A birth certificate is needed to apply for new pieces of ID both provincially and federally.
In Ontario, marginalized and vulnerable individuals often cannot afford to pay the fees for this identification. Without government ID, individuals cannot obtain social assistance, open bank accounts, secure housing or receive medical care.
Recently, a private members bill was introduced in the Ontario Legislature by Ms. Sophie Kiwala which addresses this problem.
Bill 26 amends the Photo Card Act, 2008. If passed, fee waivers will be provided for individuals who cannot afford to pay the fees required for photo cards and birth certificates.
Debate on the Bill
Gilles Bisson, MPP for Timmins-James Bay spoke in a debate on Second Reading of Bill 26 on March 29th.
When Bisson was first elected in 1990 he was surprised that most people did not have any identification cards.
“Most citizens who live in that part of the world didn’t even have a status card, let alone a health card or a birth certificate or a social insurance number,” Bisson noted in the debate.
The hospital had a non-insured health program that allowed people to be flown out from places like Attawapiskat to the hospital in Kingston. But the hospital funding was based on how many members resided in the community who were status Indians.
“There were a number of them who didn’t count because they didn’t have status cards,” recounted, Bisson. “They didn’t have birth certificates, they didn’t have health cards, they didn’t have social insurance numbers—they had none of that because they were not registered at birth.”
The riding that Bisson represents, like many other places in Ontario, contains isolated areas where prospects of getting regular work are sometimes not good. Families couldn’t afford to pay the fee that was associated with registering the child when the child was born. Bisson continued:
“If Mom goes into labour and goes to the hospital, let’s say, in Attawapiskat or the health clinic in Kashechewan, and has the child—maybe in the community, but more times than not, she’s airlifted to Moose Factory to have the baby at the hospital in Moose Factory, at Weeneebayko. So Mom is there. She has four or five kids back home in Attawapiskat. She doesn’t have a lot of money, because they happen to be unemployed. They give her the forms and they say, “Register your newborn child.” Mom doesn’t have the money to pay all of the various fees that are associated with getting a birth certificate, with getting a health card, with getting a SIN number, with getting all those things. Mom goes back to Attawapiskat, and guess what? You get to Attawapiskat and there’s nowhere to register, because there is no Service Ontario in those communities. It’s essentially a non-existing service.”
Bisson’s office set up some local clinics until to address the problem and eventually Service Ontario starting providing services in those communities to register people.
All the above highlights the need for fee waivers as set out in Bill 26.
Find out more and how you can support Bill 26 at https://law.queensu.ca/queen%E2%80%99s-pro-bono-students-lead-queen%E2%80%99s-park-bill