Up-to-date ID for our 21st Century needs

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Judy Garland, 1939, The Wizard of Oz.

If you are an adult past the age of 30, you remember (what you thought was) a gentler time, when you could show up at the airport and board a plane, vote or receive medical treatment by saying who you were. The world was a much larger place, and information existed in islands and pockets that were easier to verify. That was then, even if parts of ‘then’ exist only through the rose-coloured glasses we tend to use to view the past.

Surprise! Inattention may have made your parents vulnerable

This is now. You need government-issued identification to vote, get a passport, board an aircraft, open a bank account and a host of other common, everyday tasks. A few years ago, I was helping a senior vote in a by-election, and was astonished that the gentleman had no identification acceptable by the poll clerk. His driver’s license had expired years ago; he had not lived at the address on that license in years; he had no up-to-date health card or passport. Finally, we found a utility bill, and the poll clerk accepted his old license to verify that he was who he said he was, and the utility bill that he lived in the poll where he had planned to vote.

There are some essential foundation documents that everyone needs to be a citizen in just about every western democracy:

  • Your birth certificate from the country or province/state that issued it;
  • A valid and current passport if you ever intend to leave Canada, even if for a day, and especially to the USA;
  • A driver’s license or an Ontario Photo ID card to prove you are who you say you are, and live where you say you live;
  • An up-to-date Ontario Health Card to enable you to receive health coverage if you are an eligible Ontario resident.

Over and above that, your wallet and files at home may contain a student card; an employee ID; various bank and credit cards; a host of other forms of identification, none of which will serve as government-issued identification when you travel, vote, or need to show who you are and where you live.

You don’t need to carry every identification card and document with you all the time. Have a look at your wallet or handbag, and ask yourself if you really need everything in it every day. For example, when you travel, you can leave your Canadian store discount cards, your library card and other domestic pieces of ID at home. However, if you have, for example, a credit card in another country’s currency, carry that when you travel to that country, while leaving it in a secure place while you are at home. As a rule-of-thumb, carry all the ID you’ll need, but only the ID you’ll need.

Every adult needs to ensure that their foundation identification cards and documents are up-to-date, and kept in a safe, secure and accessible place. Every family managing the affairs of aging parents, grandparents and relatives needs to take responsibility for managing their identification. Many seniors are left vulnerable for lack of an identification card, passport, or Ontario health card.

The Ontario Photo ID Card

Think of the Ontario Photo ID Card as the ‘non-drivers’ drivers’ license.’ Ontario’s Photo ID Card is as good as your driver’s license for government-issued identification. Whether for non-drivers or for seniors, this is the card to carry in your wallet.

The case for seniors is especially compelling. Many seniors no longer need to drive. The reality for many seniors is that even though they no longer drive, many still feel they need to go and get a driver’s license they won’t use to have a recognized, government-issued photo ID card. You need this type of identification to board a domestic airline flight, to take out a library card, to open a bank account, check into many hotels, and the list is fairly lengthy.

Ontario developed a unique identification card for non-drivers that is as universally recognized as your Ontario driver’s license. You can get your Ontario Photo ID Card in Mississauga.

Where to apply for the Photo ID Card:

The Ontario Photo ID Card is available at ServiceOntario centres. The two closest ServiceOntario centres are at:

  • Streetsville: 6295 Mississauga Road North, between Erin Mills Parkway and Britannia Road, just beside the Tim Horton’s;
  • Erindale: The Westdale Mall, 1151 Dundas Street West, between the Credit River and Erindale Station Road.

Cost and how to apply:

  • The Ontario Photo ID Card costs $35, and is valid for five years from the date of issue;
  • You will need some original identity documents to prove your legal name, date of birth and signature when you apply for the card. Be sure to check the web site for the Ontario Photo ID Card to know what you need to bring when you apply;
  •  If you are replacing your driver’s license with an Ontario Photo ID Card, bring that card with you as well. Note that you can have either a Photo ID Card, or a Driver’s License, but not both. When you are approved for an Ontario Photo ID Card, return your Ontario Driver’s License.

Farewell to the old red-and-white Ontario Health Card

In the next year, Ontario will upgrade the old red-and-white Ontario Health Card. This is important. There are many more active health cards in circulation than there are living Ontarians. The Province needs to look after Ontario residents, but only eligible Ontario residents.

Many of us now have the new Ontario Health Card, which contains many built-in verification features, including your photo, to ensure that you are who the card says you are when you present it to receive treatment. Get more information here. However, there are still many millions of the old red-and-white magnetic stripe cards in circulation. To put the matter in perspective, you would have long ago dumped your bank if it had not kept your credit card up to date with today’s technology. Ontario is phasing out the old red-and-white magnetic stripe card for just that reason.

The change is mandatory. When the process is complete, the old red-and-white magnetic stripe card will neither work, nor be accepted. To get the many old, invalid, broken or fraudulent red-and-white Ontario Health Cards out of circulation, a human being at ServiceOntario needs to physically see you, and ensure you are who you say you are and you are an eligible resident of Ontario to make that switch. Important! Here is what you need to bring with you to get the new Ontario Health Card:

  1. One proof-of-citizenship or eligibility document, such as a birth certificate, passport, valid permanent resident card, immigrant identification card. Click here for the full list of eligibility documents;
  2. One proof-of-residency document, such as a valid Ontario Driver’s License, valid Ontario Photo ID Card, income tax assessment, insurance policy or other document. Click here for the full list of residency documents;
  3. One support-of-identity document, such as a plastic Canadian citizenship card, employee identification card, student ID card, credit card, or Old Age Security card. Click here for the full list of ID documents.

Obviously, this is not happening all at the same time. ServiceOntario will inform people with a letter (paper letter) when it is time for their community to make the change. Along with your driver’s license, your Ontario Health Card is a key piece of Province-issued identification, and it is important for you, your family and your friends to first ensure that your information is up-to-date.

Make the switch early. Read this ServiceOntario web page first, and book an appointment at a convenient ServiceOntario location.

What to do now

  • Update your information with ServiceOntario. You can do this in person in Streetsville at 6295 Mississauga Road North, between Erin Mills Parkway and Britannia Road;
  • You can update your driver’s license or plate sticker information on-line at ServiceOntario;
  • An important point to remember is that if you change your address with your physician, or change it on your driver’s license, that change does not carry over to your Health Card.

Though everyone will, in the coming months, have to make the switch from the old, red-and-white card to the new photo ID Ontario Health Card, remember that you will be notified by letter first. I had purposely kept my old red-and-white card to personally follow this conversion as it happens. However, it simply fell apart on me, and I needed to replace it recently. The process was just fine.


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