Infographic: Modern Couples in Canada

Just as families have evolved across generations, so too have the couple relationships that are a major part of Canada’s “family landscape.” This perpetual change is both a reflection of and a driving force behind some of the evolving social, economic, cultural and environmental forces that shape family life.

Dating, marriage, cohabitation, common-law relationships – the ways people choose to come together, or decide to move apart, are as diverse as the couples themselves. There are, however, some broad trends being witnessed across the country, with family structures diversifying, people forming couple relationships at later ages and family finances taking on a more egalitarian structure.

Using new data from the 2016 Census, the Vanier Institute of the Family has published an infographic on modern couples in Canada.

Highlights include:

  • In 2016, married couples accounted for 79% of all couples in Canada, down from 93% in 1981.
  • One-quarter of “never-married” Canadians say they don’t intend to get married.
  • In 2016, 21% of all couples in Canada were living common-law, up from 6% in 1981.
  • The share of twentysomething women (37%) and men (25%) living in couples has nearly halved since 1981 (falling from 59% and 45%, respectively).
  • In 2016, 12.4% of all couple families in Canada with children under 25 were stepfamilies, down slightly from 12.6% in 2011.
  • There are 73,000 same-sex couples in Canada, 12% of whom are raising children.
  • 1 in 5 surveyed Canadians reported in 2011 that their parents are separated or divorced, up from 10% in 2001.
  • The share of people living in mixed unions nearly doubled between 1991 and 2011, from 2.6% to 4.6%.((Statistics Canada defines a mixed union as “a couple in which one spouse or partner belongs to a visible minority group and the other does not, as well as a couple in which the two spouses or partners belong to different visible minority groups.”))
  • 69% of couples with children were dual-earner couples in 2014, up from 36% in 1976.

Download the Modern Couples in Canada infographic from the Vanier Institute of the Family.
Learn more about modern relationships in Canada:

  • Modern Families, Modern Living Arrangements – Part 1, Part 2 (Transition articles)


Published on August 4, 2017


2016 Census Release Highlights Family Diversity in Canada

Families in Canada are becoming increasingly diverse, according to data released today by Statistics Canada. The 2016 Census release on families, households and marital status provides an overview of the current “family landscape” in Canada as well as broader trends over time.

In addition to analytical products such as highlight tables, infographics and a video overview of families in Canada at Confederation and today, three short Census in Brief articles focus on the evolution of families and family life from coast to coast to coast:

Young adults living with their parents in Canada in 2016

Learn about modern family living arrangements in Canada:

  • Modern Families, Modern Living Arrangements: Part 1, Part 2 (Transition articles)


Portrait of children’s family life in Canada in 2016

Learn about children, diversity and family relationships in Canada:


Same-sex couples in Canada in 2016

Learn about same-sex couples in Canada:


The Vanier Institute shares evidence-based, evidence-informed and evidence-inspired stories and research findings, working with organizations such as Statistics Canada to explore modern families through diverse resources and publications. Read more about our relationship with Statistics Canada by reading their blog post Learning about Canada’s diverse families through Nora Spinks from the Vanier Institute of the Family.

To arrange an interview, contact Vanier Institute CEO Nora Spinks at 613-724-8500 or 613-228-8500, ext. 219, or by emailing


Learn more about the evolution of families and family life in Canada with the following resources:


Published on August 2, 2017

Call-out: Families, Mobility, and Work Atlantic Canadian Symposium

Are you working with families that are separated due to employment in the oil and gas industry, construction, trucking, health care, forestry, the military, fishing, agriculture, education, tourism or some other type of work? The Families, Mobility, and Work Atlantic Canadian Symposium is looking for presenters, delegates and sponsors to participate in next year’s gathering, May 15–17, 2018, at the University of Prince Edward Island.

Download a PDF flyer – please share!

Families in Canada are diverse and continually adapting to the realities of a changing labour market. These changes include sectoral shifts in employment and growth in precarious and mobile work that often requires complex and extended travel for work. This employment-related geographical mobility (ERGM) includes extended and complex daily commutes to work as well as less frequent commutes with extended absences from home.

These commutes can be to a regular place of work or to multiple, transient, remote and sometimes, as in trucking, mobile worksites. Many Canadians and a growing number of people from outside of Canada work in other regions, provinces and countries, which often results in prolonged daily, weekly, monthly or even longer periods away from loved ones and home communities.

