The parents of a three-month old baby in Campbell River say the B.C. government won’t register their child’s name.
Raymond Shaw is a traditional native carver and a member of the Wei Wai Kum First Nation in Campbell River while his partner Crystal Smith is Ts’msyen and Haisla and has been adopted into the Heiltsuk Nation.
She give birth to their son in January, but now three months later the traditional name they want to legally give their child still has not been registered by the government.
“His name is λugʷaləs K’ala’ask Shaw,” Smith told CHEK News.
He’s named after a mountain in Raymond’s traditional territory near Sayward, and means “the place where people were blessed.”
“It comes from my mom’s side of the family,” said Shaw. “It’s a place of significance where historically a lot of good things happened there and the name fit our son, that’s his name.”
But after trying to register their son’s name numerous times, the province said it can’t be done because of the special characters used in the spelling.
The paperwork that came back from the Registrar General’s office even suggested changing λugʷaləs’s name using different spelling, something his parents say would change the meaning entirely and is not an option.
“Yeah this is infuriating, it’s 2022, our people should be honoured, our people should be uplifted, our languages should be uplifted,” said Smith.
She points to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by Canada last year which specifically speaks to names and languages.
“And it’s very specific to names yes and our languages, allowing us to use our languages, to speak our languages to teach them,” she added.
In a reply to CHEK News the B.C. Ministry of Health stated the following:
- We are aware that parents have been unable to register the births of their children with names that include certain characters.
- Currently, the Vital Statistics Agency only allows people to register names with Latin alphabetic letters, a standard set of French accents, apostrophes, hyphens and a period. Numbers, brackets, slashes and other symbols are not accepted.
- We understand how distressing and frustrating this may be for families, and that it disproportionately affects Indigenous families.
- We are working on making changes and will have more to share soon.
- Recently, our government released the action plan to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
- This plan includes several actions to revitalize Indigenous languages in B.C.
- One of those actions is adopting an inclusive digital font that allows for Indigenous languages to be included in official records.
- We are committed to ensuring that Indigenous languages are living, used, taught and visible throughout their respective territories and across the province – and that includes ensuring that parents can register the births of their children with traditional names.
The province has not indicated how long that could take however and Smith says the couple is now considering legal action.