HALIFAX - Starting Thursday, it will be harder for people with criminal records to hide their past by changing their legal name.
Currently, there is no mandatory connection between changing a name and criminal records, making it difficult for law enforcement to identify people who do that.
Under the revised legislation, people must submit fingerprints to change their name, ensuring criminal record remain attached to new names. The new regulations are part of amendments to the Change of Name Act.
"This is another step toward making Nova Scotia communities safer," said Mark Furey, Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. "We want police to have the tools they need to ensure that anyone who has a criminal record cannot hide that fact by changing their name."
The legislation does not apply to people changing their name because of marriage. Also, children younger than 12 will not be fingerprinted.
"This legislation is a welcome step," said Truro Police Chief David MacNeil, president of the Nova Scotia Association of Chiefs of Police. "It provides another tool to help police stay informed and keep Nova Scotia's neighbourhoods safe."
People can choose to have their fingerprints taken at a police station or by the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires.
The RCMP will conduct the criminal records check and link the new name to the person's record, if there is one. The information will be available to law enforcement across Canada. Once the check is completed, the fingerprints will be destroyed.
Nova Scotia will be the fourth jurisdiction in Canada with legislation to allow police to attach a new legal name to a criminal record. In 2013, there were 503 name changes in Nova Scotia.