Photo ID program for Nunavummiut on the way

ID not required by airlines, but by some security agencies.



Nunavut’s Department of Community Government and Transportation will provide photo identification cards for Nunavummiut who don’t have driver’s licences, firearms certificates, or other forms of photo identification.

Mike Ferris, deputy minister of the department, said the decision was made within three or four days of the terrorist attacks in the U.S. on Sept. 11.

The move will make it easier for Nunavummiut who wish to travel by air to other parts of the country.

Matthew Inutiq, an Iqaluit resident, has been meaning to visit his nephew in Montreal. He’s travelled there in the past, but since he has no photo ID, Inutiq is thinking twice.

Tighter security requirements after the terrorist attacks prompted Transport Canada to require photo IDs from people before they board a plane, but many in Nunavut, particularly elders, have no such identification.

“When they started talking about stricter regulations they were going to enforce, I got worried,” Inutiq said. “I thought it might not be as easily accessible.”

Ferris said his department received a number of calls from concerned travellers initially.

But they were given a reprieve when the federal government department responsible for most of the transportation policies said photo IDs weren’t required for Nunavummiut travelling to other parts of the country.

“It’s only lately that we’ve been getting calls again. Transport Canada said for flights leaving Nunavut, or going anywhere in Canada you didn’t need them, but that doesn’t stop the airline from asking,” Ferris explained.

“In some cases we’re finding it’s not the airline, it’s the company that does the screening at security. When you go in and you give them your boarding pass, they’re asking for a photo ID to confirm that you have the same name.”

The ID-issuing process won’t start for a while as there are still a number of details to be worked out.

“One of the things we need to look at is just how many photo ID we anticipate because we don’t want to put a strain on the system,” he said. Ferris estimated there are about 5,000 people in Nunavut who don’t have a driver’s licence or firearms certificate.

“It’ll work very similar to getting your driver’s licence,” he continued. “We do have legislation at the present time in the Motor Vehicles Act that allows us to put in what is called a general identification system.”

The Department of Motor Vehicles office in each community will be responsible for taking photos for the ID cards. The cards will carry the same security weight as a driver’s licence, so airlines or their security agencies will know they’re part of a database and aren’t easily duplicated.

A temporary ID card will be issued and, just like a driver’s licence package, the information will be sent to one of three centres in the territory where it will be entered in a secure database. The card will laminated before being sent back, and will feature the person’s photo, their name, age, and address.

“They’ll be the same as your motor vehicle licence, there’ll be a timeline when you have to go back and have it renewed,” Ferris said, although details about how often and at what age photos should start being taken are still being worked out.

It could take anywhere between six and 10 weeks to get this program underway, he said, and while it may costs the government $75,000 overall, they’re trying to keep the cost to Nunavummiut low. There is also a chance Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated will join in the process.

Ferris said for now photos can be taken in any community. As long as the RCMP or the mayor has certified that the person is who they say they are, people shouldn’t have any trouble travelling, he said.

Once a start date for the ID card initiative has been confirmed, Ferris said, an advertising campaign will be launched.

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