No passport? No problem!

Updated: Mon Mar. 16 2009 16:59:10


Premier Jean Charest is the first person in Quebec to hold a drivers licence Plus--a licence with an RFID chip in it that can unlock the bearer's personal information. It is an officially accpetable passport replacement when traveling to the United States via land or water.

The enhanced licence will not be accepted for air travel.

Currently, Canadians traveling to or through the United States must present a passport. As of Jun. 1 2009, Canadians will need a passport or an enhanced driver's licence to cross the US border by land or by water.

The project cost the Quebec government $12.8 million.

The licence will cost $40, and would not need to be renewed for four years. The government has yet to decide if there will be a fee for each renewal, or if the fee will be a one-time-only cost.

British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario have already brought enhanced licence programs. Saskatchewan announced Monday it would be forgoing enhanced licences until legislation could be passed that would satisfy privacy concerns.

The chip can be read from about 10 metres away.

How it works

The RFID chip in the licence does not store actual information, but instead a code. A border guard would scan the licence to get the code, and then enter that code into a database, that is stored in Canada, to pull up the bearer's information.

The border guard would have access only to the same information that could be found in a passport: address, birth date and name, for example.

Details about your driving record would not be available to the border guards.

Holders of the licence can ask for a record of who and when their information has been accessed.

Privacy issues?

Jacques St. Laurent, president of the Access to Information Commission of Quebec, says the Commission has worked with the SAAQ to develop a secure system that will not jeopardize the personal information of Quebec drivers.

He says he has confidence in the system because there is no personal information stored directly on the card, and because the person looking at your information must identify themselves as well.

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