British Columbia

'Your name is no longer valid': B.C. residents with hyphenated names blocked from renewing ID

Many people with hyphenated names attempting to renew a B.C. driver's licence have been told the surname they've used for years isn't legal.

'That is absolutely ridiculous,' says Cheralyn King-Scobie of Chilliwack, B.C.

Cheralyn King-Scobie was surprised to learn her last name was not legal in B.C. She began using a hyphenated name when she got married, in 2002, in Saskatchewan. (Cher King-Scobie)

Marriage is often full of surprises but Christine Therriault-Finke never saw this one coming when she visited her local driver's licence office in August.

Therriault-Finke, 45, of Rossland, B.C., went to renew her driver's licence and was told her name was no longer considered valid.

Her hyphenated name has been her surname since she got married almost two decades ago in Ontario. 

The majority of provincial and federal government agencies in Canada will accept a marriage certificate as proof of your name. 

The Insurance Corporation of B.C. (ICBC) stopped doing that in April 2016.

Therriault-Finke was given three choices. "I could go back to my maiden name. I could take my husband's name or I could go through the process of getting a legal name change."

Not the only one 

Across the province, people with hyphenated surnames are running into the same problem, due to glitches associated with the province's identity card, which rolled out four years ago.

"I said that is absolutely ridiculous," said Cher King-Scobie of Chilliwack, B.C., in response to being told her last name was not legal in B.C.

King-Scobie, 42, began using a hyphenated name when she got married in 2002, in Saskatchewan.

"In Saskatchewan, you just had to bring your marriage certificate and then all of your documents were changed," said King-Scobie. 

B.C. Services Card 

British Columbia's new identity card is at the centre of the two women's problems. That is because the name of an individual on the new card, the name on an existing driver's licence and previous CareCard must all be identical.

And that's where people like King-Scobie and Therriault-Finke have run into problems. 

The B.C. Services Card, launched in 2013 at a cost of $150 million, replaced the previous CareCard, and can also be combined with a driver's licence.

ICBC is the issuing agency for the all-in-one card. 

Therriault-Finke, right, with her husband Ian Finke. (Christine Therriault-Finke)

To qualify for the amalgamated card, the name on your existing driver's licence and previous CareCard must match up.

The name on Therriault-Finke's old health card is just Finke, the result of an error. 

"My health card was under Finke because of a mistake that was made when my husband's employer put in our paperwork and assumed my name was Finke," said Therriault-Finke.

"I called Health Insurance B.C. and they said it's no problem. They probably just couldn't fit it all on the card." 

Ensures security, says ICBC 

The name on King-Scobie's old health card is King.

"I vaguely remember when we moved back to B.C. I tried to change my name and they said I couldn't but it wasn't a big deal," said King-Scobie. 

"So, I got a health card that just said Cher King because they reverted back to who I was in B.C. before I moved to Saskatchewan."

ICBC says it altered its policy to ensure customers are assured a secure identity document.

The women say the switch caused confusion and inconvenience.  A legal name change, they agree, is costly and cumbersome. 

"It includes changing my birth certificate, having finger-printing done, a criminal reference check, a whole bunch of things to become my hyphenated name which I have been using for 19 years," said Therriault-Finke.

Neither woman has decided what to do next. 

"What can they do?" King-Scobie asked. "Maybe they will try to take away my driver's licence or stop my health care, I don't know."

Old law 

B.C.'s Name Act requires hyphenated surnames adopted after marriage to go through a legal name change. The act falls under the purview of the Ministry of Health

According to Health Minister Adrian Dix, the law dates back to the 1940s. "It may be that our Name Act is out of step with modern realities," said Dix. 

He said there is no immediate plan to change the legislation.

A health ministry spokesperson followed up in an email, saying that people with hyphenated names can still use the two names on a driver's licence, but they won't qualify for a combined services card and driver's licence. They will have to obtain a separate driver's licence and services card.

Just the way it used to be. 


Belle Puri


Belle Puri is a veteran journalist who has won awards for her reporting in a variety of fields. Belle contributes to CBC Vancouver's Impact Team, where she investigates and reports on stories that impact people in their local community.