Flexible, Accessible and Inclusive: Benefit for Parents of Young Victims of Crime

When children become victims of crime, families experience their worst nightmare. They often miss work, leave the paid labour force and/or experience financial strain. In response, the Federal Income Support for Parents of Murdered or Missing Children (PMMC) was introduced in 2013.

On May 25, 2018, Employment and Social Development Canada announced changes aimed at enhancing support for families experiencing the death or disappearance of a child. The existing program (PMMC) will be renamed the Canadian Benefit for Parents of Young Victims of Crime and extended to include more families and provide working parents with greater flexibility in accessing and utilizing this benefit.

Changes to the program include:

  • Increasing the weekly grant/benefit payment from $350 to $450
  • Raising the age limit of the young victim from under 18 to under 25
  • Doubling the period in which recipients can receive the grant from 52 to 104 weeks
  • Allowing grant recipients to continue working up to 50% of their regular weekly hours (up to 20 hours per week)
  • Eliminating the requirement that parents attest that their child was not a willing party to the crime if their child is under age 14


Learn more about the Canadian Benefit for Parents of Young Victims of Crime. 

If you would like to book an interview with Vanier Institute CEO Nora Spinks, please contact lsteele@vanierinstitute.ca.


Published on May 25, 2018

Changes to the Divorce Act Aim to Strengthen the Canadian Family Justice System

On May 23, 2018, the federal government tabled legislation that would make changes to the Divorce Act to strengthen the Canadian family justice system. Bill C-78 includes (but is not limited to) modernizing language to be less adversarial (e.g. changing “access” to “parenting time”); establishing criteria that help define the “best interests of the child”; encouraging the use of resolution services such as mediation instead of courts; giving courts measures to address family violence; establishing guidelines for when one parent wants to relocate with a child; and making it easier for parents to collect support payments.

Statistics on divorce and families in Canada (most recent data available):

  • In 2017, an estimated 9.0% of Canadians aged 15+ were divorced or separated (not living common-law), nearly double the rate in 1977 (4.5%).((Statistics Canada, Estimates of Population, by Marital Status or Legal Marital Status, Age and Sex for July 1, Canada, Provinces and Territories (CANSIM Table 051-0042), (page last updated November 7, 2017). Link: http://bit.ly/2lSqvbR.))
  • Among the 5 million Canadians separated or divorced between 1991 and 2011, 4 in 10 (38%) had a child together at the time of their separation or divorce.((Government of Canada, Government of Canada Announces New Measures to Strengthen and Modernize Family Justice (news release) (page last updated May 22, 2018). Link: https://bit.ly/2LhOZa5.))
  • In 2016, more than 1 million children of separated or divorced parents were living in lone-parent families (most commonly with their mothers), which are more likely to have low income.((Government of Canada, 2018.))
  • In 2011, two-thirds of divorced Canadians said they do not have remarriage intentions (23% said they were uncertain).((Statistics Canada, Distribution of People Who Intend to Marry or Remarry by De Facto Marital Status and Region of Residence, Canada, 2011 (GSS Table 1) (page last updated November 30, 2015). Link: https://bit.ly/16l8BVW))
  • In 2010–2011, 8 in 10 active divorce cases (80%) in reporting jurisdictions were uncontested, with the remaining 20% being contested or disputed cases.((Uncontested divorces are those in which the divorcing couple agrees on all issues (e.g. support and child custody/access arrangements), and as a result are significantly quicker to finalize; the median length of uncontested cases in 2010–2011 was 120 days (3 months), compared with 490 days (16 months) for contested cases.)), ((Mary Bess Kelly, “Divorce Cases in Civil Court, 2010/2011,” Juristat, Statistics Canada catalogue no. 85-002-X (March 2012). Link: http://bit.ly/18tCSOo.))

If you would like to book an interview with Vanier Institute CEO Nora Spinks, please contact lsteele@vanierinstitute.ca.

Learn more about the upcoming changes to the Divorce Act.


Learn more about divorce, separation and uncoupling from the Vanier Institute:


Hear Vanier Institute CEO Nora Spinks discuss divorce law changes in Canada:

  • CBC Ontario Morning Interview (May 23, 2018)

Published on May 25, 2018

International Day of Families 2018 Focuses on Families and Inclusive Societies

On May 15 every year, International Day of Families provides an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the role families play in the lives of individuals, communities and society at large. Families in Canada are diverse, unique, complex and evolving. Recognizing and celebrating family diversity is essential to building a society in which all families can fully engage and thrive – an important reality to reflect on during this year’s observance, which is focused on the theme of “families and inclusive societies.”

