Photo ID cards for all - soon to become compulsory

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M. Spector M. Spector's picture
Photo ID cards for all - soon to become compulsory

Ontario is "offering" photo identity cards to people who don't have photo drivers' licences (for a mere $35 fee).

Naturally, the opposition NDP is totally onside. Their only criticism is "What took you so long?"  

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

The Canadian Press wrote:
More than a million people in Ontario who don't have a driver's licence will soon have another option for government-issued identification, but it won't allow them to cross the U.S. border.

After a three-year wait, the province unveiled a new photo card Thursday for residents 16 years old or older who don't drive, but still need a card to prove their identity.

Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne acknowledged the ID card was a long time coming. Her 55-year-old sister doesn't drive and needs some other form of ID, she said.

The driver's licence is so "engrained" in the way business is done in Canada that it's become a stand-in for photo identification, Wynne said.

And how long do you suppose it will take for the new voluntary photo ID card to be come so "engrained" in the way business (and government) is done in Ontario that it will no longer be an "option" for anyone who wishes to eat, enter a public building, partake of government services, or open a bank account?

The fact that there is already a perceived need for a universal ID card in Ontario should be a matter of great concern for privacy advocates and those who care about civil liberties. Instead, we get a political, business, and media consensus that it's perfectly natural to be expected to prove your identity to private and public authorities at every turn, in order to go about your everyday business of living.

"The reality is that there are many people who either choose not to, or do not have a driver's licence," she said. "So simple transactions like opening a bank account, applying for a loan, making a purchase, or simply showing identification in order to be able to vote, becomes complicated."

Nobody asks why it should be that way, or what should be done to change it.

It's already compulsory to have photo ID to vote; how long will it take for banks to refuse to let you open an account without a government ID card, or the Royal Ontario Museum to refuse to let you in without "proper" ID?

"We were also looking at an enhanced card that would have more features on it, and honestly would have been much more expensive to implement," she said. "And by the time I became minister of transportation, we were in a financial situation where that had become less tenable, and so we were on a track that we're saying, 'We're going to have to put this whole project off.'"

However, the government may decide to go ahead with an enhanced card if there's demand for it, she said. Ontario started offering enhanced driver's licences in May 2009 as an alternative to a passport for crossing the border into the U.S. and 39,331 have been issued so far.

Like the "enhanced" drivers licences, of course, the "demand" for these new photo ID cards comes not from the citizens who have to shell out the money to obtain them, but from the businesses and government authorities who want to implement the social control mechanisms of the neoliberal security state.

Applicants must provide original identity documents that prove legal name, date of birth and signature, such as a birth certificate. The government's also working with Elections Ontario to ensure the card can be used to cast a ballot.

"Working with" Elections Ontario? Elections Ontario is an agency of the Legislature! How much "working with" them is needed to get them to accept the government-issued ID cards as proof of a voter's identity? The so-called Canadian Press makes it sound as if the government is doing voters a big favour by laying the groundwork for a future policy of "no $35 ID card or drivers' licence, no vote".

All other provinces except Quebec have ID cards for residents who don't drive and Ontario will work with those provinces to find a way to make it transferable, she said.

In other words, to make it into a National Identity Card by stealth.

The New Democrats say they have long supported the project, but question the timing of the announcement, which comes just a few months before the Oct. 6 election.

"They could have done this three years ago, and instead they're trying to use it as a bit of an election goodie," said NDP critic Gilles Bisson. "And I think that's playing politics with an issue that I think we shouldn't be playing politics with."

An election goodie? Oh, yes, this news makes me just want to run out and re-elect the McGuilty government for its kindness to the non-driving public!

Susan Eng of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons said the card will not only be helpful to those who are disabled, but seniors too.

She said she recently spoke to an elderly woman who wanted to open a bank account, but had to bring her husband because she didn't have government-issued ID.

Next time, she won't have the option of bringing her husband.

It's a "matter of dignity" and independence, Eng said. And it may also help reduce identity theft and discrimination.

When did having to carry identity papers ever result in reducing discrimination - or indignity, for that matter?

