Vancouver man questions Canada’s identification inconsistencies

Including spaces, Carlos Fraiha Nunes de Almeda Barbosa has a 38-character name. He’s speaking with Ria Renouf as he questions why various government organizations and companies can’t fit his entire name on his ID cards and letters.


VANCOUVER (CityNews) — Carlos Fraiha Nunes de Almeida Barbosa is incredibly proud of his name, which carries decades of his Brazilian heritage.

Including spaces, it’s 38-characters long. Different limits on name lengths on different forms of ID mean different cards show him as having different names.

The permanent resident, who lives in Vancouver with his husband, says he’s often run into problems when it comes to his identification.

Businesses and levels of government have different limits on the number of characters allowed on ID. He often finds one to three characters are dropped from his last name.

He says he can’t understand why organizations can’t fit an entire name onto a piece of ID with all of the technologies available to them in 2021.

“My Permanent Resident Card cut off three letters from the end of my name. Health Insurance cards, from work, they’re also abbreviated. Even my SIN number cut off a few letters,” he tells CityNews.

While some cards can be scanned and show a full name on a computer, in most cases, people will simply look at different pieces of de Almeida Barbosa’s ID and say they aren’t the same.

“In the process of trying to get permanent residency, I needed to get a police certificate, and they required two pieces of ID, and I presented my BCID which has my full name, and my BC Services Card, which has one letter cut off. And the police officer just refused it and she said, ‘The names don’t match. Sorry,'” he explains.

Travelling is also a hassle, despite arriving hours earlier than he is required to, because he already knows he will be stopped by airport staff. He respects staff who are just doing their jobs when they verify his identity — but he’s still almost missed several flights.

Aside from the inconveniences, he feels horrible for his mother, who often says she regrets giving him the last name.

“It has my family tree in there. The surname that I use now, it’s actually my mother’s mother’s last name before she married. She was the only grandparent that I met in my life, that was alive when I was born, and we were very close,” he says.

Fraiha Nunes de Almeida Barbosa believes the naming convention is unfair to people who do not have common Caucasian names.

“It’s an issue that affects most people from other cultures. There are people here who are living in Canada, who were born here, with names that come from different cultures, and it’s still something that’s really a big issue.”

Naming limits vary by organization, government agency

CityNews reached out to a number of government agencies and businesses that Fraiha Nunes de Almeida Barbosa cited. These included Aeroplan, Air Canada, BC Citizens Services – which is responsible for the BC Services Card – BC’s Health Ministry, and Employment and Social Development Canada, which is responsible for Social Insurance Numbers (SIN).

In a statement, Air Canada tells CityNews, “We have looked into this, and the member’s full name appears fully in his Aeroplan account. As always, Aeroplan members can reach out to the Aeroplan Contact Centre to discuss any concerns they may have.”

Emails provided to CityNews by Fraiha Nunes de Almeida Barbosa show the ‘s’ and the ‘a’ in Barbosa were previously dropped, and was fixed sometime after December 21, 2020. The name is also still missing spaces.

In the case of his BC Services Card, Citizens’ Services told CityNews it would be sending him a new card without the 30 character limit, as part of “due process.” When the Ministry was asked if this could be prevented, it referred CityNews to the Ministry of Health.

In a statement, BC’s Ministry of Health says, “In this particular case, the temporary Immigration documents that were presented to Health Insurance BC for enrolment in MSP which produced the non-photo cards were truncated. It is BC Services Card policy to write the name exactly as written on the temporary immigration documents provided to HIBC for non-photo cards. The system the (sic) Health Insurance BC uses has a 30-character limit in the system for last name and 18-character limit for the first and middle names. However, in the rare situation where given names exceed these limits, our systems have workarounds to allow for people to have their full name on their BC Services Card.”

As for his immigration documents, like his PR card, CityNews was told by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that a client’s name is recorded as it appears in their travel document. It goes on to say that there is a limit of 35 characters, and that this includes spaces.

“The incorrect name on the work permit may be the result of human error at the time the permit was issued,” it says.

Ultimately, Fraiha Nunes de Almeida Barbosa says the system needs to catch up with the times, and with the fact that Canada is a multicultural country.

“I hope that companies realize that this causes a lot of distress and issues for people. And if there’s any way that they could help fix this, it would save them a lot of time as well, trying to deal with our cases in the future.”

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