Indigenous groups allowed to appoint marriage officiants

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TORONTO – The government of Ontario has amended the Marriage Act to enable Indigenous officiants to perform marriage ceremonies according to their customs and traditions, and to submit a marriage for registration with the Ontario Registrar General. These changes, which came into force last week, recognize the role of Indigenous communities and organizations in designating marriage officiants.

“Our government is proud to take action to build a more inclusive province by legally recognizing the role of Indigenous marriage officiants and ceremonies,” said Greg Rickford, minister of Indigenous Affairs. “We have listened to advice from Indigenous partners and acted to ensure the Marriage Act respects the diversity of Indigenous communities and cultures, reflecting our commitment to advancing reconciliation.”

Changes to the act allow a person to solemnize a marriage in Ontario if they: belong to a band, a First Nation, Métis, or Inuit organization or community, or a permanently established Indigenous entity, located wholly or partly in Ontario; are recognized by the band, First Nation, Métis or Inuit organization or community or Indigenous entity as entitled to perform marriages in accordance with its customs and traditions; or are registered to solemnize marriages under the Marriage Act.

This amendment addresses the unique needs of First Nation, Métis and Inuit peoples, and was informed by feedback received from Indigenous individuals, communities and organizations across Ontario. 

“Culture is at the heart of marriage traditions, and I am pleased we have been able to recognize the role of marriage solemnizers from Indigenous communities and organizations in Ontario,” said Lisa Thompson, minister of Government and Consumer Services. “Thank you to our Indigenous partners for your support in amending the Marriage Act to include a greater diversity of marriage officiants. This is an important step forward in strengthening our relationship.”

The amendments to the Marriage Act are part of the Smarter and Stronger Justice Act – Bill 161, which received Royal Assent on July 8.