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article imageAlberta posts unpublished secure name changes of violence victims Special

By KJ Mullins     Feb 8, 2011 in World
Surviving domestic violence is a hard road to travel. For one Canadian mother and daughter that survival required changing their names in order to be protected from severe life-threatening domestic violence.
That name change did little good when the Alberta Gazette published their new names.
Surviving domestic violence is a hard road to travel. For one Canadian mother and daughter that survival required changing their names in order to be protected from severe life-threatening domestic violence. That name change did little good when the Alberta Gazette published their new names.
For 'Jane and Janet Doe' escaping violence meant obtaining "Unpublished Secure Name Changes." They thought that they would be able to build a new life with their new identities. That ended when the Alberta Gazette, the official newspaper of the Government of Alberta, published both their old and new names. It shouldn't have happened, the family had a direct order from the Alberta courts that Vital Statistics office was to follow keep their names out of public databases for their protection and safety. It's not an common situation but the policies are in place for when it does happen.
It took years to be able to get that name change. Years of fear, years of relocating, years of looking over their shoulders at every sound. The sense of peace the new names gave was stripped away in seconds when it was published. She has not seen the man who made these changes necessary for over 14 years but there is always that fear.
"I remember the moment when I got the call from my lawyer. 'It's done.' I was elated. We had our freedom! I was able to do those little things with my daughter that I couldn't before." Jane's voice broke then, "When we found out that our names were online I watched my daughter. 'Janet' felt that her life had been ripped away."
And for the past 19 months their lives have been in limbo. They had built a new life and now it was gone. It was time to go back to being low profile. The confidence to walk down the street had been taken away. As they battle the government for a settlement they face a loss of income, now and in the future. Once again they are looking at perhaps having to change their names, their careers, their lives.
"We have cried."
The Alberta government has removed the electronic version from the Internet but it lives on in the print version. It will always be in the archives though on the Internet version. Still until the Does knew it was there the damage was done. It had been on the Gazette for years before they knew it was there.
"We had an attempted break-in at a property we were living at before we know. Now we wonder if it was someone from the past that was responsible for that?" Jane said during a telephone interview that there was no mistake. The document has 12 paragraphs of instruction on the fact that it was to remain unpublished.
"The document was in two provinces, one got it right," Jane said, "Alberta though failed us. After all the time it took, eight years, to get our names changed and then it was for nothing."
Jane explained that in each province these types of documents only come into contact with two people in Vital Statistics. That is for the protection of protected individuals. In her case the director in Alberta knew the documents were coming but they were no longer in the office when they arrived.
The family has received an Official Letter of Apology and Email from the government. They however are waiting for the matter to be fully resolved. An advocate told them that a settlement offer would be issued from the government on August 31, 2010. That date has come and past with nothing being settled.
They have been in touch with the AB Privacy Commissioner's Office who sent a letter to the family on December 2, 2010:
"As the FOIP Act does not apply, I would have no jurisdiction to investigate your complaints."
"However, even if I had jurisdiction to investigate this matter, I can only confirm that a disclosure occurred and require that Service Alberta stop disclosing your personal information..."
A letter to the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta has received no response nor has a follow up call to the office. The Right Honourable Michaelle Jean, C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M. C.D. Governor General of Canada also did not respond to letters before leaving her office.
They are not the only ones contacted. To date there has been little to no response from Kelly Hillier, Director Vital Statistics, Rae Runge, Executive Director, Alberta Land Titles, The Honourable Ed Stelmach, Premier of AB, Honourable Frank Oberle, Solicitor General and Minister of Public Safety, Minister Heather Klimchuk, Service Alberta, Alison Redford, Justice Minister, Janet Skinner, Assistant Deputy Minister or Les Speakman, Executive Director Land Titles/Surveys Personal Property Registry.
Speakman and Skinner did have a one time face to face meeting with the Doe's in March 2010. They haven't heard much since then other than they are not getting faxes. The only fax number used has been the one that the Does were given by Skinner.
For Jane it was the letter couriered to the Governor General that hurts the most. 'Janet' wanted to write that letter, thinking that her voice may make a difference to the woman who went to Haiti to help children.
"It's disgusting. No response." Jane could barely contain the anger, "Here's a child in need in her own mandate and she turns her back on her." Jane stopped for a second, "I will give her credit. Perhaps she was never given the letter by her office staff."
With the government not helping Jane turned to a trusted friend and former employer, Nigel. He had no idea the life struggles of this mother and daughter. Now Nigel is working to help get their story out.
"I have known the family for years. I knew that they had moved many times but I didn't understand why." Nigel, who is now retired, said in a telephone interview. "I have seen the letters and the documents about this abusive government action. I always thought that those who are in charge of protecting us did just that, protect us. I now know better."
Jane said that Nigel has been an inspirational helper. He has a board position with the Wild Rose Alliance in Alberta. He faxed a letter to Wild Rose as a lay person to get help. Nothing. He then used his position. Again nothing.
"Wild Rose didn't want to take this on," Jane sighed.
For Jane seeing those in position to protect others look away is becoming a way of life. She is not backing down. Jane is fighting not only for herself but for her daughter. Like a mother bear protecting her cub Jane's anger comes out at how the disclosure of their names has endangered her daughter and the lack of government response.
"The government told my daughter to start over. Restart over! To once again give up her dreams." Jane struggled with her emotions. "After all the hell we've been through. We have fallen through every crack and they have the nerve to tell my daughter to start all over again."
Time is running out for the Does. They only have until August for a settlement to take place. The government has already sent out the formal apologies and promised a settlement yet nothing has really happened. Jane isn't disclosing the amount she has asked for only that 'it's a lot' and that it is based on case law. If the government doesn't settle by August then a court case will be needed. Jane feels that is what they want. She would rather not waste taxpayers money battling it out in court. The evidence is in her court. The government made a mistake. She feels it is time that they take care of it.
"No one knows what it feels like. I have survived domestic abuse. I have had to run for my life living in shelters throughout Canada before the name change. I have tried to get my story out and most of the media has ignored me. Has the world become so complacent that no one cares?" Jane asked as the interview came to a close, "Abuse knows no borders. Canada has to protect its women."
More about Alberta, domesitc abuse, Jane doe, Violence
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