Birth certificate: useless double billing after a name change | Protecteur du Citoyen
September 15, 2014

Birth certificate: useless double billing after a name change


bonjourThe complaint

A woman who obtained a name change for her child appealed to the Québec Ombudsman because she considers she shouldn't have to pay a second time for a birth certificate containing the right information.

The citizen ordered the birth certificate on the Directeur de l'état civil / Registrar of Civil Status (Registrar) website, immediately after obtaining a positive response from that body for the name change. She paid the required fees at that time. However, when she received the document, she found the old name still appeared on it. That's when the Registrar informed her that she would have to wait 30 days before applying for a certificate, corresponding to the time limit for contesting a name change.

The Registrar therefore required the woman to spend money again to obtain the updated official paper, which she contested.

The investigation

  • The 30-day contestation period begins when the applicant receives the document authorizing the name change. The Registrar then must inform the citizen that it will be possible to order a new birth certificate containing the updated information, only once this time limit expires.
  • In the case that interests us, the Registrar omitted to send the courtesy English translation, explaining the above-mentioned procedure in detail, in a letter accompanying the name change authorization decision. The woman speaks English and all previous correspondence with the Registrar was in that language.
  • Since an application for a name change and an application for a birth certificate are processed independently, nothing permits the Registrar to locate and thus block certificate applications filed within the 30-day period.
  • Moreover, in the letter sent to citizens to authorize a name change, the Registrar requests that any original birth certificate produced under the former name be returned to it.

The Québec Ombudsman's conclusions

Although the woman did not comply with the 30-day time limit before filing her application for a birth certificate, the Register of Civil Status must acknowledge its share of responsibility. The Registrar did not inform the citizen adequately of the prescribed time limit because it did not send the information in the correct language of correspondence. Moreover, it may appear contradictory that the Registrar can continue to issue birth certificates produced under the former name during this transition period, when it is asking citizens to return any original containing that same name.

Thus, the Québec Ombudsman requested the Registrar of Civil Status to cancel the fee for issuing a new birth certificate, given that the woman had already paid it once. In a collective perspective, it also recommended that citizen records be virtually locked during a name change so that no birth certificate is issued during the 30-day transition period, excluding exceptional situations.

The Registrar of Civil Status acceded to all these requests, so that the citizen was able to receive her child's birth certificate at no additional charge. Moreover, from now on, a birth certificate can be issued between the decision authorizing the name change and the expiry of the contestation period, only if the citizen clearly indicated that he or she wishes to proceed in this manner.