The Northwest Territories says change of name fees will now be waived for residential school survivors and their families who wish to reclaim their traditional names.
In a news release issued on Monday, the territory said fees would be waived for “all Indigenous residents who wish to correct the names on their NWT birth certificates that were affected by historical errors.”
Fees for certificates under the Vital Statistics Act can also be waived in the same manner.
However, names using Indigenous glyphs and diacritics still cannot be chosen.
The change, reportedly planned for June but delayed by several months, responds to a call to action made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Health Minister Glen Abernethy, in prepared remarks, said the territory is “committed to supporting the revitalization of traditional practices and culture. The name-change process for waiving administrative costs for residential school survivors and their families to reclaim their names changed by the residential school system helps advance this commitment.”
But the territorial government’s website states characters specific to Indigenous languages are “not yet” available for people hoping to return their name to its traditional spelling.
“Work is continuing to develop a transliteration guide for converting standardized Indigenous characters into letters that all computer systems, affected employees, interjurisdictional partners, contracted vendors, and Indigenous northerners will be able to understand,” the website states.
“It is anticipated that the fee to change names to include Indigenous fonts will be waived in the future once technology enables us to do so.”
People applying to change their name are told to expect processing to take three to four weeks once a complete application is received.
The territory suggested fees would be waived under the program for a period of five years. If you were born in the NWT but now live elsewhere in Canada, you need to apply through the province or territory where you live. Once that change of name has been registered, you can apply for a new NWT birth certificate and request that fee be waived.
“It is important to note that the Registrar General of Vital Statistics cannot waive fees for changes of name that are made outside of the NWT or fees for certificates if the individual was not born in the NWT,” the territory stated.
Currently, the basic cost of changing your name in the NWT is $134, though additional fees ordinarily apply to have related licences and certificates amended.
According to the territorial government, around 60 change-of-name requests are received each year.