For more than 50 years, the Vanier Institute of the Family has monitored, studied and discussed trends in families and family life in Canada. From the beginning, the evidence has consistently made one thing clear: there is no single story to tell, because families are as diverse as the people who comprise them.

Parents, children, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, friends and neighbours across the country all make unique contributions to our lives, our workplaces and our communities. They form the constellations of relationships that make up our families, which evolve as family members react and adapt to changing social, economic, cultural and environmental forces.

To learn about family diversity in Canada, explore the resources below, which provide information and insights on families and family life in multiple formats:

A Snapshot of Family Diversity in Canada (statistical resource)

A statistical exploration of family diversity in Canada, providing an expanded and more detailed portrait of modern families in Canada, as well as some of the trends that have shaped our vibrant and evolving family landscape over the years.

Family Diversity in Canada: 2016 Census Update (infographic)

A portrait of family diversity in Canada, including data on family structures, family experiences, living arrangements, as well as the ethnocultural background, immigration status, sexual orientation and diverse abilities of family members.

Families in Canada Interactive Timeline (online resource)

An online resource from the Vanier Institute that highlights trends on diverse topics such as motherhood and fatherhood, family relationships, living arrangements, children and seniors, work–life, health and well-being, family care and much more.

What’s in a Name? Defining Family in a Diverse Society (Transition article)

The late Alan Mirabelli (former Executive Director of Administration at the Vanier Institute) discusses family diversity, the Vanier Institute’s functional definition of family and fostering inclusion.

Modern Couples in Canada: 2016 Census Update (infographic)

A statistical two-page overview of modern couples in Canada, including data on couple types, parenthood, work and family, diversity within couples and trends in marital status.

Andrew Solomon: Diversity, Difference, Disability and Families (video)

Award-winning author and lecturer Andrew Solomon, Ph.D., delivers a powerful keynote presentation about diversity, difference and disability at the Families in Canada Conference 2015.

The Canadian Family: Redefining Inclusion (video)

A June 2017 panel discussion hosted by Roots of Empathy (featuring Vanier CEO Nora Spinks), an event that brought together leaders and educators to discuss diversity, inclusion and modern families in Canada.

Canada’s Families on the Farm (infographic)

A brief portrait of farm families and how they’ve changed over the past several decades, including data on farm family demographics, households and evolving work–family experiences.

A Snapshot of Military and Veteran Families in Canada (statistical resource)

A statistical overview of military and Veteran families in Canada, including research and data on family composition, family relationships and the impact of military life on family well-being.

As reflected in the research, data and conversations in these resources, diversity is, was and will continue to be a key characteristic of family life for generations to come – a reality that contributes to Canada’s dynamic and evolving society.

Download this resource list.

As former Governor General of Canada, His Excellency The Right Honourable David Johnston said at the Families in Canada Conference 2015, “Families, no matter their background or their makeup, bring new and special patterns to our diverse Canadian tapestry.”


Published on May 15, 2018

Modern Mothers in Canada “Making It Work”

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, a time when Canadians of all ages recognize and honour mothers, grandmothers and, increasingly, great-grandmothers. As women across Canada – including new and expectant mothers – continue to increase their presence in the workforce, families, communities and policy-makers are adapting and reacting to provide flexibility for working moms.

Flexible workplaces helping working moms manage caregiving responsibilities

New and expectant mothers in Canada are increasingly engaged in the workforce, many of whom also provide care to ill and injured family members. Research shows that workplace flexibility is helping moms manage their multiple responsibilities, which in turn can have a positive impact on family well-being.

  • In 2016, the labour force participation rate of mothers whose youngest child was under age 6 was 73%, more than double the rate in 1976 (36%).((Canadian Institute of Child Health, “Module 8, Section 2: Labour Force Participation Rate,” The Health of Canada’s Children and Youth: A CICH Profile (2018). Link: http://bit.ly/2oq4xyZ.))
  • In 2012, 72% of surveyed women said they were satisfied with their work–life balance – the rate was significantly higher for those with a flexible schedule (75%) than for those without a flexible schedule (63%).((Statistics Canada, “Satisfaction with Work–Life Balance: Fact Sheet,” Spotlight on Canadians: Results from the General Social Survey, Statistics Canada catalogue no. 89-652-X (page last updated August 12, 2016). Link: http://bit.ly/1S7H2nb.))
  • In 2012, 3 in 10 women were caregivers, 1 in 6 of whom spent 20 or more hours per week providing care.((Maire Sinha, “Portrait of Caregivers, 2012,” Spotlight on Canadians: Results from the General Social Survey, Statistics Canada catalogue no. 89-652-X (page last updated November 30, 2015), http://bit.ly/1jxgAAm.))
  • In 2012, 63% of working mothers who were also caregivers said they were satisfied with their work–life balance (compared with 73% among fathers).((According to Statistics Canada, this is in part because “women are more likely than men to provide care to a family member or friend suffering from a long-term health condition. In addition, those caregivers provide more hours of care on average.” Link: https://bit.ly/1S7H2nb.))

