Child Abuse is Wrong: What Can I Do?

Underage and forced marriage

Marriage in Canada

Canadian requirements for a valid marriage include that:

  • Both people getting married must give their free and enlightened consent to the marriage.
  • Both must be at least 16 years old.
  • Neither of them can be married to anyone else.

Forced marriage

A forced marriage occurs when a person does not want to marry, but is made to marry by someone else. It is not the same as an arranged marriage, where both people consent to the marriage.

Family members might believe that the marriage is the right thing for the person and for the family. Sometimes they will even use physical violence, threats of violence, abduction, forced connement or emotional abuse to force someone to marry. But forcing someone to marry against their will is a crime in Canada. It is also a crime to take a person under 18 years of age out of Canada to force them to marry in another country. Some tactics used to force a person to marry are also crimes - for example, threats and violence.

If you or someone you know is being forced to marry, tell someone you trust or contact the police or a social worker. You may want to ask them about applying for a peace bond* to prevent the marriage from taking place. You can also call the police if you suspect that you or someone you know will be taken out of Canada and forced to marry in another country. You can find more information on steps you can take to protect yourself from being forced into marriage on Global Affairs Canada's forced marriage webpage or by calling 1-800-387-3124. That webpage also has a directory of services that may include places to get help in your province or territory.

Underage marriage

Canadian law requires anyone getting married to be 16 years old or over. This minimum age also applies to anyone who is ordinarily resident in Canada where the marriage takes place outside Canada, in person or by telephone or proxy. It is a crime in Canada to celebrate, aid or participate in the marriage of a child who is under 16 years of age, even if the child agrees to be married. It is also a crime to take a child under 16 who ordinarily lives in Canada, to another country to be married. If you know a child under 16 who will be married in Canada or taken to another country to be married, call the police or a social worker.

Polygamy

Canadian law permits two people to marry each other. It is a crime in Canada to marry a person while you or they are married to someone else. If you are married to one person, you cannot marry another person until you take legal steps to end your marriage through divorce or are widowed. Practising polygamy, which means knowing that you are involved in a form of marriage that involves more than two persons at the same time, including a religious marriage, is a crime in Canada.

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