Sweden rejects 'Ford' as name for Canadian-Swedish couple's son
Joeseph Kendrick and Ingrid Bergstrom-Kendrick call their son Ford. But the Swedish government has rejected it as an official name, saying it's too much like a surname. (Photo courtesy Ingrid Bergstrom-Kendrick)
Meredith MacLeod, CTVNews.ca
Published Friday, November 9, 2018 2:48PM EST
Last Updated Friday, November 9, 2018 9:03PM EST
A Canadian man and his Swedish wife are fighting a rejection of their son’s first name by Swedish officials who say it is too much like a last name.
When Joeseph Kendrick and Ingrid Bergstrom-Kendrick pored over choices for their son’s name before he was born, they could only agree on Ford. Then they realized it was actually a name in Kendrick’s family and “it seemed it was meant to be,” Bergstrom-Kendrick told CTVNews.ca.
But the Swedish Tax Agency, which oversees the approval of names, didn’t agree. It rejected the name under updated regulations in 2016 that allow names to be rejected that are misleading, have extreme spelling, or resemble a surname. Names can also be refused if it’s deemed they will lead to social rejection or unpleasantness, or could be confused with a trademark or company name.
Ford was born Oct. 13, 2017 in Gothenburg, Sweden and his parents submitted the usual paperwork to register his birth and name. They got a response within a couple of months but Bergstrom-Kendrick says she was so confident there wouldn’t be a problem, she actually misread the letter and thought it had been approved. She filed it away.
“We had no thought that it wouldn’t be approved. We expected it would just be a formality.”
It was only when she decided to get a binder together of Ford’s important papers that she realized there was a problem.
She and Kendrick, a warehouse manager who is a native of Penticton, B.C., appealed the decision twice but with no success. They then turned to the Supreme Administrative Court, which has agreed to review the case. Bergstrom-Kendrick says reviews are rare, so she and her husband are hopeful.
But it could take up to a year and in the meantime, Ford, who is referred to by “X” or “Boy” in official documents, can’t get a passport because he has no legal name. That prevents the couple, who lived together in Vancouver for five years before moving to Sweden six years ago, from visiting Canadian family and friends.
The couple generally supports rules around names that will prevent a child from being saddled with something that will bring ridicule or harm, but thinks the government is overstepping here.
Part of their appeal argument is that they will seek Canadian citizenship for Ford and that Swedish officials shouldn’t stand in the way of using a family name. They also point out that many names are used as first and last names, including Kendrick.
“I am confused as to how they intended that part of the law to work,” said Bergstrom-Kendrick, a clothing designer with her own label.
A couple in Sweden made headlines in 2007 when the country rejected the name Metallica for its baby girl. The parents appealed and won in that case. The Supreme Administrative Court has also overturned decisions to reject Lego and Elvis for a girl.
According to Swedish news outlet The Local, Swedish officials did allow a boy to be named Google but have rejected Q, Token and Michael Jackson. Parents who were fined by the Swedish Tax Agency for failing to register their child’s name, then tried to register “Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116” in protest, claiming it was artistic expression. That was rejected, too.
Sweden’s name laws date to 1982 and were enacted to prevent non-nobles from using noble names.
It isn’t the only country that cracks down on baby-naming. Iceland, Denmark and Portugal have lists of male and female names that parents must choose from and Germany prevents surnames from being used as first names. A number of countries require that names be gender obvious.
The U.S. and U.K. are generally lenient when it comes to names.
In Canada, provinces and territories are responsible for registering the birth and name of a child. The rules vary widely. Quebec sets out that a given name shouldn’t be longer than four names and does warn that it will challenge names that invite “ridicule or that could discredit the child.” Saskatchewan rejects names considered “confusing or offensive.”
B.C. allows courts to reject names if they may cause embarrassment or confusion.
But many other provinces leave names up to the discretion of parents. Ontario only prohibits the use of symbols or numbers, for instance.
As for Ford, Bergstrom-Kendrick says her son will use that name whether or not it gets official approval. After all, he’s 13 months old and already knows that’s his name.
“To change it now would be very confusing for him. And plus, we really like it.”