in July 2014, the government signed a charter committing to end child marriage by 2020.
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
- 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.
Between 2011 and 2016, the government committed CAN $80 million to end child marriage. It has 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 and the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage.
In March 2017, the government announced an investment of $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 and announces more funding for women’s organisations.
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, (accessed May 2018)
African Union, Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa: Call to Action, 2013, (accessed February 2018)
Canada International, Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy, [website], 2017, (accessed May 2018)
Canada International, Girls Voices Exhibit: Speaking Out Against Child Marriage, [website], 2016, (accessed May 2018)
Girl Summit 2014, The Girl Summit Charter on Ending FGM and Child, Early and Forced Marriage, [website], 2015, (accessed February 2018)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Joint statement on child, early and forced marriage, HRC 27, Agenda Item 3, [website], 2014, (accessed April 2018)
UC Observer, Canada and other surprising countries where child marriage is still a thing, [website], 2018, (accessed May 2018)
UNICEF-UNFPA, Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage, 2017, (accessed February 2018)
United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, (accessed February 2018)
* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)