You need up-to-date ID in the 21st century

“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 35, 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 merely by saying who you were. The world was a much larger place back then. 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.

Inattention makes you, or 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 addressed to him. The poll clerk accepted his old license to verify that he was who he said he was, and accepted the utility bill as proof that he lived in the poll where he had planned to vote.

Foundation ID document list

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

  • Your Ontario Driver’s License or Ontario Photo ID;
  • A birth certificate from the province or country where you were born;
  • An up-to-date Ontario Health Card;
  • A Canadian Passport;
  • A Presto Card for transit;
  • A bank card allowing you access to your account at a teller machine;
  • If you were born abroad:
    1. Your Canadian landing papers;
    2. Your permanent residency card.

Over and above the list above, 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.

Older adults, especially retirees, are at severe risk of not having their set of ID documents up-to-date. Family members ought to ensure they check whether their parents and grandparents have their foundation identification documents, know where they are, and understand how and when to use them.

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 card only 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

Ontario has upgraded the old red-and-white Ontario Health Card. This is important. There were 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.

We should all now have the new Ontario Health Card. It 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. All of us need the new card. 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. The old red-and-white magnetic stripe card is not accepted by doctors, clinics and hospitals for treatment, or if so, only with another government-issued piece of ID. 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 verify that you are an eligible resident of Ontario to make that switch.

What you need to bring with you to get the photo 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.

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.

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.

Your birth certificate

This is your first essential piece of identification. Many older Canadians have only a certificate of baptism. That document is no longer valid for proving you are who you say you are. You cannot apply for a passport without a government-issued birth certificate. You seldom need to have your birth certificate with you, but you should carefully store this document (with your passport) in a safe place.

Canadian passport

There is no reason not to have a passport. You cannot leave Canada without one. Though this is perhaps the only ‘optional’ piece of ID in the list, because you don’t have to leave Canada, it is a document every Canadian ought to have in the 21st century.

A Presto Card

If you live in the Greater Toronto Area or in the Ottawa area, public transit is moving to adopt the Presto Card. Once you have the Presto Card, here are your benefits:

  • You never need to worry if you have exact change to ride public transit;
  • After you get it, and pay the one-time activation fee, the Presto Card doesn’t cost anything on an annual basis, to carry no matter how many or few times you use it;
  • You only pay for the transit services you use, and you always get the best transit fare possible.

Additionally, families can empower their parents and grandparents by linking their own credit or debit card to their parents’ or grandparents’ Presto Card, enabling them to do what you want them to do: get out more. Gift suggestion: buy your folks, or your grandparents, a Presto Card. As a Presto Card holder, you should always carry this card.

A Canadian bank card

All adults need an account with a Canadian bank or credit union. You need a credit history. You need to be able to have social security, government income tax rebates, and salary cheques automatically deposited. You need an account to be able to save money. Don’t be part of the under-the-table, cash society. Have a bank account, and learn to responsibly use your bank card, and/or credit card. You should always carry this card.

Your Canadian landing papers and PR card

If you were born outside Canada, you (or your parents) received your Canadian landing papers when you first came to Canada. For those born outside Canada, this document is as important as your birth certificate. Keep it in the safe place you keep your passport and your birth certificate. Your Permanent Residency Card (PR Card) proves you are legally entitled to reside in Canada. If you or your parents or grandparents were born outside Canada, and haven’t got your landing papers and PR Card now, make the effort, and locate those very valuable documents. If you are not yet a Canadian citizen, travel outside Canada, and don’t have your PR Card, you won’t be allowed back in.

How do you and your family rate?

Take an evening, and see if you have all the above identification cards that you need. How about your children and grandchildren? More importantly, how about your parents and grandparents, or those you care about? Be prepared to be horrified at what you find out when you begin to ask those around you.