The Families, Mobility, and Work Atlantic Canadian Symposium will examine the intersections between diverse families, work situations and ERGM in the Canadian context. Some research has documented the challenges associated with some types of work-related mobility (such as long-distance commuting or short but lengthy daily commutes) for some kinds of families (from professionals to migrants performing jobs in unskilled positions). However, little attention has been paid to different types of families engaged in the full spectrum of ERGM in diverse sectors of the Canadian labour market.

The Symposium will facilitate dialogue and sharing between those studying, serving and supporting families who are experiencing work-related mobility, with a focus on leading and emerging policy and practices at home, at work and in the community. It will bring together (face-to-face and virtually) policy-makers and civil society leaders from multiple sectors, researchers studying the intersectionality between families and ERGM in Canada, and families directly impacted by work-related mobility.

Some potential themes for discussion will include:

In the home:

  • What role does work-related mobility play in family planning, conception/fertility and parenthood?
  • How is parenting and child care, caregiving and elder care, or care for persons with disabilities impacted by ERGM? How are these care relationships impacted by extended absences due to mobility for work?
  • How does coming to Atlantic Canada for temporary work impact international labour migrants and their families who reside in their places of origin?

In the workplace:

  • How are labour and professional organizations and employers accommodating family status in response to extended absences?
  • In what ways do precarious employment and atypical work schedules combine with work-related mobility to impact the familial and individual well-being of mobile workers?

In the community:

  • How does mobility impact the communities that mobile workers live in/leave from and work in/go to? How does this reverberate back to impact their families?
  • How are diverse health care professionals, community service providers, educators, spiritual advisors/faith leaders and others responding and adapting to best meet the needs of families affected by extended commuting for work?

The Symposium is being organized with support from the SSHRC-funded A Tale of Two Islands and On the Move Partnership projects and in collaboration with the Vanier Institute of the Family, the University of Prince Edward Island and Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Participation and partnership with other research programs and groups is welcome, including those in government and civil society interested in enhancing our understanding of how work/employment and families interact with, have an impact on and are affected by ERGM. We also invite participation from families directly impacted by employment mobility.

Those interested in partnering with, presenting at and/or participating in the Symposium should contact Dr. Christina Murray, Faculty of Nursing, University of Prince Edward Island or Danielle Devereaux at the On the Move Partnership, Memorial University no later than September 15, 2017.


Published on July 27, 2017

The Canadian Family: Redefining Inclusion (video)

On June 22, 2017, Vanier Institute CEO Nora Spinks participated in the 2017 Speaker Series – The Canadian Family: Redefining Inclusion. Hosted by Roots of Empathy, this event brought together leaders and educators to discuss diversity, inclusion and modern families in Canada.

One of Roots of Empathy’s organizational goals is to foster inclusiveness. In this engaging and catalytic panel discussion, Nora Spinks joined Zeena Al Hamdan (Programs Manager, Arab Community Centre of Toronto), Paul Cormier (Assistant Professor, Lakehead University, and member of the Lake Helen First Nations, Red Rock Indian Band), Tesa Fiddler (Indigenous Education Resource Teacher, Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board) and panel moderator Cheryl Jackson (Director of Communications, Roots of Empathy) to explore and discuss what this means for families in Canada.

Learn more about family diversity in Canada:


Watch The Canadian Family: Redefining Inclusion on the Roots of Empathy YouTube Channel.


Published on July 26, 2017

Facts and Stats: Families and Active Leisure in Canada (2017 Update)

Whether it’s swimming at the beach in the summer, tobogganing in the winter or playing organized sports throughout the year, many families enjoy being physically active in their leisure time, and this exercise can have a positive impact on our individual and family well-being. However, there is growing concern that many people aren’t meeting the recommended guidelines for physical activity, as busy schedules and “screen time” can interfere with our best efforts to keep moving.

Learn about how Canadians of all ages are keeping fit and having fun with our updated fact sheet on families and active leisure in Canada!

Download Facts and Stats: Families and Active Leisure in Canada from the Vanier Institute of the Family.


Published on July 25, 2017

Congratulations to Canada’s Next Governor General

On behalf of the Vanier Institute of the Family, CEO Nora Spinks extends congratulations to Ms. Julie Payette on her appointment as the 29th Governor General of Canada. Her esteemed career and history of accomplishment serve as an inspiration to Canadians of all ages and backgrounds, and we look forward to her leadership as Canada moves beyond its 150th anniversary into a bright future.

