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Should Canada have a Canadian Birth Certificate?
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Canada does not have a Canadian birth certificate. Each province and territory is expected to maintain its own database and maintain it, typically with the support of municipal governments. The hospital records the birth of a new child and sends the information along to a either the municipal government as in Ontario or a provincial Registrar as in Quebec. It is a system not easily comprehended by citizens. Having the Federal government in charge of birth certificates would be more rational.

Each province or territory issuing their own birth certificate implies that Canada as a whole does not exist as a federal entity. Each province being in charge of issuing birth certificates reinforces the regionalism of Canada and does not foster national unity.

It is through historical circumstances that Canada does not have a nation birth certificate policy. Births were typically registered with local parishes serving small municipalities. That is why in Ontario the municipal government still acts as an intermediary between a new born child and the provincial government. It is only recently that in Quebec the role of the church as record keeper of important events such as births, deaths, and marriage has been usurped by the provincial government. The new measures were announced on October 24, 2001, by Joseph Facal, a Quebec Minister, and they make void all birth certificates issued before 1994 in the province, all birth certificates must now be handled by the Registrar of Civil Status. Moving birth certificate administration to the provincial level is good but Canada should ultimately make the federal government responsible for the handling of birth certificates.

A birth certificates is one of the most important documents issued by a country. The certificate establishes that the bearer holds all the rights of that country such as voting and access to service provided by the county. Birth certificates are taken seriously by nations. Even if one was born to Canadian military personnel while they were serving in another country, that person would have to obtain a birth certificate from the country that the birth occurred in. At most they would be able to get a Registration of Birth Abroad document and not a Canadian birth certificate. Most other documents do not establish identity, even a passport is only a travel document and does not qualify as proof of citizenship.

Because Canada does not have a compulsory national identity card and the birth certificate is issued provincially other forms of documentation have inappropriately been substituted for the role of establishing identity. The federal government introduced the nine-digit SIN cards in 1964 to provide file numbers for the Canada Pension Plan. SIN numbers have spread in use making them almost like a national identity card. However Social Insurance Numbers do not have quality safe guards to insure privacy and prevent fraud. There is also the Canadian Certificate of Identity which is issued to permanent residents of Canada who are unable or unwilling to obtain a passport from their country of nationality, because dealing with their home country is problematic.

Having a consolidated Canadian birth certificate would save the tax payers of Canada money. Currently each province (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and the Yukon) has its own system. That is a total of thirteen different governments providing the same service.

Having one Canadian birth certificate would also help Canada's international standing. By avoiding domestic issues of regionalism Canada can present a unified front to the world. Each time the document is requested outside of Canada by officials in another country Canada's presence in the world would increase, not diminish because of confusion with jurisdictional issues of documentation.



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