In writing “1984” George Orwell warned of government power encroaching in all areas of our lives with an all-seeing and all-knowing “Big Brother” state. Privacy rights were to be forgotten. Individual prerogative beaten into submission.
Since the real year of 1984, many battles have been fought over the growing encroachments by government into our lives. From collectivization of information to camera surveillance to the use of drones. In North America, neither the American Bill of Rights nor Canada’s Charter of Rights have always succeeded in thwarting the will of the state to know everything we do.
Governments always say this is for our own good. Yet it never is. It is for the “good” of government in reducing our individual liberties and making it easier for the state to make of us nothing but robotic and fearful producers of revenue to perpetuate the growing Leviathan of state bureaucracy and the politicians who benefit from its control. James Madison had it right when he wrote, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
We raise this issue today because the Legault government announced last week that it is embarking on a project to fit every Quebecer with an identification number and biometric card. That number and card will allow each of us access to a centralized data base of information on everything about us. From driving records to revenue to medical info. And it will encompass our banking information. Conversely, it will also allow government access to all our information since the state is centralizing it. This is too much. Big Brother turbo-charged.
Right now there are policies in place — even if sometimes honoured more in the breach — where our information is not shared between agencies of the state. This project will tear down any vestiges of our private information being just that. Private.
The government also announced that this initiative will be “bigger than any comparable project ever realized anywhere in the world.” It will cost billions of dollars and be one of the largest government expenditures in Quebec history. And the Legault administration wants it all finished by 2025.
The government will be the guardian of all our confidential information.
Quebec says it will help all of us reduce all the cards we carry and use only one password. Of course the same is true in reverse. It will allow Quebec into every private corner of our lives. With one password.
The Minister responsible for Digital Transformation Eric Caire said that the numeric identities will be built on “block chain” technology “reputedly inviolable to hacking.” And that it will be controlled totally by the state with the possibility of a partnership with Caisse Desjardins on some aspects.
Really? Have we so quickly forgotten the 3 million Quebecers whose personal information was compromised in the Caisse Desjardins breach? Oh, a small matter. Quebec will be the first jurisdiction to use block-chain technology for this. So we’re the guinea pigs.
There will of course be a new agency running this. It has the appropriate Orwellian title of the “Quebec Numeric Identity Service.” This must not be allowed to happen. Opposition to this proposal has even united left and right from St.Laurent Liberal MNA Marwah Rizqy to free market HEC economist and popular columnist Nathalie Elgrably. And with good reason.
When a society institutionalizes command-state control, all citizens feel helpless in the advancement of their own lives. This new “service” will allow agents of the state to weigh our every action, every communication, every contact; tamper with their intent and then use it to our individual detriment. We need to shout “enough!” Remember how good it felt when we held politicians and bureaucrats accountable because we had the courage to remind them that they work for us, not the other way around. We must now — at this time and in this place — reassert the consequence of our individual sovereignty. Before it is too late.