BC Service Card creates 'two-name' situation for long-time immigrants

People are asked to remove their chosen English names on their driver's licence when applying for the new card

A relatively new B.C. government ID card once hailed for its convenience is proving quite the opposite for a growing number of frustrated Chinese residents, who are being asked to remove their chosen English names.

When Kenneth Tung, president of Civic Education Society, applied for his B.C. Service Card,  which combines his driver’s licence and Medical Services Plan (MSP), he was told he must remove his English name that appears on his driver’s licence because it’s not the Chinese name on his MSP and now defunct citizenship card.

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“But the English name has been my legal name this past 15 years. My will, bank account, house mortgage and legal documentation all use this name,” said Tung.

“When the government combined the MSP card and driver’s licence together, it didn’t consider people with different names on the  cards. It has created a frustrating problem for tens of thousands of immigrant Canadians,” he added.

Compounding the frustration, said Tung, is the fact ICBC changed its policy 15 years ago, allowing, or even preferring, to add English names to their driver’s licence.

“When I first moved to Canada 30 years ago, we could only use our Chinese name on our driver’s licence,” explained Tung.

“About 15 years ago, when I renewed my driver’s licence, the staff asked me, ‘do you want to add your English name to it?’ I said, ‘yes.’”

Now with his new service card, in Chinese again, Tung has to prove to organizations, such as banks, that he is indeed “Kenneth.”

“I have two options: changing all the names on my accounts and documentation to my Chinese name, or going through the process to change my name on my birth certificate — most people prefer the latter in this situation,” said Tung.

But he soon found the process more complicated and costly than he expected.

“I have to take one day off to go to the notary, and another day off to go to (the) RCMP for a criminal record check. Another hit to me is that it costs me $162!” said Tung, who is still in the application process.

“I spend my time, energy, and money, and all this work just to satisfy bureaucratic regulations.”

Former school trustee and prospective federal Conservative politician Kenny Chiu is also a “victim,” whose legal name has now become Kam Wing Chiu.

“I changed my name to Kenny Chiu in 1998, and I always refer to myself as Kenny Chiu,” he said.

“In 2011, I put my name forward and was lucky to be elected as a Richmond School Board trustee. But now the name Kenny Chiu would not be legitimate.”

Coun. Chak Au said he is aware of the problem and has received at least four complaints from Richmond residents.

“Many of the affected residents are seniors and find it very difficult to solve the situation,” said Au. “And more and more people will come cross the problem when they go to renew their driver’s licence in the future.”

He is asking the B.C. government to recognize the issue, simplify the process and lower the cost.

“I understand the rationale by the government to have one single name, but the inconsistent policies in the past years have created this situation,” said Au.

“I’d like to ask the government to make it easy for people to get the situation resolved. For example, provide a simple statement saying ‘I used various names before. From now on I’m going to use this as my formal identification.’

“And have one place that can solve the issue instead of having to go to multiple offices, with lower cost,” he added.

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