National ID card back on the agenda

Posted by admin on Feb 17th, 2006

National ID card back on the agenda as Canada seeks quick border access By DAN DUGAS, CP

OTTAWA (CP) – Sooner or later, Canadians will have to carry some form of  identification other than a passport to travel outside the country, says the new federal minister of public safety. The British Commons has just adopted legislation for a government-issued
national ID card and Stockwell Day suggested in an interview with The Canadian Press that such a card is inevitable for Canada. “At this point, I don’t know what it should be called, to tell you the truth,” Day said.

“I don’t know if we’ll call it that, but we want good, law-abiding people to have smooth and quick access at all border points – not just North American, but international.”New life is being breathed into the proposal now that the United States has dropped its demand that Canadians be required to show passports to cross the border.

“We also want to be able to stop people who are a menace or a threat from getting in or getting out, so that’s the overall goal,” Day said.

Day said the need for identification of some sort came up again this week when he spoke on the phone with his U.S. counterpart, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Cherkoff.

“I think it’s fair to say that in both Canada and the U.S. we do want some kind of enhanced security provision,” he said.

“Whether that’s some kind of a biometric approach, an enhancement on a driver’s licence – all of that needs to be explored, so we do want to see enhanced technological capacity in that area.”

The idea of a national ID card was raised in the months following the Sept.11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States but proposals go back even further, as a way of replacing the abused social insurance number.

The SIN was meant only for federal government documents but evolved over the years for such uses as ID for cheque-writing. Today, there are more SINs than people as government lost control over them.

Former Liberal Immigration minister Denis Coderre has always supported a card to identify Canadians, over and above the passport.

He says a plastic card could be made to contain biometric and data information that a paper passport could not.

His proposal in 2003 – which some estimates put as high as $5 billion to implement – did not get a good reception by a Commons committee looking at the idea.

Critics at the time recalled how the Liberal gun registry started out with a price tag of only $2 million and ended up costing hundreds of millions more and said the ID card was a boondoggle-in-waiting.

Coderre said this week that it’s only a matter of time before other countries follow Britain and that Canada should act to ensure control over data.

” We have to have a real debate on this . . . we cannot bury our head in the sand anymore,” Coderre said. “Something is going on worldwide and we have to have that debate.

“Three years ago we were in the avant-garde, but right now we’re trailing.”

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