Taking your spouse’s name is illegal in Quebec

On October 6, 2011, in Life in Canada, by Mihaela Mindicanu

We received the same question from two different persons this morning – why do I have to use my maiden name in Quebec, I changed it decades ago when I got married.

Well, c’est la loi as we say in French – this is the law and we have to obey it. The Quebecois married after April 2, 1981 do not have the right to change their names (article 393 of the Civil Code of Quebec).

I was myself very frustrated to find it out. In many countries for generations it is normal for the wife to take her husband’s name. Or at least she has this choice. Unlike most of the countries in the world and unlike the federal government of Canada, the laws of the Province of Quebec, based on the name stability principle, say that marriage is not a reason for changing your name and no matter how many times a person gets married, there is only one name that should be used, the one you are born with.

How does this affect immigrants?
If you have changed your name before you immigrated, you are somehow lucky. At least all the federal institutions recognize your name and the documents issued to you will be on your after-marriage name (like the permanent residence card for instance) while the provincial documents (medicare card for example) will be on your birth one only (or both).

However if you get married after you obtain your permanent residence, no matter the laws of the country where the ceremony was performed, your name will not change.

The situation is the same for the persons migrating from any Canadian province to Quebec. They will be called on their name at birth.

Why?
It’s even more surprising to find out where this comes from. Decades ago men had way more rights than women did, higher salaries, higher positions. The women emancipation led to the equality of rights, which meant a lot for women.

This law that came in force in 1981 had only one goal: to release the woman, to set her free and never oblige her to change her name, to give her one more right. The purpose was a good one, and I thank those who fought for that, however the big problem is that instead of granting them a right, a right was taken.

Is it a problem?
If you go to school, to the hospital or pretty much anywhere in Quebec, you will have to use your name at birth.

Is it a problem? Not at all, if you got married one year ago and you aren’t that used to your new name. Not at all if you do like your birth name. Not at all if your religion has nothing to do with this and your husband accepts it.

After all we can live with that, it’s not such a big deal, though I wonder – why isn’t Quebec flexible about it, when the politics of the province is to always respect people’s rights.


 

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