Council holds off on civil marriages

Whether or not the town clerk will be performing civil marriages remains to be seen as council is holding off on any decision until next May.
Council approved a report from Clerk Glenn Treftlin this week to “defer further action in the matter of performance of civil marriage ceremonies by the clerk,” as allowed pursuant to regulation under the Marriage Act, until after the clerk can attend a training session in late April.
He noted any training sessions for solemnizing marriage in Northwestern Ontario have been postponed thus far due to “insufficient registrants,” but one likely will be set for this spring in conjunction with a meeting of Zone 9 of the Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario.
“Over the winter months, the number of marriage licences issued is significantly less than during the spring through fall,” Treftlin said.
There would be some, but not a large number, of couples inconvenienced over the slow period if council deferred its decision until the spring of 2005,” he added.
“Historically, over the winter months—December through April—we have issued only an average total of 17 licences over the past four years,” he said. “Only a percentage of these would be civil ceremonies.”
As previously directed by council, Treftlin reported on information he’s gathered regarding the civil marriage issue, such as the possible demand for services and what other municipalities are doing.
He said he spoke with local Justice of the Peace Pat Clysdale-Cornell, who told him she performs an average of 35 civil services a year. These take an average of seven minutes to perform, with 15 minutes for the accompanying paperwork.
“It is hard to say if these averages hold constant in the future,” said Treftlin. “It has only been recently that traffic from the United States seeking the union of same-sex couples started.
“With the service being readily available through the municipality in some form or another, that traffic might just increase.”
Treftlin said he’s not aware of other municipalities in Rainy River District that will be providing the service.
In Kenora District, the City of Kenora stated it would not have its clerk solemnizing marriages, and passed a resolution objecting to its downloading by the province.
In Thunder Bay District, Treftlin noted the City of Thunder Bay is considering a report recommending providing the service, but that this would be delivered by contracting it out through the private sector.
And the Township of Schreiber is considering the service, but has not made a decision.
Elsewhere in Ontario, Treftlin said he’s aware of only two municipalities which have decided to provide the service—Timmins and Orangeville. Those still looking into the service include Ottawa, Kawartha Lakes, Brampton, Sault Ste. Marie, Brantford, Owen Sound, Wilmot, and Cobourg.
The Townships of Augusta and Springwater are among those which have opted not to provide civil marriages.
“Over the winter, I anticipate there will be some marriages performed in a number of municipalities across the province,” said Treftlin. “The clerks of those municipalities will likely have some suggestions on best practices for delivery of the service.
“These would benefit those clerks that are just preparing to deliver the service in their own municipalities.
“I, personally, have not changed from my position of regarding this initiative by the province as just another incidence of downloading on the municipality as I indicated in my earlier report,” Treftlin added.
“I would also like to emphasize that I support that the delivery of marriage services be without discrimination.”
He noted council basically has two options before it: pass a bylaw for the delivery of marriage services, or decide not to provide the service of civil marriages and consider the matter done.
“At the moment, however, I am recommending that council defer its decision in this matter until after the training takes place in spring, which will provide additional information to consider, and to take advantage of the experiences that other municipalities that are preparing to offer the service over the winter will share,” said Treftlin.
“I would prefer that any decision made by council be based on the best information that is available.
“I am confident there will be some worthy information to consider in the spring, and the consequence of not acting immediately will not be of significance,” he concluded.
Treftlin was directed to bring new information on the matter to the Administration and Finance executive committee in May so it can make a recommendation to council.