North American ID card in the works through SPP

Posted by admin on Apr 10th, 2008

April 10, 2008. Posted by Stuart Trew

Homeland Security czar Michael Chertoff met with Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day in Ottawa this week to discuss progress on the Security and Prosperity Partnership. As remarked in a subsequent press release, one of the issues they focused on were so-called enhanced driver’s licenses, like the one British Columbia is developing in cooperation with Washington State officials.

“Building on the success of the B.C. Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL) pilot project launched this past January, both Governments reiterated their support for expanding similar initiatives to other provinces and territories,” said the government release. “These documents meet the security standards and are recognized as an acceptable alternative to passports at the Canada-U.S. border under the U.S. WHTI.”

According to Roch Tassé of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, the Department of Homeland Security has moved away from passports as a preferred travel document when entering the U.S. from Canada towards these new harmonized driver’s licenses.

“What they really want is any sort of ID document, as long as it contains biometrics features,” he told Integrate This. “So they flagged the idea of a passport as something burdensome, then offered a ‘simpler’ alternative by saying they would accept ‘enhanced’ driver’s licenses.”

The EDLs were criticized this past February by Canada’s Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart as creating a de facto national ID card in both countries.

The B.C. license closely resembles the REAL ID program in the United States, which is “a type of national identity card” for Americans, she told reporters in February.

“This may be an attempt to encourage us to harmonize with them,” she said. “We think it’s unnecessary. We think it’s intrusive, and we think it’s a route that Canadians don’t need to follow…. So this is very worrisome to us as a possible model.”

The EDLs require biometric and other personal information on Canadians and Americans to be stored in a common database that is accessible by security agencies in both countries. Because Canada’s Public Safety department is insisting on all provinces developing a similar EDL to B.C.’s, and all of them will be compatible with the REAL ID program in the U.S., the Harper government is essentially working on a de facto North American ID card behind closed doors through the SPP.

In other news today, Chertoff told Canadians they shouldn’t worry about the sharing of biometric information with other governments.

“Your fingerprint’s hardly personal data, because you leave it on glasses and silverware and articles all over the world,” he said.

The Canadian Press article states: “Canada is working with the U.S., Australia and the U.K. on the systematic exchange of biometric data – unique identifiers such as fingerprints, facial images and iris scans. The four countries have agreed to begin swapping identity information to improve border and immigration controls by 2009.”

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