Canada’s Employment department considered introducing an electronic national ID system for all Canadians but quietly dropped the idea, said a report.
The department disclosed in a report to the Senate social affairs committee the concept was studied two years ago, according to Blacklocks. "It was not the direction the government intended to explore at that time," said the report Follow-Up Responses. Canada has never mandated a national identification card.
"Given that identity is a provincial and territorial jurisdiction, apart from immigrants and newcomers to Canada who are provided with an identity document from the Department of Immigration, implementing an electronic national primary identity document is limited," wrote staff.
The report was prompted by a May 12 committee hearing on the Social Insurance Number program used since 1964. "My question concerns the Social Insurance Number versus a digital identity," Senator Lucie Moncion said. "Could you tell us whether any work has been undertaken to replace the use of the Social Insurance Number with a digital identifier and, if so, what conclusions have been drawn?"
The department did not comment and promised a subsequent written reply. Follow-Up Responses said some form of electronic national identification was considered but dropped. "The integrity services branch co-led a consultation process in 2019 with the Treasury Board on the subject of a national identifier," said the report. The system was deemed too risky due to fear of data breaches, it added.
Valid identification recognized in all provinces and territories includes passports, birth certificates, work permits and Indian Status cards. Elections Canada allows voters to prove their identity with bank statements or utility bills. Parliamentary committees have repeatedly studied and rejected proposals for a national identification card. The Commons, human resources committee, dismissed a recommendation to use Social Insurance Numbers in 1999.
In 2003 the Commons immigration committee said introducing a national ID card would be costly, up to $5 billion, and was open to abuses. "The committee was warned many times about the prospect of the police being able to stop people on the street and demand proof of their identity," the committee wrote in a report A National Identity Card For Canada?
The report was prompted by a proposal from then-Immigration Minister Denis Coderre for a national ID card as a 9/11 security measure. "While the new focus on a positive proof of identity is partially rooted in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, other forces are play," Coderre testified at 2003 hearings. "Identity theft is seen as a serious and growing problem in Canada," he said: "A national ID card is simply a tool that permits the bearer to prove with a high degree of certainty that they are who they are."