Forms and Norms: Theorizing Immigration-Influenced Name Changes in Canada
Canadian immigration and settlement practices have been altering individuals’ names since the mid-1800s. From the common explanations of immigration officials engaging in novel orthography as they completed forms, to families altering their names to make them easier for their neighbours to pronounce, a range of dominant cultural influences were at work. Today, these forces continue; they are evident in such technobureaucratic minutiae as maximum character lengths for permanent residents’ names, and in the decadelong policy encouraging people with the religiously-significant Sikh names ‘Kaur’ and ‘Singh’ to remove these names before applying to immigrate (CBC, July 2007). They are also heard in day-to-day introductions as some newcomers choose to use common English or French names to present themselves, and to potentially make themselves more employable (Ng et al., 2007). With these and other scenarios in mind I ask, in what ways and through what means do minority culture members and migrants to Canada change their names? What roles do legislation, policy and state regulated data collection procedures have in these shifts? How are names altered through less official interactions? What implications do these name changes have for Canada as a nation-state? What are the outcomes in terms of nationalism or cultural pluralism?