Marriage Officiant Fraud: How to tell the difference

Recently, members of my organization, the Ontario Humanist Society voiced concern about a news article that appeared in the London Free Press. The article featured a woman named Dale Brewster who was charged with performing marriage ceremonies in London, Ontario with false credentials and under a false name.

Indeed this article rightly raises concerns about the ways in which officiants like the ones in our organization could prove we were licensed if couples we worked with wanted proof. Brewster claims she did not know her license was cancelled back in 2007 despite receiving notice that it was. While we have no proof whether this is true at this point, those in my organization feel terribly for the couples who assumed they were married — only to find out that they were not. Brewster apparently fraudulently married 6 couples in the spring and summer of 2014.

While it is important to remember that such cases of marriage fraud are the exception and not the rule, we acknowledge that they can stir up fear in the wedding industry. As such, my colleagues have kindly retrieved two links here that you can follow in order to verify the claim that your officiant is licensed:

You may also want to consider this paragraph from the Marriage Act however which appears to protect couples such as the ones Brewster claims to have married. It reads:

Marriages solemnized in good faith
31. 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. R.S.O. 1990, c. M.3, s. 31; 2005, c. 5, s. 39 (5).

All that said, if indeed you discover you have been victimized by this former officiant or another officiant who made untruthful or incorrect claims about their status and if you are worried that your marriage is not valid, please know that we may be able to help. While Humanist Officiants with the Ontario Humanist Society provide beautiful, secular, meaningful, humanist wedding ceremonies but also, please know that many of us may be ready to step in and do the necessary paperwork for you at a reduced fee so that your marriage can be registered with the Province of Ontario.

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