How to change your name
Last Updated July 26, 2006
John Smith, Paul Bernardo, or Bubba Bubba Bubba.
A name can seemingly convey a lot about a person — whether it's an accurate representation or not. And, that explains why some people opt to change their moniker.
There are a variety of reasons. A name could be an embarrassing reminder of a quirky parent's taste in names (think Bluebell Madonna Halliwell, the daughter of former Spice Girl, Geri Halliwell). It could also be that a name could hinder a person professionally (a quick search on Canada411.com calls up a Paul Bernardo and a Paulo Bernardo, not to be confused with the convicted serial killer).
Or, maybe they're like Bubba Bubba Bubba — a Springfield, Ill. man formerly known as Raymond Allen Gray Jr. — who felt like changing his first, middle, and last name to his childhood nickname, just because.
Or, a name could represent an unwanted link to your past, such as an abusive husband, and a name change is a form of protection.
Whatever the reason, changing your name in Canada is a straightforward, but detailed process.
Who can change their name?
The process varies between provinces and territories. In general, an application must be submitted, conforming to the Change of Name Act specific to that province or territory. People who have reached the age of majority in the province or territory where they live (usually 18 or 19) can apply to change their name. Those younger than the required age, can still change their names if they have been married, have a common-law relationship, or have their guardian's consent, by submitting an application.
To be eligible, you must have either been born in the province or territory, or have lived there for a certain period of time before the application was submitted — ranging from three months to a year.
What do I need to do change my name?
A name-change application needs to be submitted to either the ministry of government services, court of justice, registrar of civil status, or vital statistics office, depending on the province or territory (see below).
Extensive documentation is always required. If you are born in Canada, original birth certificates and identity documents must be submitted. Otherwise, certified copies of immigration papers, and a permanent resident card are needed.
Applications also require detailed background information, including occupation, criminal history (if one exists), prior name changes, where and how long the applicant has lived in the province/territory, and marital status.
A guarantor or sponsor — defined as a non-relative who the person has known for more than a year — is often needed. But some provinces require more. Fingerprints must be submitted to change your name in British Columbia and Alberta.
Do I need a specific reason to change my name?
Most applications must include a statement about why the name change is being requested, and of course, the proposed name.
Evaluation criteria vary by jurisdiction, but in general, a name change is granted if there is good reason.
Quebec is the strictest, and looks at each application on a case-by-case basis. It requires that there be a "serious" reason for changing one's name. These include names of a foreign origin that are too difficult to pronounce or write in the original form. A name that lends itself to ridicule or has become infamous would also be eligible for change. However, other reasons can be submitted and its validity would be examined.
An example of this is convicted killer Karla Homolka , who lost her legal battle to change her name on June 9, 2006. She wanted to change her name to Emily Chiara Tremblay, a surname that is one of the most common in Quebec, where she is believed to be living. Homolka asked to change her name to safeguard her personal security. But a ruling by Quebec civil-status officials said the public was not significantly familiar with the name she now uses, Karla Leanne Teale, a surname she chose from a movie about a serial killer.
But, there are also reasons that could disqualify an application in all provinces, including:
- Too many frequent name changes
- The name change might reasonably cause mistakes or confusion to any other person
- The person is changing their name for an improper purpose, such as fraud or to avoid criminal charges or financial obligations. This offence is not taken lightly, with fines that range from $500 to $2,000, or up to 90 days in jail.
|Provincial how to guide|
|Province||How and where to apply?||How much does it cost?|
|Alberta||Alberta Government Services||$120 per application, plus an RCMP Civil Fingerprint Screen Services fee of $25.00. Registry agents, sometimes used for help with forms, are also able to charge a service fee.|
|B.C.||British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency||$137 for the application, plus $27 for each additional person (under 19 years of age) included on the application. There's also a criminal record check fee of $25, and $27 for the change of name certificate.|
|Manitoba||Manitoba Finance: Vital Statistics||$25 for the application.|
|New Brunswick||New Brunswick Registrar General of Vital Statistics||Fees vary depending on the type and number of changes requested in the same immediate family.|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||Newfoundland and Labrador department of Government Services||It costs $50 for the application.|
|Northwest Territories||Northwest Territories Health and Social Services||It costs $10 for the application.|
|Nova Scotia||Nova Scotia Vital Statistics||It costs $133.00 for the application.|
|Nunavut||Nunavut Court of Justice||N/A|
|Prince Edward Island||Prince Edward Island Vital Statistics||It costs $185.00 for the application.|
|Ontario||Ontario Ministry of Government Services||It costs $137.00 for the application.|
|Quebec||Quebec Registrar of Civil Status||It costs $125 for the application, but expect administrative costs between $300 to $400.|
|Saskatchewan||Saskatchewan Vital Statistics||It costs $125 for the application.|
|Yukon Territory||Yukon Vital Statistics||The application costs $50 and each additional individual included in the application costs $17.50.|
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