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Smart licences now available for border-hopping Quebecers

 

Last Updated: Monday, March 16, 2009 | 6:04 PM ET

CBC News

 

New driver's licence will be accepted instead of passport at land crossings. Quebec Premier Jean Charest showed off his "smart" driver's licence near the Canada-U.S. border on Monday as his province became the first in the country to issue the new border-friendly licences.

 

Quebec Premier Jean Charest holds up his new, high-tech driver's licence near the Lacolle border crossing on Monday.Quebec Premier Jean Charest holds up his new, high-tech driver's licence near the Lacolle border crossing on Monday. (CBC) Quebecers who sign up for the enhanced licences will be able to use them instead of their passports at land and water crossings when the U.S. government brings in more strict security measures in June.

 

"It doesn't solve all of the problems, but it goes a long way in making the lives of a number of our citizens simpler," said Charest at a news conference near the Lacolle border crossing south of Montreal.

 

Charest said he wanted to set the example by becoming the first Quebecer to get the new licence, known as PC Plus. He said the licence will be especially handy for people who cross the border often.

 

"Not everybody carries a passport with them everyday of their lives," said the premier.

 

He also hopes the new licences, which are also being developed by states such as New York, will make it easier for Americans to travel to Quebec.

 

"If there are five people, five kids and two parents, if they had to all pay for a passport it would be an expensive requirement for them to come here," said Charest.

Charest aware of privacy concerns

 

The new licence contains an electronic chip that when scanned gives border guards a special code. The guard can then punch the code into a computer to search a database for information about the cardholder.

 

The information will include the same details contained on a passport such as address, birth date and name.

 

Charest said the fact the card contains a code, instead of personal details, will help protect the privacy of individuals who sign up for the licence. The database will also be located on the Canadian side of the border.

 

"[Privacy] is a serious issue. We believe we need to do what has to be done to protect the privacy of individuals," said Charest.

 

The card will cost $40 on top of the standard government licence fees. It will be good for four years. A passport will still be required for air travel.

 

Five Canadian provinces including British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario are already testing the technology or have licences in development.

 

Saskatchewan has temporarily put its project on hold pending a review of potential privacy issues.

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