Founded in 1965 by His Excellency General The Right Honourable Georges P. Vanier and Madame Pauline Vanier, the Vanier Institute of the Family is a national, independent, charitable organization dedicated to understanding the diversity and complexity of families and the reality of family life in Canada. In our work to realize the Vaniers’ vision, we offer access to a range of publications, research initiatives, presentations and social media content to enhance the national understanding of how families interact with, have an impact on and are affected by social, economic, environmental and cultural forces.

Throughout their tenure, we have worked closely with Their Excellencies, The Right Honourable David Johnston and Mrs. Sharon Johnston in a variety of settings to facilitate the work of those who study, serve and support Canada’s diverse families. We look forward to continuing our long-standing relationship between the Vanier Institute and the Office of the Governor General.


Published on July 14, 2017

Vanier Institute Update: June 2017

What’s New 


 What We’re Reading


What’s in the Media 


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Exploring Families with Statistics Canada and the Vanier Institute

In their most recent blog post, Statistics Canada discusses the Vanier Institute’s approach to exploring families and family experiences, as well as its role in enhancing the national understanding of families in Canada.

“Statistics Canada data are vital to what we do and to all of the people and organizations that want, and are involved with, evidence-based decision making,” said Spinks. “At the Vanier Institute, we look deeper to find the stories these numbers are telling us, and to ultimately make a difference in the lives of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.”

– Vanier Institute CEO Nora Spinks

Read more by visiting the Statistics Canada blog post, Learning about Canada’s diverse families through Nora Spinks from the Vanier Institute of the Family.


Posted on June 23, 2017

Facts and Stats: Indigenous Families in Canada

Did you know that there are more than 1.4 million Indigenous people living in Canada, nearly 3 in 10 of whom are children? Did you know that despite accounting for only 7% of all children across the country, Indigenous children and youth represent half of all foster children?

Indigenous families in Canada are highly diverse and, like all families, they adapt and react to evolving social, economic, cultural and environmental contexts. Our newest “Facts and Stats” publication compiles data from Statistics Canada to explore some of the family realities of Indigenous people in Canada.

Download Facts and Stats: Indigenous Families in Canada from the Vanier Institute of the Family.


Published on June 20, 2017

A Snapshot of Men, Work and Family Relationships in Canada

Over the past half-century, fatherhood in Canada has evolved dramatically  as men across the country adapt and react to social, economic, cultural and environmental contexts. Throughout this period, men have had diverse employment experiences as they manage their multiple roles inside and outside the family home. These experiences have been impacted by a variety of factors, including (but not limited to) cultural norms and expectations, family status, disability and a variety of demographic characteristics, as well as women’s increased involvement in the paid labour force.

While many fathers in previous generations acted exclusively as “traditional” breadwinning father figures, modern fathers are increasingly likely to embrace caring roles and assume more household management responsibilities. In doing so, dads across Canada are renegotiating and reshaping the relationship between fatherhood and work.

Highlights include:

  • Men are less likely than in previous generations to fulfill a breadwinner role exclusively. In 2014, 79% of single-earner couple families with children included a breadwinning father, down from 96% in 1976.
  • Men account for a growing share of part-time workers. One-quarter (25%) of Canadians aged 25 to 54 who worked part-time in 2016 were men, up from 15% in 1986.
  • The proportion of never-married men is on the rise. In 2011, more than half (54%) of men in Canada aged 30 to 34 report never having been married, up from 15% in 1981.
  • Canada is home to many caregiving men. In 2012, nearly half (46%) of all caregivers in Canada were men, 11% of whom provided 20 or more hours per week of care.
  • Many men want to be stay-at-home parents. Nearly four in 10 (39%) surveyed men say they would prefer to be a stay-at-home parent.
  • Many men engage in household work and related activities. Nearly half (45%) of surveyed fathers in North America say they’re the “primary grocery shopper” in their household.
  • Flex at work can facilitate work–life balance. More than eight in 10 (81%) full-time working fathers who have a flexible schedule say they’re satisfied with their work–life balance, compared with 76% for those without flex.


This bilingual resource will be updated periodically as new data emerges. Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to find out about updates, as well as other news about publications, projects and initiatives from the Vanier Institute.

Download A Snapshot of Men, Work and Family Relationships in Canada from the Vanier Institute of the Family.


Learn more about men, work and family relationships in Canada:


Published on June 13, 2017