Feds may fingerprint temporary residents

Posted by admin on Jun 8th, 2009

By ELIZABETH THOMPSON , Sun Media. 8th June 2009

OTTAWA — The federal government plans to start fingerprinting applicants for temporary resident permits as early as 2011, Sun Media has learned.  By 2013, all prospective temporary residents, including those who apply for work permits or study permits, will have to submit fingerprints and photographs.

In a request for information issued to potential contractors, the immigration department says it wants to collect biometric information because the rise of identity fraud means that traditional ways of identifying people are no longer good enough.

“Current screening tools, which rely on biographic information, are no longer accurate, as documents can be easily stolen or altered resulting in multiple or false identities,” officials wrote. “In contrast, biometrics can be used to uniquely identify and reliably verify an individual.”

Accurate identification is “the first-line of defence against individuals who pose a threat to Canadian society and economic migrants who seek to take advantage of Canada’s high standard of living,” they wrote.

According to the document, a 2006 pilot project was successful. The 2008 budget provided $26 million over two years for the initiative. Treasury Board gave preliminary approval in March and “effective project approval” is expected by March 2010.

By late 2011, the department plans to require fingerprints from 15% of prospective temporary residents. That will increase to 50% in 2012 and 100% in 2013 — roughly 1.6 million people.

While they’re starting with fingerprints, the department is thinking of adding facial recognition in the future. Biometric data collected under the program will be stored at a central hub in Canada.

Fingerprints will be checked by the RCMP.

Biometrics are popular with security officials and with Immigration Minister Jason Kenney who says Canada trails Australia and the United Kingdom in using the technology.

But it also raises concerns among many privacy advocates, including Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Gearey said collecting biometric information from prospective temporary residents is “part of a broader series of biometric initiatives,” the immigration department plans.

Gearey said Stoddart has not yet received a privacy impact assessment for this initiative. In the past, her office expressed concerns about how information would be stored, who could access it and why biometrics were necessary to enforce immigration and refugee laws.



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