News / Winnipeg

New study examines ways to make getting ID easier for low-income Manitobans

Research by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives' Manitoba chapter recommends waiving fees in some cases and establishing an ID storage facility.

Ellen Smirl from the CCPA’s Manitoba chapter compiled a study into how low-income Manitobans access identification over the past year.

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Ellen Smirl from the CCPA’s Manitoba chapter compiled a study into how low-income Manitobans access identification over the past year.

Losing and having to replace pieces of identification may be a nuisance, but for some vulnerable populations, getting the ID in the first place is a struggle.

Ellen Smirl, a community researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Manitoba chapter, spent the last year and a half examining ways to streamline ID systems in the province to help the traditionally marginalized.

Her study, Access to Identification for Low-Income Manitobans, was released this week.

“If you lose your (driver’s license), you just go down to Manitoba Public Insurance and pay the $30. It’s annoying, but you manage to overcome that,” Smirl said Wednesday. “But for people who experience barriers, it can be a really big constraint in terms of accessing services.”

The communities most affected by ID issues tend to be those who are low-income, homeless, new to Canada or transitioning out of prison or Child and Family Services’ care, she said. About 80 per cent of those who approached SEED Winnipeg for help getting ID identified as Indigenous.

Local agencies like SEED (Supporting Economic and Employment Development) and Citizens’ Bridge have developed programs to help people get ID, which often start with obtaining birth certificates, said SEED’s Jenn Bogoch.

“There’s sort of that ladder of ID and without (a birth certificate), people can’t climb up that first rung,” she said.

Since 2009, SEED has been offering an ID Fund as part of their work helping low-income parents access RESPs and Canada Learning Bonds. They’ve helped 2,670 people obtain birth certificates so far.

SEED asked CCPA to study the access to identification issue more broadly, which prompted Smirl’s study. She interviewed members of 17 community agencies and government bodies in Manitoba and Alberta, including SEED, Siloam Mission and Manitoba’s Employment Insurance Assistance office.

One of her final four recommendations is establishing a community-based ID storage facility in Winnipeg, similar to what’s been done in Alberta.

“When you get your ID, Vital Statistics will tell you to tuck it away in a safe place. But for people who don’t have a safe place, we will simply need to recognize that we will need to help them replace or store their ID,” Bogoch said.

Smirl’s other recommendations include waiving fees for low-income Manitobans who need to get or replace a birth certificate and helping those leaving prison or CFS care access government-issued ID beforehand.

• "Of the 476 ID applications that SEED processed between September 1, 2015 and August 31, 2016, 81 percent of the applicants identified as Indigenous."

• "14.8 per cent of Manitobans currently live below the poverty line." 

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