Colony fights driver's licence photo requirement

Coaldale, Canada - A Hutterite colony in southern Alberta is challenging a provincial law that requires drivers to have their photos on their driver's licence.

The Wilson Colony near Coaldale, just east of Lethbridge, argues that the law violates their charter right to freedom of religion. They believe the Second Commandment in the Bible prohibits them from willingly having their picture taken.

In 2003, the Alberta government brought in a new style driver's licence with a photograph becoming a mandatory element of the document.

The colony's lawyer, Greg Senda, says before 2003, Hutterites could avoid having their pictures taken. However, they now must have a picture when they renew their licence to the new style.

Alberta driver's licences must be renewed every five years – and as those renewals come up, fewer people in the colony will be able to drive.

"What's happened is, gradually through attrition as their new licenses come up for renewal, they're simply not renewing. There used to be 37 licenced drivers on the colony, but now there are only 15.

Senda says the colony is worried what could happen to their large scale farming operation if no one could drive.

The challenge now taking place in a Lethbridge court could have wide ranging implications.

"It also may have ramifications on other photo types of identification," Senda said. "The federal government recently said that they were reconsidering the issue of national identification documentation – it could have an effect on that."

Meanwhile, residents of the Wilson Colony have been issued temporary licenses while the case is decided.

The judge has reserved his decision until the summer.