Reverting to your Inuit name, Without Fees!
In the religion of the insecure, I must be myself, respect my youth (…)
I’m on the right track, baby, I was born this way.
“Born this Way” – Lady Gaga (2018)
As we all know too well, the residential school era created an aftermath deeply felt in an array of fields. The 2006 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement was acknowledging this profound legacy while, as much as possible, offering mitigation, or attempts thereof, here and there. Now, some impacts were left unanswered, which in some cases were evidenced by the experience of survivors who were surprised by the various application processes. Indeed, we all know fellow Inuit who, while sending their claims, realized that their names, their identity, were misspelled or included, still, “variations” dating from the residential schools’ years. Then, Jusipi was registered as “Joseph”; Maata as Martha; etc. And yet, going by your own Indigenous name is more than a symbolic issue. It is a question of identity and belonging.
In Quebec, names reference your civil status. Modifying such is highly regulated, through a process that requires positive action, steps and time, and payment of fees. In a nutshell, individuals 14 years of age and older that are domiciled in Quebec for at least one year can apply for a change of name to the Quebec Civil Status Registrar. Father, mother, or tutor would be able to act for a minor domiciled in Quebec for at least one year. Upon a step-by-step approach described at the Quebec Civil code and its related regulation, the Regulation respecting change of name and of other particulars of civil status (CCQ, r. 4) – which will include publication of notices in the Gazette officielle du Québec – the name of a person could be changed, but he/she shall end up short of approximately $150.
Since the summer of 2022, these fees are not levied for individuals who may require that their name, changed while they were in a residential school, revert to their Indigenous name again. This exemption is applicable to former students, but also to their descendants. This measure also applies for the delivery of new civil status documents to be at par with the name following changes. These exemptions are to be in application for 10 years or until June 8, 2032.
Indeed, on June 8, 2022, the National Assembly of Quebec adopted its Bill 2: An Act respecting family law reform with regard to filiation and amending the Civil code in relation to personality rights and civil status. A new section was therein introduced, for allowing persons whose names were changed because of attending a residential school and their descendants to revert to a traditional Indigenous name without fees. It modified the regulation on the Tariff of duties respecting the acts of civil status and change of name or of designation of sex (CCQ, r. 10):
10.3. Persons whose name was changed in the context of their stay in an Aboriginal residential school or their descendants who wish to change their name to a traditional Aboriginal name are exempt from paying the duties payable for an application for a change of name until 8 June 2032.
For that period, those persons are also exempt from paying the duties payable for the issuing of copies of acts, certificates and attestations.
This measure comes as a long-awaited policy, in response to the 2015 Call to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which demanded that governments allow survivors and their families to restore names changed under the residential school system:
CALL TO ACTION 17:
We call upon all levels of government to enable residential school Survivors and their families to reclaim names changed by the residential school system by waiving administrative costs for a period of five years for the name-change process and the revision of official identity documents, such as birth certificates, passports, driver’s licenses, health cards, status cards, and social insurance numbers.
Insofar, similar responses have been given by Alberta, Nova Scotia, Ontario, NWT, and bills to this effect have also been introduced in a few other provinces.
These were moving forward to allow Indigenous people to use their traditional names free of charge after Ottawa’s own initiative. In 2021, the Government of Canada announced a policy to the same effect in respect to federally issued documents. All fees were to be waived for the name-changing process on passports, citizenship certificates and permanent resident cards.
SUMMARY OF THE NAME CHANGE PROCEDURE:
1. FILING AN APPLICATION WITH THE QUEBEC CIVIL STATUS
REGISTRAR (DIRECTEUR DE L’ETAT CIVIL)
The Registrar handles all applications for a change of name that are not under the jurisdiction of the court. The reasons invoked and the documents submitted to support the application are of great importance, as they enable the Registrar to accurately assess the application. An “Application for a Change of Name” is made available by the Registrar.
2. NOTIFYING AFFECTED INDIVIDUALS
The relatives of the applicants will have to be notified of the application. They can object to it; in which case it may lead to complications with the successful processing of the name change. The persons to be notified can confirm acknowledgement and acceptance on the Application for a Change of Name Form.
3. PROVING NOTIFICATION
The Registrar will have to be served with proof that the person notified received a copy of the application, being by registered mail or by a bailiff.
4. PUBLISHING THE CHANGE
In accordance with the Civil Code of Quebec and barring exemption, a public notice of the intention to change names must mandatorily be issued, allowing interested persons to become aware of the application. Comments may be served to the Registrar following publication, and this may lead to complications with the successful processing of the application.
5. RENDERING A DECISION
After examining an application for a change of name, the Registrar renders a written decision explaining the reasons for accepting or rejecting it. That decision is given to the applicant and, if applicable, to persons who submitted an objection or comments regarding the application.
When a person’s change of name takes effect, it is the responsibility of that person or the person’s father, mother, or tutor to have the name changed in files held by government departments or agencies. This entails providing a change of name certificate and a new birth certificate as proof.
THROUGHOUT THIS PROCEDURE, FEES ARE NOT TO BE LEVIED FOR RESTORING NAMES CHANGED UNDER THE RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL SYSTEM, OR TO OBTAIN NEW BIRTH CERTIFICATE, UP UNTIL JUNE 2032.
Please contact the Quebec Civil Status Registrar for obtaining all details and information on the procedure applicable to your case specifics. See: https://www.etatcivil.gouv.qc.ca/en/change-name.html
Further assistance will be liaised through our Makivvik Nunavik Community Justice Center. Please contact: email@example.com