Manitoba considers biometric licences

WINNIPEG (Sept. 30, 2003) — Manitoba Government Services Minister Scott Smith said he and other provincial governments have been looking at incorporating biometric identification such as retinal scans and fingerprint data on driver’s licences,

“We’re looking at a system that is right across Canada,” he told the Canadian Press. “If you look at a Manitoba driver’s licence, it will be very similar to Saskatchewan, Alberta or B.C.”

The Alberta government has said it plans to combine facial recognition technology with its new driver’s licences, and Ontario has also studied a proposal to use biometrics on “smart cards” that would replace driver’s licences and other cards that access government services, but recently backed away from it over privacy concerns.

The idea worries civil rights advocates in Manitoba too. So far the province has just issued a request for information to see what technology is available. Smith said by March they should have a better idea of what they want and how much it will cost, and will be ready to issue a request for proposals. He said security isn’t the only issue. The old system used to produce photo driver’s licences in Manitoba is out of date and needs to be replaced.

Currently, Manitoba has a two-part driver’s licence, which includes a photo ID card issued every three years and a paper licence issued every year. Even if it did incorporate biometric data, the new driver’s licence would not likely be useful for entering the United States. The U.S. has already said it wants all Canadians to carry passports that use biometric identification by 2004.

— Canadian Press

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