Trans and non-binary Canadians say they are still being deadnamed on voters cards

A person opening up a mailbox to illustrate trans and non-binary people from Canada seeing their deadname on voters cards in the mail

Trans and non-binary Canadians have opened up about the “jarring” experience of receiving voter cards still addressed to their deadnames.

Faelan Quinn told CBC they had legally changed their name over four years ago. They added that they updated their information with Elections Canada – the government agency responsible for administering Canadian federal elections and referendums – two years earlier.

So they said it was “jarring” to see their deadname listed on the white and maroon coloured voter information card they recently received in the mail.

“It was very jarring to just sort of see it come up out of nowhere when there had been no prior indication that that was something that was going to happen again after having done everything correctly on my end,” Quinn said.

They continued: “I had no reason to believe that my previous name would ever be used for me again through Elections Canada.”

Fae Johnstone, Quinn’s fiancé and a trans educator and organiser, told Global News that this isn’t an “isolated issue” or “one-off” incident.

“It’s dispiriting, and it sends a message that our needs aren’t important enough,” Johnstone said.

This isn’t the first time that trans and non-binary Canadians have been deadnamed on their voter cards. Several people told Xtra Magazine and Global News that they received voter cards addressed to their deadname ahead of the 2019 election in Canada.

Quinn Airlie told Global News they were exhausted when they saw their deadname on their voter card, describing it like an “internal groan”.

Airlie said they changed their name in February 2020 and had several government documents to verify this change. They said they had also voted in a recent provincial election using their legal name.

Airlie admitted the pandemic had gotten in the way of updating their legal name with the Canada Revenue Agency, a source Elections Canada uses to validate identities. But they said they’d shown their name change documentation at polling stations in the past, and their name still wasn’t updated.

“It’s like, even after you think you’re done, you’re not,” Airlie said. “It’s the system that’s the problem.”

Airlie told Global News that they knew “a lot of people who will see that” and just “not go vote” because of stress.

In an email to CBC, a spokesperson for Elections Canada apologised to any elector who received a voter information card using their deadname.

Elections Canada in a separate email to Global News that electors should update their information directly with the government agency to ensure their names “appear correctly on their voter registration and voter information card”.

Quinn recalled how their first experience was “unpleasant enough”, saying it was “daunting” to think of having to repeat the process.

“I was taken out of line, pulled aside to a separate table, which of course drew a lot of attention to me,” Quinn told Global News. “As a trans person, that alone carries a certain inherent discomfort.”

Airlie said having to go through updating their information once more felt like “just another embarrassing, pointless fight”.