Ontario's planned "enhanced driver's licences" a potential privacy nightmare, says coalition

    TORONTO, Oct. 20 /CNW Telbec/ - Ontario's proposed enhanced driver's
licences (EDLs) and enhanced photo ID cards are a waste of money, pose
significant privacy risks, establish a de facto national ID card in Canada,
and the province should cease all plans under the Photo Card Act (Bill 85) to
introduce them, a coalition of privacy, consumer, civil liberties and civil
society groups will tell Ontario's standing committee on general government
today between 3:45 and 5 p.m. in Committee Room 228 at Queen's Park.
    "The introduction of enhanced driver's licences, which appears to be a
central focus of Bill 85, will lay the groundwork for a new and more extensive
identity regime, the effects of which are not fully known," says Graeme
Norton, director of the Public Safety Project with the Canadian Civil
Liberties Association. "While the cards would be voluntary for now, Bill 85
creates broad-reaching powers with respect to identity documents, and fails to
sufficiently circumscribe the manner in which these powers can be used."
    The technologies the Ontario government is exploring for its proposed EDL
include facial recognition technology and radio frequency identification
devices (RFID), the standard for which was set in the United States, where
numerous attempts from civil liberties groups to deter the Department of
Homeland Security (DHS) from introducing EDLs with privacy invasive RFIDs were
    "The current DHS standard for the RFID chip on 'enhanced' ID cards is
without security protections, such as data encryption, is designed to be read
at distances of at least 10 metres, and is widely used in the livestock and
supply chain management fields," says Andrew Clement, professor in the Faculty
of Information at the University of Toronto. "This long scanning range allows
surreptitious location tracking and there is nothing the Ontario or Canadian
governments can do to stop U.S. security officials from storing our biometric
and other information on parallel databases where Canada's privacy laws do not
    The provinces, including Ontario, claim that the EDLs are a cheaper way
to abide by unilateral U.S. requirements, under the Western Hemisphere Travel
Initiative (WHTI), that all Canadians present a valid passport or other secure
document when they cross the border. The proposed fee for the EDL is $75. The
current fee to obtain a passport is $87.
    "The Consumers Council of Canada questions the necessity of creating
another citizenship document at a cost equivalent to and less secure than that
of a Canadian passport to allow Canadians to travel by land or sea to the
United States," says President Bill Huzar. "Since the U.S. government is
making it mandatory for Canadians to prove citizenship to enter their country,
the Canadian government should make it financially possible to meet these
requirements by reducing the cost of a Canadian passport."
    The Canadian and U.S. governments agreed in 2001 to develop common
biometric identification and traveller risk assessment technologies but
attempts to introduce a biometric national ID card by the Liberal government
in 2003 failed when a parliamentary committee quashed the idea. Biometrics
were included in the agenda in the 2005 North American Security and Prosperity
Partnership, which was never debated in any of the three NAFTA countries.
    "With this kind of pressure for a common biometric identifier for all
travellers, it's fairly safe to guess the EDL will not be voluntary for long,"
says Roch Tassé, co-ordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring
Group, which opposes EDLs in all provinces but did not present to the Ontario
government today. "Ontario's Bill 85 is a classic case of 'policy laundry,'
whereby the provincial legislatures are being called upon to introduce a
measure the federal government has been unable to implement, that is, the de
facto introduction of a national biometric ID card."
    "EDLs in all provinces would be harmonized with U.S. security standards,
so what we're looking at is the creation of a de facto North American ID
card," adds Stuart Trew of the Council of Canadians. "Considering the obvious
risks of sharing too much personal information with a government that claims
to have an incredible one million names on its terrorist watch list, Ontario
should not be allowed to proceed with this U.S.-geared EDL until it can
guarantee that all of the information linked to the card remains in Canada."

For further information:

For further information: Stuart Trew, Ontario-Quebec Regional Organizer,
The Council of Canadians, (647) 222-9782; Bill Huzar, President, Consumers
Council of Canada, (250) 995-3154, (416) 483-2696; Andrew Clement, Professor,
Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, (416) 922-0251; Graeme Norton,
Director of the Public Safety Project, Canadian Civil Liberties Association,
(416) 363-0321; Roch Tassé, Co-ordinator, International Civil Liberties
Monitoring Group, (613) 241-5298

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