C aroline Parent wants to become Caroline Lamirande in recognition of the fact she recently wed Karl Lamirande. She could do this easily in every province except Quebec. Under a 1981 civil law reform, in Quebec women are prohibited from changing their maiden names. At that time the change was seen as a progressive step, yet another shaking off of Roman Catholic traditionalism, where the wife was subsumed into her husband’s legal identity.
Now the situation seems to have changed. A survey shows that four out of five Quebec brides to be want to switch to their husband’s name. Creating a family unit was the most common reason given.
It was not always thus. Remember Canada’s youngest Prime Minister, Joe Clark, sometimes called “the chinless wonder.” His wife, Maureen McTeer, stubbornly refused to change her maiden name to his.
Should Jean Charest change the Quebec law that forbids a Quebec woman from adopting her husband’s name? Should the woman have freedom of choice in this matter? Or is changing your maiden name to a man’s name just caving into male patriarchy?
Or should the law remain as is because marriage is not meant to be a vehicle for a woman’s family (name), history and identity to be subsumed by a man’s?
Or is this whole stance sexist? Why don’t men take their wife’s name?