Re: personal names in data bases

From: Alain LaBont\i\ (
Date: Wed Mar 31 1999 - 16:41:57 EST

A 12:44 99-03-31 -0800, Andrea Vine a écrit :
>I am curious as to how many countries have these lists. I'm not aware of
such a
>list in the US - is there one?

[Trond Trosterund]
>> Is #any# country coding these databases with more than 128 characters
>> (national ascii dialects), say with 8-bit encodings like Latin 1, or Latin
>> 2?

[Alain] There has been a case last year in Québec where parents (one of
whom was Brazilian, the other a French-speaking Québecer) wanted to give a
Portuguese first name (I do not remember this first name in question for
sure but I believe it was Joaõ) to their child and they were a priori
refused the inscription in the "Registre d'état civil du Québec" just
because the registrar said he could not enter the character on his
keyboard. The parents appealed in court and they won... fortunately imho
(that said my name is incorrectly written, without the accent, in many
Québec and Canadian government databases, and one can not say my name is a
foreign name [my family has been here since the beginning of the XVIIth
Century] -- I never sued, as I was always convinced I would lose, but maybe
I was wrong after all, given this jurisprudence). I know that in the
Netherlands the laws would be in my favour, the principle being that the
right to the "identity of one's own person" is among the most fundamental
human rights.

Of course the above-mentioned Québec registry uses all French-accented
characters already (this registry is one of the first ones established *de
jure* and intact in the world -- a jewel for Mormons and for research on
genetic diseases -- it started in the beginning of the XVIIth Century --
the French king had made it mandatory at that time and History made us
immune to the French Revolution which destroyed such registries in many
places in continental France at the end of the XVIIIth Century --
paradoxically not in nobility registries which were mostly preserved), and
Latin 1 is certainly used here as a minimum nowadays. Now Latin 1 has this
character õ, and worse, the keyboard that is mandatory in the Québec
government has in principle to be conformant at conformance level 2a to
CAN/CSA Z243.200-1992 (based on ISO/IEC 9995-3), a keyboard which also
allows to enter this character (all of Latin 1, all of Latin 9 also, and
all of ISO/IEC 6937 repertoire which can be supported by Unicode
automatically), fortunately for the application of this court decision. So
in this case it was not the character set nor the keyboard that was to
blame, but really the ignorance of a civil employee!

That said, on a related but more international topic, machine-readable
passports have a flaw: the ICAO rules prohibit the use of accented
characters on the machine-readable portion of the passport. It would be
nice if people could sue international organizations, so far untouchable.
It can create identity searching problems again, to follow-up an issue
which I discussed this morning about the case reported by Johan van Wingen
(I'm really concerned by this issue).

Furtermore, there is a new project which was just started in ISO/IEC JTC1
(assigned to SC17) about drivers licences and related documents (many NBs
which voted against the start of the project could one day be surprised if
they want to join the international train at full speed -- the project has
been approved in spite of important countries abstaining or voting NO, as
the criteria of [1] 50% of YES votes for the start of the project and [2]
at least 5 national bodies agreeing to participate, have been met). I try
to make the Québec government authorities (and eventually other Canadian
governments) to get seriously involved in this project which could go as
far as mandating a language to the detriment of others, without talking
about the possible -- foreseeable, there are innumerable precedents --
restrictions on the mandated character répertoire.

Of course governments like the Québec government (*) are often blamed
*internationally* when they want to make their official language mandatory
on their own teritory but it seems that the language "Greenpeaces" are not
there when it is English being favoured to the detriment of other languages

Alain laBonté

(*) often mentioned internationally as a big bad wolf in the
English-speaking world even if actually it is in practice exemplary if you
look at facts and you compare these facts to other practices in the world,
in particular in English-speaking countries! Often the most aggressive
people toward us project their own flaws in accusing us of what they don't
see in themselves and which is even more virulent!

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