New IDs promised by summer

The Yukon government plans to roll out new drivers' licences by next summer.

The Yukon government plans to roll out new drivers’ licences by next summer.

New equipment, purchased for $500,000, will replace the aging Polaroid camera and laminating machine currently in use at the territory’s motor vehicles branch.

The new IDs will have holograms and other features to make them difficult to counterfeit. That should come as a relief to Yukon’s RCMP, bar owners and liquor inspectors, who currently have difficulty telling a real licence from a fake.

And the news should comfort any Yukoner who has travelled Outside and had to persuade a skeptical authority that their licence is authentic.

But the new licences won’t be state-of-the-art. As a result, they won’t be usable as identification to cross the Alaska border.

In April, British Columbia started offering its residents “enhanced” licences that may be used to enter the US. Ontario and Quebec also use enhanced licences.

But only a small fraction of residents in those provinces have obtained enhanced licences, said Walter Brennan, Yukon’s manager of motor vehicles.

That’s because there’s a lengthy application process – enhanced licences require the blessings of the US Department of Homeland Security and the Canadian Border Services Agency – and the special licences cost considerably more than a normal ID.

For these reasons, both Saskatchewan and New Brunswick scrapped plans to adopt enhanced licences. The Yukon reached the same conclusion, Brennan said.

The territory also considered outsourcing the production of drivers’ licences to British Columbia, but BC turned down the proposal because Yukon’s small volume of licences was not considered profitable, Brennan said.

The territorial government also concluded there’s no great demand for enhanced licences. In 2007, 55 per cent of Yukoners had passports, said Brennan.

Four US states offer enhanced licences. Alaska is not one of them.

Enhanced licences may only be used to enter the US by land or sea. Residents flying into the US are still required to carry a passport.

The four Atlantic provinces and Saskatchewan use the same technology that the Yukon has chosen, said Brennan. It’s a process called dye-diffusion thermal transfer.

The new cards won’t be ready until summer because the new ID still needs to be designed.

The Liberals’ Don Inverarity, who has called on the territory to introduce modern licences for two years, welcomed the news in a release, but faulted the government for moving slowly.

Since summer of last year, Inverarity has collected tales of outraged Yukoners who, while travelling Outside, have had their ID rejected by authorities.

The old IDs have also caused headaches in the territory, as documents from the liquor branch, leaked to the Liberals, have shown.

In June, a young Whitehorse bar patron had his ID confiscated by a bouncer who believed the card was fake.

The lamination was flimsy and had a bubble in the middle. The paper inside was discoloured and had blurred printing.

When the RCMP arrived, the officers agreed the card looked like a counterfeit. Only when the police called in the ID number did they discover the card was legitimate.

Inverarity has also dug up evidence that suggests Yukon’s current IDs may not be recognized by Canadian provinces for much longer.

The Canadian Council of Motor Transportation Administrators, a body which helps regulate drivers’ licences across Canada, recently warned that “failure by the Yukon to produce a new secure drivers’ licence may result in denial of reciprocity from other provinces, territories and US states.

“This may have detrimental effects outside the Yukon on Yukoners’ ability to operate motor vehicles, rent vehicles or board airplanes for domestic flights.”

Jim Kenyon, the minister responsible for drivers’ licences, acknowledged in April of 2007 that Yukon IDs are “something that we obviously have to address.” But, before Wednesday’s announcement, he had given no indication of when replacements would be introduced.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.

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