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Plastic SIN card to be phased out

Image: canada.immigrationvisaforms.com

In an attempt to save money, protect privacy and prevent identy theft, the Globe and Mail reports, the federal government has introduced plans within budget Bill C-38 to cut the social insurance number (SIN) card—not the number just the card.

The SIN is a nine-digit number that people need to work in Canada and for eligibility to various public programs such as the Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance. In addition, the SIN is used by the governement to identify individuals to track income and taxes owed and paid.

The plan was revealed by bureaucrats who testified at a Senate committee Tuesday May 15, 2012.

According to the Globe article:

The low-tech white plastic cards carrying the social insurance numbers of Canadians do not have any of the modern security features that are now common on drivers licences and credit cards.

Peter Boyd, a Service Canada director general and departmental security officer, told the committee the SIN card is essentially useless and, without any built-in security, can, if stolen, lead to privacy breaches, chiefly identity theft.

The change will be phased in and is expected to save the government $1.5-million a year. In the process, the Bill will remove sections from several acts that mention a requirement to show a SIN card.

This means, as of March 2014, when Canadians apply for a social insurance number, they will be advised of that number through a letter, but they will not get a card. Everyone who already has a SIN will keep the same number. This will prevent Canadians from using their SIN as a piece of identification to obtain services, consumer and financial services such as credit cards and bank accounts. It will also encourage Canadians to keep that number private and only use it for the purpose it was issued: to work in Canada and for eligibility to various government programs such as the Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance system.

Unless an organization other than the government (for certain programs) or an employer can demonstrate that the reason they are requesting a person’s SIN is specifically permitted by law, or that no alternative identifiers would suffice to complete the transaction, an individual should refuse to provide a SIN or the card (for those who will still have it).

But what about people like me? For the life of me, I cannot remember that number by heart. If I did not have a card to refer to, I would not be able to complete any of the government applications that come my way from time to time.

The committee was told that forgotten numbers could be re-requested by mail or at a Service Canada centre.

Wouldn’t it have been better to a) prohibit with legislation, banks, insurance companies and other businesses with whom consumers transact from requiring the SIN for fear of massive penalties and fines; b) embed the security measures in the SIN card like they did for passports, drivers licences and health cards.

What do you think?

Yosie Saint-Cyr
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Managing Editor

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Yosie Saint-Cyr

Managing Editor at First Reference Inc.
Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B., is a trained lawyer called to the Quebec bar in 1988 and is still a member in good standing. She practiced business, employment and labour law until 1999. For over 15 years, Yosie has been the Managing Editor of the following publications, Human Resources Advisor, Human Resources PolicyPro, HRinfodesk and Accessibility Standards PolicyPro from First Reference. Yosie is one of Canada’s best known and most respected HR authors, with an extensive background in employment and labour across the country. Read more
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3 thoughts on “Plastic SIN card to be phased out
  • It has always been a no no for organizations other than an employer or the government to ask for the SIN… but the government never stopped them from violating the law and now the user is paying for it… for the government’s inaction.

  • Inga says:

    The obvious need that I have is concerning payroll: it is required for income tax forms. Therefore I hope employees do not lose that letter!
    And you are correct, benefits insurance providers are always requesting the SIN – is that a no-no now?

  • Bob Tyne says:

    The time has come and the card should die. Working with the disadvantaged, it is another tax on the poor who keep losing or having their cards stolen to show to government agencies who already have their information.