Protection of Identity a Right of Canadians

Canadian Speeches, March-April 2003 | Go to article overview

Protection of Identity a Right of Canadians


Implementing of a Canadian Identification card is seen as increasing privacy and security, not depleting it. It would be an effective tool to prevent terrorism, and ease travelling security issues. One hundred countries around the world already have ID cards, with no negative consequences to speak of. The possession of an ID card, using biometrics, would protect a person's most valuable possession: their identity. Speech in the House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, February 13, 2003.

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The time has come to look at ourselves and to talk about fundamental issues to define the Canadian way, to take a stand and to protect our way. Today I am not only a minister, I am a Canadian citizen who fears what is going on in the field internationally and domestically. I believe that the world has changed.

If the debate today were based only on innuendo and fearmongering, the same people in the past probably would have believed that the world was flat. The time has come to really protect our way.

This is not about attacking privacy. It is about protecting it.

Last week, I explained to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration why I believe the issue of a national ID card is worthy of public debate. I told the committee that I am eager to know what Canadians from all fields, experts and non-experts alike, have to say about this concept.

I am happy that the committee thought the issue deserves serious, thoughtful discussion. By seeking out the facts across the country during their current consultations, they will surely help us distinguish reality from myth.

There are some who have publicly railed against a national ID card without having listened to all the arguments. They are closing the door on democracy.

It is not about a card; it is about finally having an identity policy in our country. I hear people talk all the time about big brother and soon. They should look at the banks, the social insurance numbers and all the databases that exist. They should look at the insurance companies, the Internet and the computers. We are everywhere. That is why we need to have a real debate among ourselves on how we can protect our identity and our Canadian way.

When I hear the Privacy Commissioner say that he is against debate even before listening to the arguments, what kind of democracy is that? My definition of a democracy is to put everything on the table and have some debate. We are not talking about making a decision today, we are having a debate.

On the other hand, of course there is an international situation. There is a situation at borders, not only with the Americans, but in Europe too. We have to decide among ourselves what is sufficient to protect our identity, how we can remain ourselves and protect the Canadian way. That is what it is all about.

I thought our country had a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. To talk about a police state is fearmongering. Let us keep our powder dry and decide among ourselves. It is a non-partisan issue. It is not a government issue. It is a Canadian issue. That is why I salute the motion. Everybody will have a say and we will talk about it. Instead of the government coming to the House and saying what we will do, we will decide among ourselves what we think about it and then we will make a decision.

I respect the standing committee. It is so important to respect members of Parliament that I asked the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration to take a look at it. It is a non-partisan issue. There will be many statements from people on the other side who believe it is a good thing. There are some people who have concerns but a lot of people will support it.

We polled 3,000 people. Seventy-six per cent believe that the time has come to protect our identity and our privacy. If it takes a card, and it depends what we want on it and I will talk about that, then so be it. …

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