It finally happened. I got a notification in the mail that my current CareCard (that’s what we call our health card in BC) will need to be replaced by February 2018 with a new BC Services Card that combines my health care card with my driver’s license. For most people, this change doesn’t really mean anything. For most people, it’s just a spiffy new card in your wallet that you pull out occasionally for ID or when you go see a doctor. But for me, it’s an attack on my identity as I know it.
Last time I went to get my BC Driver’s License, they wouldn’t let me get the new BC Services Card because the name on my health card didn’t match the name on my license. The person behind the counter went so far as to tell me if I didn’t fix the problem I would no longer be eligible for provincial health care. Now, I’m not certain I could actually be denied health care, but I am now being forced to choose between my maiden name, my married double-barrelled name I’ve used for 17 years, or my husband’s name. Except only two out of those three options are technically legal.
When I got married in 2000, I decided to keep my maiden name and just add my husband’s last name. It’s a common practice, and when I went to update my BC Driver’s License there wasn’t any problem. I became Katalin Toreky Paziuk on my driver’s license, my passport, my bank cards, and my credit cards. For whatever reason, I stayed Katalin Toreky on my CareCard, but it was never an issue. Until now.
The problem is that according to the BC Name Act, I can only keep my maiden name (Katalin Toreky) or switch to my spouse’s name (Katalin Paziuk). If I want to use a double-barrelled name (Katalin Toreky Paziuk) or hyphenated name (Katalin Toreky-Paziuk), I’m supposed to do a full legal name change. But almost every institution in BC has allowed me to use my double-barrelled last name without a problem for the last 17 years. In fact, if I lived almost anywhere else in Canada, this name thing wouldn’t even be a problem. But I live in BC, so now it is.
You may be asking, “What’s the big deal? Why don’t you just go through with the legal name change process? Wouldn’t that solve all of your problems?”
Well—it would solve my BC Services Card problem, but what stops me is the extreme sense of unfairness I felt once I started going through the process. I would be required to pay a fee, give up my birth name, and surrender my birth certificate. It’s that last one that stops me. Why do I need to give up my birth certificate? What does it have to do with any of this? Well, apparently it’s in the BC Name Act. But the Act is so out-of-date (hey, it’s 2017, not the 1950s!) that it’s now causing problems for people like me. And to make matters worse, the Act isn’t even being applied consistently.
Depending on who’s behind the BC Driver’s License counter when you get there, you could lose your double-barrelled name as in this instance…
- A married BC friend who has used a double barrelled name for nearly 20 years was required to drop her maiden name to update her driver’s license. Then she had to reapply for her passport to have it match her new driver’s license before she could take a trip out of the country.
Or you could get to keep your hyphenated name as in this case…
- A young BC woman, married less than 10 years, was lucky enough to have the person behind the BC licensing counter process her request, no questions asked. She now has a hyphenated name on her BC Services Card.
Or if you are lucky enough to travel outside of BC you could keep your birth certificate and your name…
- A BC-born woman travelled outside of BC, married in the United States, and on her return to Canada was asked to reapply for her BC Services Card. She reapplied with her newly hyphenated name, wasn’t questioned about it at all, and got her card with her now hyphenated name.
In fact, I have fewer rights than someone coming to BC from out-of-province.
If I moved to Alberta for six months I could use a double-barrelled or hyphenated last name on my Alberta identification and on my return to BC have that name accepted without question. But because I was born in BC, married in BC, and live in BC, I can’t.
It’s time the BC Name Act is updated so that every resident in British Columbia has the right to keep their maiden name and assume a spouse’s name through hyphenation or the double barrelled process. It just makes sense and allows what is already taking place to fairly happen for everyone.
How You Can Help
Please help make British Columbia a fairer place for me and other people in this situation.
Katalin Toreky Paziuk has been married for 17 years and is the mother of 3 amazing boys. She’s a lifelong learner, fibre artist, frisbee player and juggler of a crazy life.