No need for a national ID card

Written by Alain Pilote on Friday, 01 August 2003. Posted in News

In  recent months, Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Minister Denis Coderre has been pushing for the establishment of a national ID card with biometric data, which would not only display your photograph, but also contains, on a chip, your fingerprints and a scan of your eyes' retinas, under the pretext that it would help stop terrorism, and avoid events like September 11, 2001. On September 19, 2003, speaking at a parliamentary committee studying the issue, Canada's Privacy Commissioner Robert Marleau said that Coderre's idea for an ID card should be rejected, for it would be unworkable, unjustified, and cost up to $5 billion to implement. Terrorists could obtain the card by using false identification, or simply counterfeit them, he said, adding that such a card would capture “very very few terrorists.” Moreover, the commissioner maintained that such a card would favor “the massive collection, use, and diffusion of personal data,” and represent one of the most serious problems of confidentiality ever seen in Canada.

Liberal MP John Bryden said a compulsory card might actually encourage identity theft. “We might be creating a situation where people could actually be killed, eliminated, made to vanish in order to acquire an ID card that could be used to get a passport, to get all kinds of services,” he said.

In the July 21, 20033 issue of the Montreal French-language daily Le Devoir, editorialist Michel Venne blasted this concept of a national ID card:

“Even being mandatory, this card would not be efficient. The Canadian passport is already mandatory to cross borders, which does not prevent clandestine immigration, white-slave trade, and drug traffic. One may wonder how a plastic card could have prevented the terrorists of Al Qaida to commit their crimes on September 11, 2001, since they all had a legal U.S. status. (...) Moreover, Ottawa has been unable to administer the system of social insurance cards competently: with a population of 30 million in Canada, 35 million cards were circulating last year. The scandal of fire arms registration (it was supposed to cost 2 million, but has now reached $1 billion) should also lead us to prudence before creating another control measure: such systems are costly and inefficient.

“In 1997, the province of Quebec had consulted the population and experts on the need for an ID card, and came to the conclusion it was unnecessary. Even the Quebec Police said they did not need it to improve controls, that the existing tools (driver's licence, health insurance card, passport) were more than enough. “There is only one argument left for Mr. Coderre to justify this stupid project: `The world has changed since September 11.' Even the Americans have gotten over the security obsession: immediately after the 9/11 attacks, they supported the systematic recording of information on every citizen, but now only 26% of them support this kind of measure that looks more like facism.”

Many say that it is the U.S. authorities that are pushing Canada to establish such a system, as well as including biometric data in passports for Canadians who want to go to the U.S.

About the Author

Alain Pilote

Alain Pilote

Alain Pilote has been the editor of the English edition of MICHAEL for several years. Twice a year we organize a week of study of the social doctrine of the Church and its application and Mr. Pilote is the instructor during these sessions.