Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Name Definition:

A unique combination of a given and a surname, assigned to an individual, generally at birth, and used to identify distinguish that individual both socially and in regards to the assertion or defence of legal rights.

Quebec's Civil Code (2009), at §3, 5 and 50, defines a name as follows:

"Every person has a name which is assigned to him at birth and is stated in his act (certificate) of birth. The name includes the surname and given names.

"Every person is the holder of personality rights, such as ... the right to the respect of his name....

"Every person exercises his civil rights under the name assigned to him and stated in his act (certificate) of birth."

In Melnychuk v Heard, the Alberta Supreme Court had an election case before the court. Justice Greschuk faced a claim that an election ballot which inadvertently included the title "Dr." was null and void. The court held it was not sufficient a defect to vitiate the election. On the issue as to what constitutes a name pursuant to the federal Election Act:

"A name is a title by which a person or thing is known or designated. The sole function of the name is to identify the person it is intended to designate. A person's name consists of one or more Christian or given names and one surname or family name."

name LDThe right to a name is often considered to be a basic human right. For example, the 1966 United Nations Covenant on Political and Civil Rights provides, at §24(2):

"Every child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have a name."

In Re Marriage of Gulsvig, Justice Schultz Supreme Court of Iowa shared this exquisite legal history lesson:

"The importance of names in society is of ancient origin. Emperor Fuxi of China decreed the use of family names or surnames about 2852 b.c. Family names came into use in Roman times and again in Northern Italy in the 900s a.d.

"The Romans used three names, a given name, a clan name, and a family name (e.g., Gaius Julius Caesar). The crusaders carried the custom of family names from Italy to other countries of Western Europe.

"The most important regulation regarding family names was made at the Council of Trent (1563). It decreed that every parish must keep complete registers of baptisms, with the names of the child and those of his or her parents and grandparents. There is not much early legislation thereafter because two basic assumptions were taken for granted: that the bride will accept the bridegroom's family name by marriage and that their children will automatically have the family name of the parents.

"Elsdon C. Smith in The Story of Our Names (1930) observed that except to the most intimate friends a person's name is the most prominent feature. It is also the most vulnerable point. An old Roman maxim runs, sine nomine homo non est (without a name a person is nothing). One's name is a signboard to the world. It is one of the most permanent of possessions; it remains when everything else is lost; it is owned by those who possess nothing else. A name is the only efficient means to describe someone to contemporaries and to posterity. When one dies it is the only part that lives on in the world.

"Our common law and statutory law have long recognized the need for a stable system through which people are known sets out the requirements for registering births. If the mother was married, either at the time of conception or birth, the name of the husband shall be entered on the certificate as the father of the child."

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