No entry for Smith and Jones?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007 at 5:24 | Posted in Bureaucracy, Canada | Leave a comment

Singh an Kaur are very common last names among the Sikh community. They are so common that Canadian immigration officials are apparently unable to keep record of all the Singhs and Kaurs who wish to immigrate to Canada. Which is why everybody carrying one of those names are asked by the officials to change their last name. Their immigration applications are denied if they do not comply.


Karen Shadd-Evelyn, a spokeswoman with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said the policy preventing people from immigrating to Canada with those last names has been in place for the last 10 years.

“I believe the thinking behind it in this case is because it is so common. [With] the sheer numbers of applicants that have those as their surnames, it’s just a matter for numbers and for processing in that visa office.”

I wonder how the Canadian government is able to keep track of all Smiths and Joneses living in Canada. So if your last name is Smith or Jones and you are considering to apply for an immigration visa to Canada, you may want to change your name for convenience of Canadian bureaucrats.

Maybe Canada should pass a law banning names alltogether. Why not just give a number to every resident? It would be so much easier for officials.

Edit: The immigration officials now say that they did not mean it that way. The letter sent to applicants with the common last names is said to be “poorly worded”.

On Wednesday, Shadd-Evelyn acknowledged to CBC News that the government does ask applicants to provide a surname in addition to Singh or Kaur “to improve client service and reduce incidents of mistaken identity.”

But she added: “This was not a mandatory requirement. There is no policy or practice whereby people with these surnames are asked to change their names.

“CIC recognizes that previous communications with clients may not have been clear on this issue and regrets any inconvenience this may have caused,” Shadd-Evelyn said.

Sounds like a classical case of damage control.

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