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New Yukon IDs coming soon

Yukoners will start receiving modern driver's licences this autumn. "We want to roll them out in October," said Walter Brennan, manager of Yukon's motor vehicles branch.

Yukoners will start receiving modern driver’s licences this autumn.

“We want to roll them out in October,” said Walter Brennan, manager of Yukon’s motor vehicles branch.

Out goes the Polaroid camera and crude laminating apparatus. In, at last, come digital cameras, electronic signature pads and a sophisticated printer that fuses ink to plastic.

The change means that residents who obtain the new cards will no longer need to worry about their IDs being eyed with skepticism during trips Outside. Yukon’s current IDs are officially recognized throughout North America, but their low-tech appearance has led to difficulties for residents in recent years while entering bars, renting cars or being checked by police.

Yukon is the last jurisdiction in the country to upgrade its licence-making methods. Both the Northwest Territories and Nunavut introduced modern cards last year.

The upgrades also mean it will become more difficult to produce forged Yukon IDs. Currently, it would take little more than a computer scanner and a cheap laminating kit to produce a fake Yukon ID.

The new cards will sport holograms, features that can only be seen under ultraviolet light, and wavy lines like what’s found on paper money.

The cost of a five-year licence will remain at its current rate of $50.

Like other modern driver’s licences, the cards will include a barcode which, when swiped by RCMP, will feed personal details - your name, age, height, and eye and hair colour - into their computer system. It’s illegal for anyone else, including business owners, to scan this information, said Brennan.

Community Services Minister Archie Lang first announced plans to upgrade Yukon IDs in October of 2009. Initially, the department hoped to release the new cards this summer.

But the work involved with purchasing and shipping the new equipment took longer than thought, said Brennan. His staff is currently being trained to use the new system.

Datacard Canada Inc. received the contract, tendered in July for $368,661 to supply the equipment and provide training. Initial costs were estimated to be $500,000.

The new cards offer the same features found in the Maritimes and Saskatchewan. But they’re less fancy than the enhanced cards issued in BC, Ontario and Quebec, which allow residents to enter the United States by land or water without a passport.

Yukon passed on this option for several reasons. For one, enhanced cards cost an additional $30 to $40 more.

It also takes more time to issue an enhanced ID, because the cards need to be vetted by the United States’ Department of Homeland Security and the Canadian Border Services Agency.

Enhanced cards must also be laser engraved, which means they would have to be produced Outside.

And privacy concerns have been raised about enhanced cards. They contain a chip that emits a radio frequency to help identify Canadian citizens at the border. Privacy czars worry this information could be used by identity thieves.

Yukon considered piggybacking with British Columbia to produce the new licences, but it turned out this would have been more expensive than making the cards in-house in Whitehorse, said Brennan.

BC’s laser-engraved cards are produced by a private firm. If Yukon were to follow suit, we would pay the same fixed costs, spread over far fewer cardholders, resulting in a higher final price.

Laser-engraved cards are the “Cadillac” of IDs, said Brennan. “We didn’t feel we needed a Cadillac. We needed technology that would give us a secure card.”

Motor vehicles’ staff are bracing for a backlog when cardholders queue up to replace their old IDs with modern cards.

Brennan’s advice? There’s no rush.

Existing IDs remain valid until their expiry date. So, he says, “If you want to avoid the lineups, come in later.”

Contact John Thompson at