A new report from McGill University has found that child marriage remains a persistent force in Canadian society.

The report found that between 2000 and 2018, there were 3,600 marriage certificates issued to Canadian children under the age of 18, with many more common-law marriages involving children occurring.

“Our results show that Canada has its own work to do to achieve its commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which call for an end to child marriage by the year 2030,” says co-author Prof. Alissa Koski.

The minimum age for marriage in Canada is 16. Children below the age of majority can get married with parental consent.

The highest rates of child marriage were estimated to be in the Territories (1.7%) and Saskatchewan (0.5%). Over 85% of children granted marriage certificates were girls, with spouses often much older men.

In recent years, common-law marriages have overtaken formal marriages. In 2000, half of child marriage were common-law. By 2016, common-law relationships were 95% of child marriages.

“While the number of marriage certificates issued to children across the country has declined, it’s possible that individuals are opting for more informal unions in response to growing social disapproval of child marriage,” the authors wrote.

The authors conclude by saying they will next examine the consequences of child marriage in Canada and the motivations.

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