Friday, August 10, 2007

Québec woman can't take hubby's name -- no woman can

A recent migrant to Québec from Ontario is upset that she can't get the province to agree to have her husband's name on her provincial driver's licence. That's due to Article 393 of the province's Civil Code, which states: "In marriage, both spouses retain their respective names, and exercise their respective civil rights under those names."

This is part of a group of articles that were enacted back in 1981 and went further than anywhere else in Canada to ensure the equality of the sexes in marriage. The only legal reasons a woman may be permitted to take her husband's name is if her own is difficult to pronounce or is the subject of ridicule or infamy (example: a woman would have a case if she was called Hitler or Hirohito). The law has also led to a very interesting situation: Many fathers in the province allow their kids to have their wife's or common law partner's name for precisely the same reason.

The woman here -- Caroline Parent -- is asking nothing more than for women to be given the choice as is the case in the common law provinces.

I'm not sure that's a good idea. We're entitled to a name and unless we have a good reason we're entitled to keep that name. Changing one's name presumes you're selling out to your spouse and turning over your rights, even though the law for at least the last two decades or so has made it clear that spouses are fully equal in a marriage -- period. There may be historical reasons for the rule but I just don't see it being valid anymore. I think the law in Québec should be taken nation-wide. It recognizes that as long as both partners are law-abiding, neither is a threat to the other's rights and privileges.

There may be a case based on freedom of expression -- but I would argue that that can be limited by what's justified in a free and democratic society which is that mothers and fathers are equal and neither has authority over the other.

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S.K. said...

Her name can still be officially changed, she just can't decide to put it on an official Provincially issued ID without doing so. I can tell you the same thing is happening elsewhere because of security concerns, where women show up at airports with three pieces of ID with three different names on them. It has been standard practice to just let women use theri husbands name. This is a dumb and dangerous and insecure practice. Women have been denied passports because they can't produce consistenet ID as well, as they should. People have one name until they change it officially. Then all other forms of ID with other names must be destroyed. Its the only way to keep track of people. Quebec did the rightthing and the rest of Canda is followuing because of security concerns. If she wants her name changed then do it officically. She's just being lazy.

KC said...

What about personal choice (ie the right to keep or change ones name). Maybe some want to sell out. Maybe others dont see it as selling out. Maybe some value traditions in their own personal lives.

Suzanne said...

I just find this law extremely dumb. Why shouldn't she just have a choice? Not everyone is a feminist. Not everyone wants to live by feminist tenets. I've thought about adopting my husband's name so we all have the same last name in our family. I like the idea that you can tell if a couple is married by the fact the woman has the same last name. I think it's a symbolic gesture that cements family unity. I don't sell out anything to my husband. And even if I did, shouldn't that be my choice? I think this is a case of feminists shoving their values down women's throats.

J@ckp1ne said...

I think there needs to be choice in this matter,it is a personal decision that a women should be able to make for herself.

Unknown said...

I was very surprised to read this blog. I'm shocked that a woman in Quebec isn't allowed to take her husbands name after marriage. Isn't that a civil right also? Just as a woman has the right to keep her own last name, she should have the right to change it if she wants to. I had no idea that Quebec kept this kind of control over their citizens.