Nova Scotia

2 dads forced to put 'mother's maiden name' on kids' SIN forms

A same-sex Nova Scotian couple says Service Canada must update its forms so men don't have to declare a "maiden name" to get social insurance numbers for their children.

Service Canada promises to update paperwork to 'parent' after Nova Scotia family alerts them to issue

Nick Bonnar (left) and Graham MacDonnell said Service Canada must update its forms, and the government agency agreed. (CBC)

A same-sex Nova Scotia couple says Service Canada must update its forms so men don't have to declare a "maiden name" in order to get social insurance numbers for their children. 

Nick Bonnar and Graham MacDonnell are starting education savings plans for their three children, which requires getting social insurance numbers from Service Canada. When Bonnar went to do that, the agent told him he had to provide a maiden name to complete and process the electronic form. 

"They had Graham's name listed there and I said, 'Well all the details are correct, however, they're not, because you know he's not the mother,'" Bonnar told CBC News Thursday. 

Bonnar said the agent told him the systems have not been updated to reflect the changes in Canadian law and society. "I said, 'I don't think this is appropriate,' and she said, 'Well, the systems are what they are and this is where we are at.'"

Government wants to hear of similar issues

MacDonnell said the forms need to be changed for many families like their own. The couple noted that single-parent families could face a similar problem. 

"The kids have enough to explain with their history and going forward, so to have one extra thing that sets them apart from everyone else is kind of ridiculous," he said. 

Graham MacDonnell helps two of his kids get ready for school. Service Canada listed his name as their 'mother's maiden name' to get their social insurance numbers. (CBC)

Jean-Yves Duclos, the federal minister responsible for Service Canada, said the department just learned of the problem. The same situation exists across the country. 

​"Certainly this is not well-aligned with the values and conditions of Canada in 2018. It also shows we have more work to do to align with what Canadians expect the government to do," he said.

Service Canada's website says "all applicants residing in Canada should apply in-person" for a SIN and that only those in exceptional circumstances can ask to apply by mail. The mail-in option lets people choose between "mother/parent" and "father/parent."

But the majority of people fill them out in person and must declare one parent a mother and the other the father. 

Service Canada used MacDonnell's name

Duclos urged people who know of similar issues with Service Canada forms to contact the government. The government plans to add just "parent" as an option for everyone. "Some of these things will take place very rapidly and the others I expect to be done in the next few weeks," he said. 

Bonnar and MacDonnell, who live in Eastern Passage near Halifax, adopted their three children, all siblings, in 2010. The children are ages eight, nine and ten.

"Having to submit your mother's maiden name seems to be a bit archaic now with modern-day families," said Bonnar. "It just doesn't seem right with Service Canada being a government institution. It baffles me that they are still doing that; it just seems asinine."

Bonnar said the Service Canada person he dealt with was very understanding. "Everyone else in society seems to be progressing around this sort of thing, but the government has failed to address this," he said.

Bonnar and MacDonnell agreed to allow Service Canada to incorrectly use MacDonnell's name in the mother's maiden name column.

with files from Kayla Hounsell


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