We call upon all levels of government to enable residential school Survivors and their families to reclaim names changed by the residential school system by waiving administrative costs for a period of five years for the name-change process and the revision of official identity documents, such as birth certificates, passports, driver’s licenses, health cards, status cards, and social insurance numbers.

Indigenous Watchdog Status Update

Current StatusOct. 4, 2021STALLED
Previous StatusSept. 5, 2021STALLED

Why “Stalled”?

As of Sept. 15, 2019 only the Federal government, the NWT and the provinces of Ontario and Nova Scotia have agreed to allow residential school survivors and their families to reclaim their names.

Government Responses to Reclaiming Indigenous Names


June 14, 2021 – The federal government announced that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their traditional names on passports and other government ID. All fees will be waived for the name-changing process. While Call to Action 17 identified passports, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada expanded this initiative to include permanent resident cards, citizenship certificates and other travel documents not only for residential school survivors and their families but for all Indigenous peoples. IRCC has made the standard name change process simpler for reclamation of Indigenous names on various valid IRCC documents. The replacement documents are free, but some fees may be required (postage, expedited processing).

Aug. 28, 2021 – Government systems can only print in Roman alphabet with French accents, meaning names with numbers and Indigenous characters and symbols won’t be accommodated. The immigration department said its document-issuance systems can only print Roman alphabet with some French accents, as well as three symbols: apostrophe, hyphen and period. Numbers in names are not part of its functionality. (see also Current Problems In Indigenous Languages)


June 22, 2017 – For the next five years, the ministry will waive the fees for Indigenous people residing in Ontario who wish to reclaim their traditional names. For those born in Ontario but living elsewhere, we will also waive the fee for one updated birth certificate and one updated certified copy of their birth registration following their name change to a traditional name made outside of Ontario. In addition, recent changes to Ontario laws also allow a birth to be registered with, or a person to have their name changed to, a single name. To be eligible, the single name must be in accordance with the person’s traditional culture. The changes are aimed at helping residential school survivors and their families reclaim traditional names.

Nova Scotia

July 4, 2019 – Beginning July 9, name change fees will be waived for residential school survivors and their families who want to reclaim names that were changed by the residential school system. Once the legal change of name is complete, fees to change a name on a driver’s licence and a government issued photo ID will also be waived. There is no fee to update a Health Card. Currently, the fee to change a name is $165.70 and an additional $24.95 for each family member. The fee for a long form birth certificate is $39.90. The fees will be waived for five years until July 2024.

Northwest Territories

Oct. 1, 2018 – Fees would be waived for “all Indigenous residents who wish to correct the names on their NWT birth certificates that were affected by historical errors.” Fees for certificates under the Vital Statistics Act can also be waived in the same manner. However, names using Indigenous glyphs and diacritics still cannot be chosen. (NWT Press Release – (Cabin Radio)

Official Federal Government Response: Sept. 5, 2019

Statistics Canada, in collaboration with other federal departments such as Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada and Indigenous Services Canada, will engage provincial and territorial partners on a process for residential school survivors and their families to reclaim names that were changed by the residential school system. This process would be without administrative fees.

Thus far, several provinces and the Northwest Territories are waiving fees for name changes on birth records for Indigenous peoples asking for such a change. For identity documents issued under federal jurisdiction, Service Canada does not charge fees for name changes on Social Security Numbers.