The Vanier Institute of the Family was established in 1965 under the patronage of their Excellencies Governor General Georges P. Vanier and Madame Pauline Vanier. The first president of the Institute was Wilder Graves Penfield, founder of the Montreal Neurological Institute. The Vanier Institute is a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting the well-being of Canada's families through research, publications, public education and advocacy. The Institute regularly works with legislators, governmental policy-makers and program specialists, educators, family service professionals, reporters and members of the general public.

The Vanier Institute of the Family exists to build public understanding of important issues and trends that are critical to the well-being and healthy functioning of Canadian families. It encourages a family perspective among policy-makers, institutions, service providers, employers and others whose work affects the lives of Canadian families.

The Institute conducts a program of secondary research based on original data from various sources and provides authoritative information about family and the position of family in society. The Canadian Family Data Service responds to direct inquiries as well as delivering up-to-date information through periodic publications and the Institute's quarterly publication Transition. Areas of research and information include aging society, child-care, marriage and divorce, fertility, work and family, caregiving, learning, income distribution and expenditures, and the media and family.

See also Canadian Council on Social Development and Family Studies.