Residential school survivors and their families in Nova Scotia will soon be able to have the fees waived when they legally change their name.
Premier Stephen McNeil, who is also the minister of Aboriginal Affairs, announced the change is meant to make reclaiming ancestral names easier for those who were forced to take on a Euro-Canadian name when entering the residential school system.
“Their name, like much of their identity, was taken away from them,” said McNeil. “We need to make it as easy as possible if they want to reclaim their name.”
Residential schools were opened in effort to assimilate Indigenous children to a “Canadian” way of life. One example of assimilation was prohibiting children from speaking their native language. Another example is when students would arrive, they would be assigned a new name. In some cases, they were merely assigned a number.
The province’s decision to waive the fees is in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 17th call to action, which recommends governments waive administrative costs for a period of five years to allow residential school survivors and their families to reclaim names changed by the residential school system.
The policy will take effect July 9.
The name change process would revise official identity documents, such as birth certificates, passports, drivers licences, health cards, status cards and social insurance numbers.
In Nova Scotia, the cost to change a name is normally $165.70 and $24.95 for each additional family member.
‘Better path going forward,’ says premier
McNeil said the policy change is to acknowledge the government’s relationship, past and present, with Indigenous people. He said the opportunity for people to reclaim their last name is an effort to create a “better path going forward.”
Once the name change is complete, the fees to change a name on a driver’s licence or other government-issued identification will also be waived.