N.W.T. finally waives name change fees for Indigenous people
Fee waived for all Indigenous residents whose names affected by 'historical errors'
The Northwest Territories government will no longer charge Indigenous people hundreds of dollars to reclaim their traditional names.
The announcement to waive name change fees comes a couple of weeks after CBC reported that the government delayed making this policy change for months. The territory's health department initially told CBC it would make the change back in June.
Until now, Ontario was the only province or territory to adopt the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action more than three years ago. It called for all governments to allow residential school survivors and their families to reclaim names changed by the residential school system, and to waive fees for five years.
This makes the N.W.T. the second in the country to adopt the recommendation.
Previously, the territorial government charged Indigenous people hundreds of dollars if they wanted to reclaim their traditional names, which may have been altered in the past.
Eligibility extends to all Indigenous people
But the territory's policy takes a step further. It will extend waiving fees to all Indigenous residents — not just residential school survivors and their families — whose names were affected by "historical errors," according to the government news release Monday.
People who want to reclaim their Indigenous names for free must be a resident of the N.W.T., to be eligible.
The fee exemption applies to any certificate issued under the territory's Vital Statistics Act — which can include birth, death and marriage certificates. It will also be free to reclaim Indigenous names on a driver's licence, according to the territory's infrastructure department.
It will still cost money to change a name on a passport, which is a federal document.
Residents born in the territory, but living outside, can't get their fees waived by the N.W.T., as they must apply in the province or territory where they live. They can, however, apply for a new N.W.T. birth certificate for free.
The government says it can take between three and four weeks to process the request, depending on the amount of requests they get.
Currently, it costs $134 to change a name, and an additional $22 to amend a birth certificate.
The government said it processes about 64 name change applications a year.
Have a story about your name? Contact Priscilla at firstname.lastname@example.org
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