Child marriage persists in Canada

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Child marriage persists across the country’s urban and rural communities, study finds

Child marriage is one of the biggest and most pressing issues globally. Because of this, Canada has spent considerable time and effort to help end the practice abroad. Nonetheless, a new study reveals that child marriage as a practice still persists across Canada’s urban and rural communities. Alissa Koski, assistant professor at McGill University, has therefore called Canada’s efforts ‘insincere’. Koski’s research, which is currently pending final review, shows that authorities in Canada issued over 3382 marriage licenses involving minors between 16 and 18 years of age.

Surprisingly enough, Ontario leads in issuing the most licenses for these marriages, with 1,353. Alberta is second with 791, with Quebec and BC following with 590 and 429, respectively. Koski remarks that such marriages happen ‘in every province and territory’ over the past 20 years, and that the phenomenon is not limited to a specific part of the country.

Does Canadian marriage law legalise statutory rape?

The focal point, says Koski, is that Canadian law allows children younger than 18 to wed with parental consent. Some have suggested that the current legal formulation is, de facto, a legalisation of statuary rape. For example, former child bride Samra Zafar has been a vocal critic of the legislation in Canada. ‘We talk about child marriage like it’s not happening at home but it is’, Zafar told. Zafar endured years of abuse at the hands of her husband, after her parents forcefully took her from her native Pakistan to UAE. After relocating to Mississauga, ON., today Zafar is a motivational speaker and author.

Something troubling from the study is the report that an increasing number of child marriages in the past years have been informal, common-law unions. Estimates paint a picture where nearly 2300 children between 15 and 17 married informally by 2016. Koski and other researchers are calling for ‘different and innovative approaches’ to address the issue in the country.