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Name change 'a bit easier' under new legislation

Adam Johnson
Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 27, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - If all goes well, changing your name is about to become a bit easier in the NWT, particularly if the government changed it in the first place.

The Change of Name Act will see name changes handled through the GNWT Department of Health and Social Services, rather than the courts, something that proponents say will ease the process along.

"It was a rather intimidating process to have to file a court application to have their name changed, and it's quite costly (and) cumbersome," said Range Lake MLA Sandy Lee, chair of the social programs committee.

She quoted the comments of Lee Itsi from Tsiigehtchic, one of the 10 communities consulted on the legislation change: "Since I was a child, I have had my name changed four times by the government."

The levels of bureaucracy that had to be circumvented to change his name were immense, he said, and he disagreed with the $250 charge required.

"They are the ones that changed my name," he said. "They should give me back my original name for nothing."

Lee said section 20 of the proposed bill gives discretionary power to waive fees, and the government is encouraged to do so if the it was responsible for an earlier change.

Floyd Roland, minster for Health and Social Services, acknowledged the federal government's past role in changing the names of First Nations people in the North, and how difficult it was to change that - particularly if you were from a small community.

"In the Mackenzie Delta, there was a commission that went around and gave individuals English names," he said.

He said the new act, which centralizes changes in the Inuvik office of the Department of Health and Social Services, would make the name-changing process "a bit easier."

Lee also pointed out the security issues the bill addresses, including notifying RCMP, the courts and other authorities of the name change. The change would also be published in the Northwest Territories Gazette.

The bill was given third reading during Friday's sitting of the legislative assembly.