Reuben Cipin, an 83-year-old man who is visually impaired, said he lobbied hard for the card, which he says seemed to take a backseat to the high-tech driver's licences.

"I was afraid that the (photo ID) card was just going to be sitting on the backburner," he said.

The province spent about $6.5 million to produce the enhanced driver's licences, he said.

"And a very small percentage of people opted for it because they had privacy concerns," Cipin said.

Yeah, privacy concerns. Go figure.

So where was the so-called "demand" for the enhanced drivers licences coming from? Not the driving public.



M. Spector wrote:

"The reality is that there are many people who either choose not to, or do not have a driver's licence," she said. "So simple transactions like opening a bank account, applying for a loan, making a purchase, or simply showing identification in order to be able to vote, becomes complicated."

[i]snip ...[/i]... how long will it take for banks to refuse to let you open an account without a government ID card,

When was the last time you opened a bank account with a new bank?  The KYC (Know Your Customer) practices of every bank I've dealt with for several years require government ID in order to open a bank account.  As a point of fact, when my kids went off to school I opened joint accounts with them in the cities they were moving to with the local branch of my existing bank - that way I can simply transfer funds to their accounts if/when needed - and not only did they have to produce photo ID but so did I - end result is those banks have photocopies of both my passport and drivers license as well as those of my kids.

When they opened their own accounts at the branches of Canadian banks on their respective campuses they had to produce government ID for that as well.

(As an observation, the ID produced does not have to be a passport or other proof of citizenship - the banks don't have the legal authority to ask for your citizenship [which makes enforcement of the Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR) required to be filed by all American citizens and Green Card holders with foreign bank accounts and other financial interests (Form 90-22.1) somewhat problematic.) 

I've had to provide my employer's banks with certified copies of my ID for at least 15 years [I'm a signatory on a number of accounts] and that was at a bank where I've held my personal accounts for twenty years prior to that.  In fact, my compliance officer called me two weeks ago to tell me the passport they had on file had expired and they needed a certified copy of my new one.



Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Here on the Lower North Shore of Quebec, the Municipality offered a Photo ID service to residents, because we don't have access to Photo ID unless we go to Sept-Iles (450 km) or Quebec City (800 km I think). That service was discontinued four or five years ago, I never understood why it was discontinued.


I can understand concerns about privacy. And I'd be upset if these were to be compulsory.


I live in Toronto - for now - as a graduate student.  I'm from Vancouver. I don't have a driver's license because I haven't had enough money to own a car and get the license. 

BC has 'BC Identification Cards' - virtually the same as a driver's license, but they clearly say, on the reverse, "this is not a driver's license."  Ontario, until now, doesn't have these things.  And whenever I need to prove my address at the bank - to do some transactions at a bank counter, to replace my lost debit card, now floating somewhere in the Don River or the TTC, I have had to use my BC ID card. Thank goodness I haven't changed my address from my mom's place in BC to where I live in Riverdale, else the bank wouldn't let me.

When I wanted a Toronto Library card, I brought my lease as proof-of-address.  The LCBO cashiers still raise an eyebrow to a proffered BC ID card as proof of age. (I suppose, at 24, I should be flattered that I'm getting carded.)

When these are available, I *will* get one, because I need one.  But I'll still be concerned about privacy.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Naturally, the system evolves in such a way that it becomes so uncomfortable and inconvenient for you not to carry photo ID that having one becomes a highly desirable way of coping with official obsession with individual identity and privacy. It means that in future, when universal identity documents are required to be carried by all persons, people will just shrug their shoulders and happily submit, in the name of convenience.

The next step after that will be implanted RFID chips to keep track of our every move. Authorities will make it such a hassle for people not to have them that they'll line up to get them, and fork over good money for them, to boot.

We're building our own prisons, one brick at a time.

Freedom 55

It's cheaper and less hassle than getting a passport, so I'll likely apply for one.


i just dont think there should be a gender binary option on IDs card, i hope they will allow those who havent had surgery to change their gender on IDs, like they do with driver license now. I will get one if they do that.