A judge has granted a B.C. teen, who endured years of emotional and physical abuse from her father, permission to sever one of her last connections to her biological family and change her last name.
According to a court decision this week, the teen, who is only referred to as S.M.H., applied to B.C.’s Vital Statistics Agency for a name change in August with the help of a social worker. But she was rejected because only a parent or legal guardian can do so.
The girl had been removed from her family’s home and placed in foster care in March 2018. Today, she suffers from complex post-traumatic stress disorder and struggles with suicide ideation, and had to testify at her father’s trial for several charges, including sexual assault and incest.
Her anxiety and emotional distress is heightened when she has to sign, read or be called by her father’s last name.
“As a result of the trauma I have suffered at the hands of my father, the use of the surname increases the pain I feel arising from my past,” she said in her counselling records. “I verily believe that a change in my last name … will result in less bouts of anxiety and pain.”
She remains in contact with her biological mother, but her foster mother, whose last name she would take, said in an affidavit that the biological family believes the teen herself is responsible for damaging them.
Following a hearing in Chilliwack, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Sheila Tucker said the case has revealed a gap in the law and left the teen in a “hopeless situation.” She reversed the rejection of the application, allowing the girl to change her last name.
“I am satisfied on the evidence before me that using and answering to her family surname causes S.M.H. significant ongoing anxiety and distress that is injurious to her well-being and an obstacle to and distraction from her efforts to heal,” she wrote in her decision.