The ‘foundation’ ID documents everyone needs
As an MPP, I discovered to my shock and horror how many adults, especially those who are older, and those struggling with poverty, simply lacked the identification to show they were who they are, and lived where they did. It cost them money. It cost them the opportunity to vote. It lessened them as people. And it is easy to fix.
Here are the ID documents every person needs to have:
- 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:
- Your Canadian landing papers;
- Your permanent residency card.
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.
Every adult needs either an Ontario Driver’s License or an Ontario Photo ID card. You cannot have both. Think of the Photo Card as the Ontario ‘non-drivers’ drivers’ license. You need this piece of ID to vote, to board an aircraft for a domestic flight, to get a library card, or to prove who you are at your bank. You should always carry this 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 That document is no longer valid for proving you are who you say you are.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.
Your Ontario Health Card
To receive coverage from the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, you need an up-to-date plastic health card, with your picture on it, issued by ServiceOntario. See this page on my web site for more information on how to get an OHIP photo card. The old red-and-white card should no longer be used, and should be upgraded immediately at a ServiceOntario location. You should always carry this card.
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. 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.