Thursday, August 09, 2007

Things are different in Quebec

Interesting story demonstrates how different life is in Canada compared to the U.S. A lady living in Quebec has just married, and wants to take her husband's surname. Guess what? In Quebec, women are forbidden by law from doing so.
In Canadian provinces where common law prevails, a woman can begin using her husband's surname after marriage. Armed with a copy of their official, provincially issued marriage certificate, women can easily and officially acquire new identification for documents such as a driver's licence.

But in Quebec, since a 1981 reform of the civil law, women are not permitted to adopt their husband's name at marriage -not even if they apply for an official name change.

Procedures for formal name change are very strict in Quebec and the decision is up to the director of civil status. It requires a serious reason, such as difficulty of use due to spelling or pronunciation, or bearing a name that is mocked or that has been made infamous.
And of course, there were good, sound, leftist ideological reasons for this:
The civil law reform took place shortly after the creation of the Quebec Charter of Rights in which equality between men and women was clearly stated, recalls Alain Roy, a family law professor at the University of Montreal.

"It was a logical follow-up to translate that equality into name attribution. And it was a highly symbolic gain for the feminist movement," Mr. Roy said in an interview.
Somehow nobody thinks it's degrading for women to be known by their father's last name all their life long. One of the side effects of this law is a sort of "rootlessness" - if M. Leclair marries Mlle Lesage, their children will be Pierre Leclair-Lesage or Marie Lesage-Leclair (or they can take the last name of either of their parents). So no family name will be carried on for more than one generation, because each generation will find itself marrying and mixing up more name combinations, even within the same family.

I only point this out because Americans are often unaware of just how accustomed Canadians are to being pushed around and ordered to do things by our government - and there's a whole additional layer of pushiness added if one lives in Quebec. You seldom have to deal with bureaucrats micromanaging the details of your private home life, or instructing you on the correct way to name your children.


Blogger Kasia said...

I have to say that if the government told me I could not change my surname to my husband's surname, I would about blow a gasket. Come to think of it, I would be less than impressed if the government said I couldn't change my name, period. Here, name changes are noteworthy when they're denied, usually because the petitioner wants to change his or her name to something like "Jesus Christ" or "Oprah Winfrey". I remember one case where a petitioner in Illinois wanted to change her name to Carol Moseley Braun, who was her Congresswoman (I believe) at the time; the judge was leery, but let her do it because she swore up and down that she just wanted to share the name of her hero. Then she turned around and ran for local political office, and the judge changed her name back. :-)

Anyway, what on earth happened to CHOICE being the buzzword of feminists?

Oh - and while Quebec may not be concerned about the oppressive patriarchy of a woman taking her father's name, I've heard many afeminist here deplore it.

2:43 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

I would feel better about this whole name thing if it were the tradition that every couple that marries must invent an entirely new last name. At least they would all have the same name, so you could tell that father, mother and children were all of the same family. But of course, that's not quite right, either - a couple marrying is not really creating a completely "new" family - they are carrying on another generation of a family that already exists - grandparents, aunts, uncles, great-grandparents, etc. Laws like that in Quebec atomizes the members of these families, so that they look like a random collection of strangers just accidentally thrown together for a few moments, then ricocheting off in a new direction.

3:34 pm  
Blogger Nicholodeon said...

The Queen ran into this problem in the 1960s when it was pointed out by the late Lord Mountbatten of Burma that the name of the Royal House had become Mountbatten, and that one day, a Mountbatten would ascend the throne (Charles).

This set Her Late Majesty Wueen Elizabeth The Queen Mother back a century or so. So Her Majesty decided the name of the House would be Mountbatten-Windsor for her children and their heirs.

Pcss Anne signed her name that way on the wedding license for her marriage to Mark Phillips.

But that brought back the problem of the Mountbatten on the now the name is Windsor as in House and Family of Windsor. At this time, no one really knows what the name of the family is, because The Queen did not rescind the order re: Mountbatten-Windsor.

But who cares, eh, Doc?

7:53 pm  
Blogger Nicholodeon said...

Ah, make that 'Queen' and not 'Wueen'. Q and W are side by side on my keyboard.

7:54 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

I read that there was another reason for the name change to Windsor. The royal family had previously been of the house of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (via Prince Albert's marriage to Queen Victoria). And for some unaccountable reason, that very Germanic-sounding name suddenly became unpopular in 1917, and King George V decided to change it to the more English-sounding Windsor.

9:14 pm  

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