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Tips on changing your name in Ontario


I've been blogging about changing your name and gender marker here and there, so now that is basically done for me, I thought I would share some tips I learned along the way,

So, some of this is applicable to Ontario residents, but some of it is more generic to Canadians. Nevertheless, I think some of the information will apply regardless of where you are. I hope this helps others navigate these waters a bit more smoothly.

Also, some of what I talk about applies regardless of whether or not you're trans, but there are some specific trans cases I'll touch on.

First things first...

Name and Gender Change in Ontario

There are a number of forms to download from the government, but the good news is that you can do these actions at the same time. Some of the forms are checking for Adobe Acrobat, so you will need to have that installed. The notion of needing Acrobat is totally dated to us Mac users, but there you have it. You can find all of these forms on the ServiceOntario website.

Tips:

  • You need a doctor's letter for changing your gender on your birth record, if you choose to do that. Get an original signature that is obviously in pen or they may bounce the application back to you. That happened to me. Note: this applies if you were born in Ontario, consult your birth province for their requirements.
  • You can ask to not have your name published in the Ontario Gazette if you are trans or indigenous, you should do that. Not a lot of people read it, really, but why risk bigots if you don't have to.
  • Original signatures required by guarantor on name change, so same deal, get it clearly in pen.
  • Some offices for ServiceOntario have Commissioners for taking oaths, so you don't necessarily need to go find one. Check the ones near you and I personally used the big office at Yonge & Sheppard in Toronto.
  • I would take the paperwork to a ServiceOntario location rather than mail it. I feel it's faster, and they check everything over, so you get additional eyes.
  • It takes a few weeks after they charge your credit card, so patience.
  • The name change certificate and birth certificate come in seperate envelopes. Mine arrived on the same day, but don't assume.

Driver's License, Health Card, and other Provincial IDs

I found these to be pretty simple. You do have to go into a ServiceOntario location once you have your new birth certificate and name change document, but it's all done at once and fairly quick. You are expected to do this within 6 business days of receiving the documents, so plan to do it quickly.

Tips:
  • Have your old ID with you. They will mark them and give you temps.
  • Bring your name change and birth certificates.
  • If you have a vehicle, also bring the vehicle registration papers and get that updated at the same time.

Banks and Insurance

So, this was hit and miss for me. My insurance was easy, a simple exchange over email and done quickly. The banks were, well, not really great at this. In most cases the banks want you to mail some documents, but they do all have secure email mechanisms and I recommend pushing to use that when you talk to them. You may need to escalate the call for that, but there are a couple of reasons to do so:
  • Mail is really not secure, it gets lost, and the documents are sensitive and put you at identity theft risk.
  • Some also want original documents (!) or certified copies. The former is a huge risk, just no. The latter isn't free.
  • It helps to create change. I can tell you that some are already changing their approach because of my actions as I know where to complain (the FCAC is a good start) and I did. That gets action.
In some cases you can probably go into a branch, but that may be bank dependent and was a bit of an issue during a pandemic. Nevertheless, do your best to avoid snail mail and, if you must, please try to use registered and tracked mail for any sensitive personal information.

Do not, under any circumstance, terminate a credit product and then open a new credit product. That has credit rating impacts.

Services

These are all over the map. By far and away, the easiest was Bell Canada. I literally sent them an email with a scan of my name change certificate and they changed it in about an hour. This is how it should be.

Many utilities are terrible at this. You need to actually do some service changes, basically terminate one account and start a new one, with a fee. I actually ended up leaving them alone, not my problem if they have the wrong name and as long as the bill is paid, so what. Just wasn't worth the hassle. Up to you if you want to pursue them.

Paypal has been a bit of a dog's breakfast when it comes to this. When I first went to do it, I supplied the name change certificate and they rejected it saying they need something like a driver's license. I did the usual complaint on Twitter with all the success you can imagine and decided I was just going to cancel. Then, recently, I decided to try again and the only documents they now accept are marriage certificate, divorce certificate, or name change certificate! I don't know, maybe I got through to them. 

Update (9 Jul 21): Paypal rejected the legal name change document again. However, I did make it clear that I considered it discriminatory to refuse to change my name as a trans person when the document was sufficient for cis people. They changed my name. Up to you if you want to fight that, I am still likely going to close my account having made my point.

Some services, notably online shopping like Amazon, you can just change your name yourself. I did a ton of that well before changing my legal name. Here's the big tip on this: credit card validation with the issuer does not check first name and so, if you're like me, and didn't change your last name, you can just put your real first name instead of your deadname in the cardholder field and it should work fine.

Social Insurance and Canada Revenue Agency

So, they look like they have comprehensive guidance on the website and that is mostly true... However, there is a subtle thing to be aware of when it comes to primary and secondary IDs. Basically, if they are different, then they expect the primary (birth certificate) to be wrong. The system is really designed for name change as a result of marriage or divorce and it shows.

Tips:

  • Wait until you've updated your Provincial IDs and some service providers. Basically, if all of your IDs match, you will have much less hassle. They say "as soon as possible" but an agent told me that meant as soon as possible after you do everything else!
  • You will need a primary (birth certificate), a secondary (driver's license, health card, etc.), a bill (I used the updated pink slips for my car insurance), and your name change certificate to show proof of name change.
  • Can all be done online, so scans are fine. Be aware that they may require the back of some IDs, like a driver's license so, if in doubt, get front and back.
Update (9 Jul 21): The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) does need to be updated after your SIN has been changed. The CRA can see your SIN record, but they do not update your account automatically. It's simple, just call them and they should be able to update over the phone once they confirm you are you. Be warned that wait times can be long on the phone, expect at least an hour, but the process is otherwise painless. Mystery to me why this can't be done online though.

Credit Bureaus

You need to file a dispute with the bureaus, so check with TransUnion and Equifax specifically. My advice is to wait until after your SIN has been updated. Also, know that you have the same complaint avenues as with banks, so use them if they get sticky. 

Also be aware, your bureau reports will continue to have your deadname in them. All names (and misnames) stay on file as long as the source of that is on file. Not much you can do here.

For credit score apps, like Credit Karma, I just ran into a wall. They told me I could not change my name on my account and so I just closed it. Way too annoying to deal with. Mind you I have some alternatives available, so up to you and your comfort.

Travel Documents

Passport can be done by mail, but they want original documents. My advice is do in person. 

NEXUS, which is super useful if you travel even once a year to the United States (or vice versa), must be done in person at a border location. These have been closed during the pandemic, so I may have a follow-up on my experience at a later date. In the past, I didn't find it too bad when I had to update employer.

My biggest tip on these is wait until all your major IDs are done and bring those, plus name change cerificate and birth certificate.

Property and Voter Registration

If you own your own property, then you can update your information with the land registry office in Ontario. This will also update muncipal tax rolls and your voter registration. Do once you have all of your IDs done and a proof of address is available.

If you don't own property, be aware that you can provide ID and proof of address at time of voting.

Final thoughts

A lot of this is not trans specific, it applies if you do a formal legal name change. I found much of my initial guidance on the Ontario Women's Justice Network website, it's an excellent source of essential information for trans people. Combine it with my tips and I think you'll have a smoother ride through these waters.


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