830 Ontario couples married by someone not authorized
Gordon and Paula Moore are still happily married, but their 2008 marriage which was officiated by Dale Brewster, has some irregularities in the registration that had them questioning whether they were still married or not. (MIKE HENSEN/The London Free Press/QMI AGENCY)
LONDON, Ont. – Gordon Moore got a surprise when he walked through the door of his London home a couple of weeks ago -- his wife handed him her wedding band.
"We're not married anymore," she told him.
A list no doubt went through Moore's mind -- what had he done wrong?
But it wasn't Moore who'd compromised the marriage, it was the official who performed the wedding ceremony on Dec. 31, 2008.
The Ontario government had flagged the Moores as one of 830 couples married between October 1990 and March 2013 by five people not authorized to perform religious marriage ceremonies in the province.
"It was a bit of a shock," Paula Moore said.
Provincial officials said all of the area's problem weddings were performed by the same official.
In the London, Ont., area it was Dale Brewster, who operated the Crystal Wedding Chapel for several years. QMI Agency couldn't reach Brewster for comment.
The faulty marriages were discovered in March, when the Ministry of Government Services began a new way of cross-referencing marriage lists with those who performed marriages, ministry spokesperson Jason Wesley said.
"I want to make sure that people aren't alarmed. These marriages have been registered. The individuals who performed the marriages were not authorized to do so but it doesn't invalidate those marriages."
So the Moores and the 829 other couples are married after all.
But government officials are trying to contact all the couples -- first by phone then, if that fails, by mail -- to let them know about the situation.
The marriage registrations are amended and the couple can request a new marriage certificate or a new certified copy of the marriage registration, at no cost.
If a couple can't be reached, their registration is amended and they'll be told of the situation if they request either document from the government, Wesley said.
The marriages are still valid because of a provision in the Ontario Marriage Act that states if the parties who participated in the wedding thought it was in good faith, their marriage is still legal.
"From what we have found, this was an honest error on the part of the five individuals," Wesley said.
"These people fully believed they were properly authorized to perform marriages, but they weren't."
The five people involved have co-operated with provincial officials, Wesley said.
The police have not been notified.
Service Ontario has put in new oversights to make sure similar mistakes don't happen again, including the new cross-referencing tools.
BY THE NUMBERS
830 couples in Ontario were married by five people who weren't authorized to perform religious ceremonies in the province.
410 couples in the London area, between December 2007 and February 2013
361 couples in the North Bay area, between October 1990 and March 2013
27 couples in Southwestern Ontario, between May 2009 and April 2013
20 couples in Hamilton, between September 2008 and May 2013
12 couples in the Niagara area, between October 2003 and April 2013