Some Ontario cities, such as Waterloo say on their website:

"Due to COVID-19, marriage licences will be suspended until further notice."

Here is a screenshot, in case the website changes.

Does the COVID-19 emergency law allow for taking away citizens' rights to be married under the Marriage Act of 1990 (the link takes you to the legislation, and ontario.ca also provides a summary of it)?

The City of Waterloo is currently in the "shutdown zone" defined in O. Reg. 82/20: RULES FOR AREAS IN STAGE 1, and Schedule 2 of the same document lists what is allowed to stay running during the COVID-19 shutdown order, and in paragraph 47(h) of that list it says:

"government services including but not limited to policing and law enforcement, fire and emergency services, paramedics, coroner and pathology services, corrections and court services, licences and permits"

While they are vague about what type of "licenses" are allowed to be issued, the document does not contain the word "marriage" anywhere (it does talk about "weddings" but only to say that weddings must have at most 10 people attending them).

Is a city allowed to stop issuing marriage licences "due to COVID-19", despite O. Reg. 82/20 saying that government services including those related to "licences and permits" are allowed to continue?

Earlier on this site, we learned that a couple wishing to get married in Ontario can get a marriage license in any municipality Ontario: In Ontario, does it matter which municipality issues the marriage license?. While the answer there does not give a reference, it is now quite common knowledge that a couple can get their marriage licence at any municipality in Ontario, and there's even a website that tells people which municipality they should go to if they want the license to cost the least and this money-saving tip was also featured in Ontario's #1 newspaper.

Since the City of Waterloo stopped issuing marriage licenses "due to COVID-19", we went to a different municipality to get our license, but they said they would not do it because our residential address is not in that municipality. They said they would do it if we lived in that municipality, but will not do it because we do not. The Ontario shutdown order says nothing about travel restrictions between municipalities.

My research on the issue has pointed me to an article that says: "while the City of London is not issuing marriage licences during the pandemic, the nearby City of St Thomas is. It's by appointment-only and city officials there will only grant licences to two couples per day" and another article that says that in Toronto "marriage licences will only be issued by appointment on an urgent basis and will be determined on a case-by-case basis", so there are several cities that are refusing to issue marriage licenses, and at least one municipality that is refusing to issue marriage licenses to people that do not live in their municipality.

Furthermore, in the Marriage Act of 1990, to which I provided a link earlier in this question, the two most relevant articles appear to be these ones:

"Review of refusal to issue licence
(4) Where an issuer refuses to issue a licence, or the Minister refuses to issue an authorization under subsection (3), the applicant may apply to the Divisional Court for judicial review under the Judicial Review Procedure Act and for an order directing that a licence be issued to the applicant and if the court finds that the applicant is so entitled it may make such an order. R.S.O. 1990, c. M.3, s. 8 (4)."

"4. The duties of an issuer of licences are,
(a) to requisition from the Minister and maintain on hand sufficient supplies of licences and other forms required by the Registrar General; and
(b) to ensure that every applicant for a licence is aware of the prohibited degrees of affinity and consanguinity. R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 738, s. 4; O. Reg. 302/05, s. 4.

So the duties of license issuers in general, are quite vague, and while I see that we can apply to a Divisional Court for judicial review, my question still stands regarding whether or not a municipality can stop issuing marriage licences during COVID, and whether or not alternate municipalities can deny a marriage license to Ontario citizens simply because they reside in a different municipality.

Edit: A comment suggested that there might not be enough people alive or well enough to issue marriage licenses, but this is far from the truth: In the case of Waterloo, there's a population of 115,000 and only about 100 people died of COVID, and the whole city is running normally for the most part, with the schools wide open for in-person classes, thousands of people doing grocery shopping each day, and government offices open to issue drivers licenses, car permits and even parking tickets. As for the other municipality, I called in advance and was told to come at 4:15pm, and when I arrived I actually went inside the office and spoke with the license issuer, and the reason for not being issued the license was because my address was not in that municipality.

  • 2
    The "Review of refusal to issue licence" part of the law you quoted only applies when an issuer actually refuses to issue a licence after a request for one. You can ask a court to review the decision of the issuer in the other municipality that actually refused to issue a licence to you, but you can't ask for a review under that section because the licence office was closed, whether because it was the weekend or because of a pandemic.
    – Ross Ridge
    Feb 15, 2021 at 23:42
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – feetwet
    Feb 16, 2021 at 23:25


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