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Complying with the statutory legal requirements that may exist outside of a religious marriage ceremony to ensure that the marriage is legally recognized.


The parties were living in Ottawa and had completed the Marriage Preparation Course offered by their local parish. The parish forwarded all relevant documentation to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jeonju in South Korea where the parties were given permission by the church to get married. The parties were issued a marriage certificate on October 8, 2019, from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jeonju. However, in South Korea, marriage is a civil procedure, and the act does not constitute a legal marriage. The parties were informed that in order to be legally married they were required to submit certain documents to the City Hall in Jeonju in person. Since the parties had full-time employment in Ottawa, they were unable to remain in Jeonju to submit the required documents and returned to Canada.

Once arriving back in Ottawa, the parties attended City Hall and submitted a request for a civil marriage ceremony. The request was subsequently rejected by the clerk stating that the form could not be accepted because the couple had a religious wedding ceremony elsewhere. Furthermore, the clerk advised the parties that their marriage could not be registered in Ottawa because it did not take place in Ontario.


The Court considered the recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision of Lalonde v Agha. In Lalonde, the issue was whether the religious marriage ceremony that the couple had undergone constituted a valid marriage, as it did not satisfy the relevant statutory conditions of a legal marriage. However, the parties in Lalonde were unaware that their religious marriage ceremony was not sufficient to satisfy the legal requirements for a marriage. The court distinguished the case at hand from Lalonde by noting that the parties in this instance understood their religious marriage ceremony did not constitute a legally binding marriage. The parties were aware of the roadblocks that they had to overcome to ensure that their marriage was legally recognized but were unable to do so.

Section 31 of the Marriage Act states: “If the parties to a marriage solemnized in good faith and intended to be in compliance with this Act are not under a legal disqualification to contract such marriage and after such solemnization have lived together and cohabited as a married couple, such marriage shall be deemed a valid marriage, although the person who solemnized the marriage was not authorized to solemnize marriage, and despite the absence of or any irregularity or insufficiency in the publication of banns or the issue of the licence.”

The Court found that s. 31 of the Marriage Act was not able to assist the parties because they had the knowledge from the beginning that the religious ceremony was not sufficient for the legal qualification of a marriage.


In ruling that s. 31 of the Marriage Act could not assist the parties, the Court ruled that they had not previously been married. Therefore, there was no impediment based on a previous marriage preventing the parties from obtaining a marriage license at City Hall in Ottawa. The parties were permitted to return to City Hall and apply for a marriage license.