The Toronto Sun
Saturday, June 5, 1997

Finger-scanning a step closer

by Dick Chapman

Finger-scanning of Metro welfare recipients cleared a big hurdle yesterday as council voted 18-11 to sign a deal with U.S.-based Citibank.

If it goes ahead next year after a design and pilot phase, Metro will become the first Canadian government at any level to use the new "biometric identifier" technology for fool-proof identification.

It's to cost Metro $16 million over five years, but social services manager Heather MacVicar said the streamlined system will reduce overall welfare costs by 3% - $27 million a year at current costs.

MacVicar said as well as preventing "double-dipping", finger scanning will deter other types of fraud.

Deter Fraud Critics said finger scanning won't prevent the most common types of welfare fraud - "spouse-in-the-house" and undisclosed income.

Toronto Mayor Barbara Hall said no matter what term is used, it's "finger-printing" with a stigma.

"I don't want to do Mike Harris dirty work", Etobicoke's Blake Kinahan objected. North York's Howard Moscoe said it was like tattooing numbers on Holocaust victims and Don River's Jack Layton called it "disgusting ... a disgrace".

Earlier, a couple of dozen anti-poverty protestors loudly disrupted council. As they left, one woman imprinted her inky hand on chamber walls.

Copyright © 1997 by The Toronto Sun. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.