Learn more in A Snapshot of Women, Work and Family in Canada and Women, Caregiving and Work in Canada.

New benefit options providing flexibility to new and expectant working mothers

A number of changes to Canada’s Employment Insurance (EI) maternity and parental benefits((These changes do not apply in Quebec, which has followed the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP) since 2006.)) program went into effect December 3, 2017, providing more flexibility to working mothers (and fathers) through more options regarding the timing and duration of the benefit period.((Qualifying standards remain in place: workers require 600 hours of paid employment in the previous year to be eligible, and benefits are generally paid at 55% of average weekly earnings, up to a cap. As of January 1, 2018, the maximum yearly insurable earnings is $51,700 (a maximum amount of $547 per week). Link: https://bit.ly/2IMJv5g.))

  • Parents can now choose an extended parental benefits option, which allows them to receive their EI parental benefits over a period of up to 18 months at a benefit rate of 33% of average weekly earnings. This extends the duration of the benefit period but decreases the benefit rate, which stand at 12 months and 55% of average weekly earnings, respectively.((The potential overall benefit hasn’t changed: they either can be used up over 12 months or the same amount of money can be stretched out over 18 months. Parents must choose between the standard or extended option when they first apply for EI benefits, and are “locked in” once they do so.))
  • Expectant mothers are also now able to file for benefits up to 12 weeks before their due date – four weeks earlier than the previous eight-week limit (no additional weeks are available).

Learn more in Webinar Content: Changes to EI Special Benefits and Caring Enough to Flex, Flexing Enough to Care.


Published on May 13, 2018

Death Becoming Less Taboo, but Many Families Avoid Talking About End-of-Life Care

Death is a natural part of life, but many Canadians are hesitant to have essential conversations about the end of their lives. The Vanier Institute of the Family seeks to change this with the publication of Family Perspectives: Death and Dying in Canada, a conversation catalyst intended to spark dialogue in households, workplaces and communities across the country by exploring death and dying through a family lens.

Family Perspectives: Death and Dying in Canada examines the evolution of death and dying in Canada across generations, the desires and realities of families surrounding death and dying, the role of families in end-of-life care and its impact on well-being. Through current data and trend analysis, interviews with caregivers and families, and reflections on hospice volunteering from author Dr. Katherine Arnup, this study discusses death and dying within the current and emerging social, cultural and policy landscapes.


– Hospice palliative care can play an important role in helping dying people and their families, yet most Canadians don’t receive any.

  • Palliative care benefits up to 85% of dying people at the end of their lives.
  • An estimated 16% to 30% of Canadians receive some form of palliative care, depending upon where they live.
  • Three-quarters (74%) of surveyed Canadians report having thought about end-of-life care, but only one-third (34%) have actually had a conversation with a family member. 

– Medical assistance in dying (MAID) is having an impact on the conversation on death and dying in Canada. 

  • Since June 2016, more than 2,600 people across Canada have obtained medical assistance in dying.
  • More than one in eight seniors in Canada (12%) say they or a family member have talked to a health care provider about access to MAID.

– Death is becoming less taboo in Canada, thanks to care providers and community initiatives. 

  • Hospice staff and volunteers, death doulas and other end-of-life practitioners are providing diverse forms of support to many families in Canada, including facilitating advance care planning and discussions about end-of-life care, coordinating care and providing grief support.
  • “Death Cafés” are helping people across Canada to gather and discuss their thoughts about death and dying.

“While many people are hesitant to talk about death and dying with their families and health care providers, some of the silence surrounding death and dying in Canada has been broken – a step in the right direction,” says Dr. Arnup. “Talking about death with family, planning for what we hope for and supporting others can help us to see that death is a natural part of life that is not inherently undignified, and to appreciate the present, thereby enriching our lives.”

“Birth and death are among the few universal family experiences,” says Vanier Institute CEO Nora Spinks. “Many Canadians and their families are hesitant to discuss death despite the importance of these conversations in providing and arranging for the care of loved ones at the end of life. It is our hope that Family Perspectives: Death and Dying in Canada helps to move the conversation forward as we recognize and celebrate National Hospice Palliative Care Week.”

Download Family Perspectives: Death and Dying in Canada 


Published on May 7, 2018