MPP Kiwala introduces private member’s bill to provide fee waivers for individuals who cannot afford to pay for photo cards

Sophie Kiwala, MPP for Kingston and the Islands, rose in the Ontario Legislature today to introduce her Private Member’s Bill, the Fee Waivers Act. The Bill, if passed, would amend the Photo Card Act, 2008 to provide for fee waivers for individuals who cannot afford to pay the fees required for photo cards. The Bill would also amend the Vital Statistics Act to include fee waivers for individuals who cannot afford to pay the fees required for birth certificates.

MPP Kiwala says she was inspired to present this Bill after a group of Queen’s Law students working in collaboration with Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC) contacted her about the Kingston branch of the ID Clinic Project. Through the clinic, students realized that patrons in the community faced a greater problem than that of completing necessary forms; they were unable to process the completed applications due to the associated fee. Participating law students and lawyers found that assisting individuals with the completion of their applications without also providing accompanying funding is simply inadequate.

While many organizations throughout the province work to alleviate this financial barrier and stress, they are simply relying on portions of their own budgets or external donations to financially support clients who require identification on a case-by-case basis.

This bill, if passed, seeks to further enhance access to photo cards and birth certificates in the province for marginalized and vulnerable individuals who cannot afford to pay the associated fees.

“I am extremely pleased to be introducing this bill in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. I have heard about the challenges many community members face in terms of obtaining identification and if help is not available, individuals may resort to living without identification. This can have serious impacts in other aspects of their daily life including access to housing, bank accounts and supports such as the Ontario Disability Support Program. Removing fees for identification cards for individuals who cannot afford to pay would directly help the most vulnerable individuals in our communities across Ontario,” said Kiwala.

An Ontario Photo Identification Card costs $35. A replacement birth certificate also costs $35. Often an individual will require a birth certificate in order to qualify for obtaining a photo identification card.

Research reveals that low-income members of the community are disproportionately susceptible to losing their government-issued identification or having it stolen.

Perpetrators of domestic violence will often withhold their victim’s wallet and identification as a tactic to lure that person back into the home. As such, victims of domestic violence have to weigh the various costs of living without identification against the risk of harm to themselves and their children.