Card games

Fifty years ago, the federal Unemployment Insurance Commission introduced social insurance numbers to Canadians. Here’s to our nine digits.

5: Millions more social insurance numbers in circulation than the population in 2002, due to illicit or dormant cards, according to the federal auditor general.

0: Legal controls in 1999 addressing how businesses use or disclose SIN data. Five years earlier, a federal report noted, "The security features of the SIN card are practically non-existent."

32: Federal acts, regulations, programs and activities that currently refer to and authorize the collection of social insurance numbers. When introduced, the SIN was required only for the Canada Pension Plan and unemployment programs.

49: Percent of Canadians who are "very uncomfortable" using their SIN as identification due to fraud and identity theft concerns, according to a 2014 CPA Canada national survey.

1967: Year the SIN began to be used as a "file identifier" for federal income tax. When opposition leaders in 1964 asked if the cards would eventually be used for tax, then prime minister Lester Pearson replied, "Certainly not."

2014: Year Service Canada stopped issuing actual cards to individuals. With the "modernization" of the program, Canadians are now asked to keep the slip of paper with their SIN number on record.

120,000: Canadians whose data – including SINs, names, birth dates and addresses – were stolen when thieves made off with four Montreal-area Revenue Canada computers in 2003. The incident was then described as the "biggest loss" of personal information in Canadian history.

About the Author

Steve Brearton


Steve Brearton is a freelance writer in Toronto.

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