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Common Sikh Names Banned Under Canada's Immigration Policy

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Common Sikh Names Banned Under Canada's Immigration Policy

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http://www.cbc.ca/canada/calgary/story/2007/07/23/names-immigration.html

Common Sikh names banned under Canada's immigration policy

Last Updated: Monday, July 23, 2007 - CBC News

A Calgary woman waiting for her husband to arrive in Canada is upset by a long-standing immigration policy that forces people with the surname Singh or Kaur to change their last names.

Tarvinder Kaur, who is pregnant, said her husband Jaspal Singh's application to become a permanent resident has been delayed for well over a month because of his last name.

He has no choice but to legally change his name in India so he can get to Calgary before she gives birth next month, she said.

CBC News has obtained a copy of a letter sent from the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi to Singh's family stating that "the names Kaur and Singh do not qualify for the purpose of immigration to Canada."

"Why are we needing to make a different last name?" said Kaur. "You choose what your last name is going to be and if it's always been a certain way, then why should you have to change it?"

Traditional Sikh names

Singh and Kaur are common names in the Sikh community. In a tradition that began more than 300 years ago, the name Singh is given to every baptized male and Kaur to every baptized female Sikh.

The names are used differently by different people. Some use Singh or Kaur as middle names, while others use them as their last names.

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."
Citizenship and Immigration Canada says there is no such policy against other common last names.

Kaur, who was born in Canada, says that's unacceptable.

"If it's going to be a standard policy it should be standard with all common last names. Why is it that it's only Singh or Kaur that's being attacked by this?"
 
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http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2007/07/25/immigration-name.html

Sikh name-change letter 'poorly worded': Immigration Canada

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 |CBC News

An Immigration Canada letter that said people with the common Sikh surnames Singh or Kaur have to change their last names before coming to Canada was "poorly worded" and is not government policy, a spokeswoman from the department says.

"Permanent resident applicants with the surnames Singh or Kaur are not required to change their names in order to apply," Karen Shadd-Evelyn, a spokeswoman with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said in an e-mail to CBC News Wednesday.

"In no way did CIC intend to ask applicants to change their names. The letter that was previously used to communicate with clients was poorly worded. We are making changes to ensure there will be no misunderstandings in the future."

The controversy erupted after Tarvinder Kaur, waiting for her husband Jaspal Singh to arrive in Canada, learned his application to become a permanent resident had been delayed for well over a month because of his last name.
A letter from the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi to Singh's family stated that "the names Kaur and Singh do not qualify for the purpose of immigration to Canada."

When first asked about the letter, immigration officials said the policy to ask for a third name was put in place 10 years ago to help officials identify people's files quickly, efficiently and accurately.

Singh and Kaur are common names in the Sikh community. In a tradition that began more than 300 years ago, the name Singh is given to every baptized male and Kaur to every baptized female Sikh. There are millions of Singhs and Kaurs around the world.

Shadd-Evelyn acknowledged Wednesday 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," she said.

"CIC recognizes that previous communications with clients may not have been clear on this issue and regrets any inconvenience this may have caused," she said.
 

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