Jr. by Marriage

Authority Insurance Corporation of British Columbia

Susan Clement married Cameron Murphy Jr. in Cameron’s hometown in the United States. As Cameron and his father shared first names and because this had caused confusion in their small community in the past, each made sure to always identify themselves as Cameron Jr. and Cameron Sr. respectively on all official documentation. When Cameron Jr. married Susan he wrote “Cameron” in the given name field of their marriage certificate and “Murphy Jr.” in the surname field. It did not cross Cameron’s mind that this would cause problems for Susan down the road.

A few years after the wedding the couple moved to Susan’s home province of BC. When Susan went to purchase car insurance she was informed that the name on her driver’s licence had to match the name on her insurance documentation. As she now went by Susan Murphy and as her driver’s licence was still under Susan Clement, she went to an ICBC office to have her licence updated. This is where Susan’s headaches began.

An individual is permitted by law to adopt the surname of their spouse on marriage. In BC this does not require a legal change of name application. Rather, the individual can rely on their marriage certificate to legally identify themselves by their spouse’s surname. Susan presented a copy of her marriage certificate when she went in to update her licence. To Susan’s surprise ICBC informed her that if she was going to adopt Cameron’s surname, she would have to adopt the surname as it was written on the marriage certificate. Cameron had written “Murphy Jr.” in the surname field and therefore ICBC required her to adopt Cameron’s generational suffix “Jr.” on her own driver’s licence. If Susan wanted to drop the “Jr.”, ICBC told her that she would have to apply for a legal change of name. Susan was rather surprised by this and requested that the issue be considered by ICBC’s management to ensure that what she was told was actually ICBC’s policy. In response ICBC confirmed that it considered “Murphy Jr.” to be Cameron’s surname and therefore what she had been told was correct. None of this made sense to Susan so she came to us with her complaint.

Initially, we suspected there might have been a misunderstanding. However, ICBC confirmed that it considered generational suffixes to be a part of a surname and that it had made this decision when it assisted with the development of a policy document that was shared between multiple provincial authorities tasked with standardizing legal naming conventions. Despite this we remained concerned that ICBC’s position was inconsistent with the legislation permitting individuals to adopt their spouse’s surname and not their generational suffix.

The policy document relied on by ICBC in this situation is maintained by another provincial authority and as such we reached out to it to determine whether or not the policy adequately considered the legislation governing the transition of surnames on marriage. On learning of Susan’s situation the other authority shared Susan’s concerns. It also explained that the policy document remained in draft form and that it was possible to add a clarification to it to enable individuals to adopt their spouse’s surname without the generational suffix. We invited ICBC to meet with us and the other authority to discuss possible options for settling Susan’s complaint. We reiterated to ICBC that we could identify no definition of surname, legal or otherwise, that included or contemplated including generational suffixes as a surname in whole or in part. We also pointed to various definitions of different name components, legal and otherwise, that clearly differentiated generational suffixes from surnames.

Following lengthy consultations with ICBC, it agreed to drop the “Jr.” on Susan’s licence so that it would read Susan Murphy. ICBC agreed to amend the shared policy document to no longer require any person to adopt the generational suffix of their spouse after marriage. Thanks to Susan having brought her complaint to us, no one in the future should be required by ICBC to adopt their spouse’s generational suffix after marriage. Additionally, anyone who has found themselves in the same situation as Susan in the past is now able to attend an ICBC office and have their licence changed.

Category Driving and Transportation
Type Case Summary
Fiscal Year 2015
Location Vancouver Island / Sunshine Coast