Wednesday, May 23, 2007

This is a REAL Security Issue...

Photoless ID is not the way to go in Canada today. This is an invitation to abuse by criminals and terrorists...
Alberta Hutterites won a long-sought victory this week when the court of appeal ruled they should not be required to have a photograph on their driver's licences.

They believe being photographed is a mortal sin, and so sought exemption from the 2003 requirements that all driver's licences include an image of the licencee.

The decision is bound to spark a discussion about how to draw the line between security needs of the state and religious beliefs.

Recently in Quebec, for instance, young female soccer players were expelled from a tournament for wearing Muslim headscarves in a game. That was an unreasonable and unnecessary restriction on religious freedom, given that a headscarf has no impact on how the game is played and does not present a safety issue.

By the same measure, the question in the Hutterite case might well be put: Will a driver's licence without a photo serve the same function as a regular licence?

The court of appeal thought the absence of a photo would not undermine the effectiveness of a driver's licence.

"The mandatory photo requirement forces the Hutterite brethren either to breach a sincerely held religious belief against being photographed or cease driving," wrote Justice Carol Conrad.

The court's conclusion is open to question, however. If the licence is simply a document to acknowledge the bearer has passed a driver's test and is legally behind the wheel, that's one thing.

But in reality, a driver's licence is much more; indeed it is one of the most widely accepted pieces of identification, and has evolved into a key document for applying for other pieces of identification.

In that role, a licence without a photo is hardly as accurate or secure as one with a photo, and is therefore more susceptible to fraudulent uses.

Given the risks of identity fraud in the modern world, making such documents less secure seems ill-advised.

When police pull someone over, the driver's licence is a useful tool for identifying criminals on the loose.Without a photo, that function would be impaired.

It's notable that some provinces with Hutterite populations, such has Manitoba, have made similar concessions for photo-less licences.

But that doesn't mean Alberta should compound a problem that society is struggling to deal with, the requirement for secure identity documents.

In a society that upholds religious freedom, the guiding principle should be to make all reasonable accommodations.

Defining that line will always be a complex balancing act.

But this judgment sits on the wrong side of the line.

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