Lost without ID

I am about to leave the United Way as my contract as ID Project Coordinator comes to a close. For three and a half years I have been helping agencies provide ID documents to people in our community who need them. As I reflect on this experience and prepare for my exodus, I feel that Children’s Legal & Education Resource Centre (CLERC) has been a quiet ally. CLERC does important work by providing youth with temporary identification when they need it. In doing so, CLERC helps youth become independent and self-sufficient.

And because I like stories, I think of CLERC’s client Cody. Cody is 17. Originally from Britain, Cody has been in Canada for five years. Family dynamics changed and Cody left home when he could no longer stand the conflict and name-calling. Cody started living independently — but he had no ID. His mother withheld all his documents, including his immigrant papers, UK passport and SIN card.

Without ID, Cody was hopeless.

He couldn’t register to complete high school or open a bank account. He found a job but his employer insisted he provide photo ID or he would be let go.

A worker from the Alex connected Cody with CLERC. Volunteer lawyers from Borden Ladner Gervais LLP came to the Alex with CLERC to hold a Legal and Identification clinic. Cody received temporary photo ID, enough to keep his job, but needed his other documents as well. Cody met with a lawyer, and the lawyer agreed to represent him and help him get his ID back from his mother.

With one threat of a lawyer’s involvement the mother provided all Cody’s ID back one week later. Lawyers are the legal strong arm that identification support requires. They help youth understand that they aren’t alone — they have the right to access what they are entitled to.

I heard that Cody is registered for classes to finish high school. He has a bank account. He is still employed.

In Cody’s words: “I am somebody.”

I always tell people that identification documents are your ticket to be active in society, to matter and to belong. Now that Cody has his ticket, he’s on track for a better future.

—Katie Wolfe, Identification Project Coordinator, United Way of Calgary and Area

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