24 March 2016

Robbie just did not have a passion for labels

        In November 2002, then immigration minister Denis Coderre put forward a recommendation for a national debate on the issue of identity cards for all Canadians. Proposing that such a card would be similar to the PRC [permanent residence card], Coderre noted that “identity has taken on new prominence” since the events of 11 September 2001. He also suggested that debating an identity card would provide the opportunity “to clarify what it means to be a citizen, a Canadian” (Coderre, 2003). Coderre’s call led to the Biometrics: Implications and Applications for Citizenship and Immigration forum held by CIC in October 2003. Government officials, participants from the private sector and other “experts” attended this by-invitation-only forum. Coderre’s suggestion of a national identity card was met with critique. The former Privacy Commissioner of Canada in his Overview of the Annual Report to Parliament declared, among other things, that a national identity card would create “Big Brother dossiers” that could “open the way to being stopped in the streets by police and required to identify ourselves on demand” (Radwanski, 2003, p. 3). The national identity card did not move beyond debate, however Coderre’s recommendation was not the first instance of such a call. One occasion in particular had certain elements in common with Coderre’s, namely, the suggestion that the card would thwart terrorists. A Notice of Motion was filed in October 1971 in the House of Commons considering the “Compulsory Carrying of Identification Cards” for Canadian citizens and immigrants. Filed by Member of Parliament Fernand Leblanc, this motion was in response to the 1970 events known as the October Crisis involving the Front de Libe ́ration du Que ́bec (FLQ), the kidnapping and killing of Quebec Justice Minister Pierre Laporte, the kidnapping of British Trade Commissioner James Cross and the invoking of the War Measures Act by the federal government. Leblanc noted that “such a card could ensure the protection of the community in case of riots and terrorist acts”, while one MP argued that the motion be “examined from every angle with very long tongs, and then dropped into a furnace and burned” (Leblanc, 1971).

— Simone Browne "Getting carded: Border Control and the politics of Canada's permanent resident card"

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