British Columbia

Identity crisis? Richmond immigrant says his chosen English name isn't accepted for ID purposes

Pat-Shing Tung has always gone by "Kenneth" since immigrating to Canada 40 years ago. It's even the name on his passport. But the new B.C. Services Card won't allow him his chosen name without what he says is a complicated and costly process.

Pat-Shing 'Kenneth' Tung says B.C. Services Card unfairly punishes immigrants with a chosen name

Pat-Shing Tung says his chosen name, 'Kenneth,' appears on all his legal documents, even his passport. But now that B.C. has combined the driver's licence and medical card into the new B.C. Services Card, he has been asked to switch to Pat-Shing. (CBC)

What's in a name?

When it comes to your B.C. Services Card, it could depend on where the name comes from.

Richmond resident Pat-Shing Tung, who immigrated to Canada 40 years ago, would like to have his chosen English name "Kenneth" on his B.C. Services Card.

But he says, since the drivers licence combined with the medical services card, he can't — not without legally changing his given name.

"When I renewed [my driver's licence] at ICBC, they asked me to remove my English name. Otherwise, I have to do a legal name change," Tung told On The Coast guest host Michelle Eliot.

"On my citizenship card, I have the English name on it. On my passport, I have my English name on it. But if we want to keep it … they will not allow until we do our own legal name change."

The B.C. Services Card has seen some hiccups around nomenclature since it was introduced in 2013.

Tung says B.C.'s combined driver's licence and medical services card does not allow an immigrant's chosen English name to be printed.

But 15 years ago, at an earlier renewal, he says he was given the option by ICBC to put his chosen name on it, which he did for the sake of convenience.

But now, Tung is worried about legal ramifications if his current ID does not match his other accounts.

"That means in the last 15 years, all my legal documents: my bank, my will, whatever, I must change it."

He also says he's worried about what the lack of a Services Card will mean if he has an emergency and has to go to the hospital.

Not alone

Tung says choosing an English name when coming to Canada is a common practice among numerous immigrant communities.

But the time and effort required for a legal name change for the new Services Card  — $137 dollars for the change, plus the cost of new documents, as well as a criminal record check and, in some cases, the need to provide fingerprints, according to a provincial website — is punishing those immigrants, Tung says.

"Using the name on the ID for so long, we don't want to change it. We want to keep it but without going three places and taking time off and paying the fee," Tung said. 

"If ICBC set up one location to do all this part, declaration and also criminal check requirement and then one fee then people would save time and energy and money on it."

Tung says since going public with his problem he has been contacted by hundreds of others in a similar situation. He says he is raising the issue with local MLAs and MPs.

The B.C. Ministry of Health and the attorney general's office have yet to respond to a request for comment.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast