Parents of a three-month-old baby in Campbell River say the BC government will not register their child’s name.
Raymond Shaw is a traditional Aboriginal carver and member of the Wei Wai Kum First Nation in Campbell River, while his partner Crystal Smith is Ts’msyen and Haisla and was adopted by the Heiltsuk Nation.
She gave birth to their son in January, but now, three months later, the traditional name they want to give their child legally has still not been registered by the government.
“His name is λugʷaləs K’ala’ask Shaw,” Smith told CHEK News.
It is 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,” Shaw said. “It’s an important place where historically a lot of good things have happened there and the name fits our son, that’s his name.”
But after repeatedly trying to register their son’s name, the province said it couldn’t be done due to the special characters used in the spelling.
Documents that came back from the Registrar General’s office even suggested changing λugʷaləs name using a different spelling, which his parents say would completely change the meaning and is not an option.
“Yes, it’s infuriating, this is 2022, our people should be honored, our people should be uplifted, our tongues should be uplifted,” Smith said.
She refers to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by Canada last year, which speaks specifically to names and languages.
“And it’s very specific to yes nouns and our languages, allowing us to use our languages, speak our languages to teach them,” she added.
In a response to CHEK News, the British Columbia Ministry of Health said the following:
- We are aware that parents have not been able to register the birth of their children with names including certain characters.
- Currently, the Vital Statistics Agency only allows people to register names with Latin alphabet letters, a standard set of French accents, apostrophes, hyphens, and a period. Numbers, parentheses, slashes and other symbols are not accepted.
- We understand how distressing and frustrating this can 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 for the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- This plan includes several actions to revitalize Indigenous languages in British Columbia
- One of these actions is to adopt an inclusive digital font that allows the inclusion of indigenous languages in official documents.
- We are committed to ensuring that Indigenous languages are alive, used, taught and visible in their respective territories and across the province – and this includes ensuring that parents can register the birth of their children with traditional names. .
The province hasn’t said how long that might take, however, and Smith says the couple are now considering legal action.
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