Canadian parliamentary report ridicules ID cards as pointless, costly and dangerous
- findings may devastate UK government plans for an ID card



PRIVACY INTERNATIONAL, MEDIA RELEASE, 8th October 2003

For immediate release

A Canadian parliamentary committee tasked with the responsibility of reporting on options for a national ID card similar to the one proposed by David Blunkett has unexpectedly told Parliament that it could find no evidence to justify the scheme.

The report's findings will critically injure the UK government's plans for an almost identical project. The Canadian social, legal and economic environment is parallel to the UK's and the security and immigration issues raised by the two governments are almost identical.

For much of this year, the Standing Committee on Immigration & Citizenship has investigated the proposal by Canadian Federal Immigration Minister Denis Coderre. It travelled to several European countries to investigate ID cards and while in London met with junior Home Office Minister Beverley Hughes.

The Committee's Interim report, tabled in the parliament yesterday: Committee's Interim report states that the evidence provided to the Committee overwhelmingly refuted the need to a card.

While stressing that the Committee had not yet reached a final position on the matter the Members almost unanimously declared the proposal a waste of time and resources. Government MP Joe Fontana, who chairs the committee, told press that the Committee was still struggling to determine why an ID card was even needed. "I think the fundamental question of why do we need to have a national ID card has yet to be answered,'' he said

The Minister defended his proposal in Parliament, arguing that a debate was still required. He did not respond to the Committee's concerns.

The NDP's Pat Martin commented "This is how boondoggles start: when the minister ignores public opinion, ignores reason, ignores logic, ignores most of the experts across the country".

The Commons committee called into question polls indicating that Canadians approve of the idea, noting that these responses could have been based on how the questions were framed and affected by other questions asked at the same time.

"At this point we've heard no evidence to suggest that Canada would be any better off or its security would be enhanced by a [national identity] card," committee member and Alliance MP Diane Ablonczy said. "What we have heard is that we need to upgrade the security features of our existing cards. The security of our existing documents, yes, we need to look at that very carefully. An expensive and comprehensive new card does not seem to impress anyone out there." http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20031007.wcard1007_3/BNStory/National/

The proposal for an ID card is rapidly losing support in Canada. Alberta's own privacy commissioner, Frank Work, says he would refuse to get one should they become mandatory. "I won't carry one," says Work. "They can come and get me." http://www.canoe.ca/CalgaryNews/cs.cs-10-08-0010.html

Privacy International's Director, Simon Davies, said the Canadian findings should put an end to the UK ID card proposal. "The Canadian Parliament has been given a comprehensive assessment conducted in circumstances that parallel the UK. The findings are damning. The report has entirely destroyed the credibility of biometric national ID cards. David Blunkett should heed the report's advice and scrap his dangerous and unworkable scheme".

Privacy International gave oral evidence to the Committee during its London visit, and also submitted written expert testimony to its investigation: http://www.privacyinternational.org/issues/idcard/pi-can-submission-10-03.htm

Notes to editors:

- Privacy International (PI) www.privacyinternational.org is a human rights group formed in 1990 as a watchdog on surveillance by governments and corporations. PI is based in London, and has an office in Washington, D.C. Together with members in 40 countries, PI has conducted campaigns throughout the world on issues ranging from wiretapping and national security activities, to ID cards, video surveillance, data matching, police information systems, and medical privacy, and works with a wide range of parliamentary and inter-governmental organisations such as the European Parliament, the House of Lords and UNESCO.

- Simon Davies can be reached at simon@privacy.org and within the UK on 07958 466 552 or (+44) 7958 466 552 from outside the UK.


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