Manitoba's overall death toll rose by 1,000 in pandemic's 1st year

COVID-19 stole the lives of many Manitobans, and it led to the province counting 1,065 more deaths in 2020 than the year before. 

While death count increases, marriages drop by 25%, births slip by 1.5%

Manitoba's Vital Statistics Branch reported births, deaths and marriages, along with other statistics, from 2020 in a recent report. (Meagan Fiddler/CBC)

COVID-19 took the lives of many Manitobans, and contributed to the province counting 1,065 more deaths in 2020 than the year before. 

Manitoba reported a new high of 12,290 deaths last year, according to a report from the Vital Statistics Branch.

The annual number of deaths has been trending upwards for years — a consequence of an aging and growing population — but the number of deaths in 2020 and per capita death rate are both the highest in at least 15 years, if not longer.

The province counted nearly 670 deaths from COVID-19 alone by the end of 2020. The pandemic started in March. 

Jason Kindrachuk, an assistant professor and Canada research chair in emerging viruses at the University of Manitoba, said the impact of the pandemic extends beyond mortality. 

"When we look at the numbers, we really have to think about all these additional variables," he said.

"What is the toll of COVID, not only directly from the virus, but also from people that could not get care for other ailments they had? What was the number of deaths that we did not see because of the restriction of activities?"

Fewer people tying the knot

Unsurprisingly, the number of marriages dropped significantly in a year in which strict pandemic restrictions discouraged some couples from tying the knot.

The province registered 3,772 marriages, a 25 per cent decrease from 2019.

For years, Manitoba has reported at least 5,000 marriages annually, though the percentage of people choosing to wed has trended downward.

In 2020, the number of births dropped by 260 to 16,939. The number dispels one of the early pandemic assumptions that couples cooped up at home would usher a baby boom.

Fewer bundles of joy were born in the last year in Manitoba, continuing a long-term trend of a decreasing birth rate that wasn't interrupted by the pandemic. (Tawan Jz / Shutterstock)

In fact, the per capita birth rate in Manitoba has been slipping for at least a decade.

The report also suggests Liam and Olivia will be common names in Manitoba classrooms for years to come.

Once again, Liam is the most popular name for boys, dating back to 2009. Olivia is the top name for girls for the fifth consecutive year.

Other popular names include Oliver, Noah, Levi, James, Lucas and Sophia. 

The infant mortality rate ranges widely, depending where in the province.

Mortality rate differs

In the Northern Health Region, there were 14.5 deaths out of every 1,000 live births — a tally well above the provincial average of 5.9 deaths. The rate is also high in Interlake Eastern, where nearly 10 deaths were reported per 1,000 babies born.

The number of stillbirths in the calendar year is 185, which is an increase of 28 from the prior year.

The report categorizes death based on causes, but the province's data was incomplete at the time of printing.

Understaffing at Vital Statistics Agency prompted significant delays for people waiting on birth, marriage and death certificates, although the province said this fall it has addressed the backlogs.


Ian Froese

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Ian Froese covers provincial politics and its impact for CBC Manitoba. You can reach him at