No photo required for some Hutterite drivers

Lethbridge, Canada - Members of an Alberta Hutterite colony have won the right to carry driver's licences that don't carry their photographs.

The Wilson Colony, near Coaldale, 12 kilometres east of Lethbridge, took the province to court after the government introduced a new licence that must have a driver's photo on it.

The colony argued in a Lethbridge court that the government's rule violated its charter right to freedom of religion. Members believe the second commandment in the Bible prohibits them from willingly having their picture taken.

The province argued the photos were necessary to prevent fraud or identity theft. But a judge determined the Crown had failed to prove that this would likely be the case.

Justice Sal LoVecchio of the Alberta Court of Queens Bench ruled in favour of the Hutterites.

Chris Levy, associate dean of law at the University of Calgary, thinks people with a religious objection to having their photo taken for identification will be interested in this decision.

"Potentially, at least, they have a strong freedom of religion argument now based on a Court of Queen's Bench decision in Alberta to back up their objection to being photographed. We're going to see a lot more of this," Levy said.

The colony's lawyer, Greg Senda, said colony members are happy with the decision. He said the ruling has restored their faith in the Canadian judicial system and the protection of minority rights.

He doubts, however, the ruling will have an impact for people needing pictures on other documents or types of ID.

The colony was worried about what might have happened to its large-scale farming operation if no one was allowed to drive.

Members will have to apply for an exemption to having their picture taken before new licences are issued without photographs. They had been issued temporary licences while the case was before the court.

The government of Alberta has one month to appeal the decision.