WEF’s Digital ID Travel Project ‘Never Launched’: Transport Minister

WEF’s Digital ID Travel Project ‘Never Launched’: Transport Minister
A press photographer works next to the logo of the World Economic Forum (WEF) at the opening of the annual meeting in Davos on Jan. 15, 2024. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)
Noé Chartier

After Transport Canada said last year it was “committed” to closing a digital identity pilot project for air travel, Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez is now saying it never got off the ground.

The department “officially ended its participation in the Known Traveller Digital Identity, or KTDI, project in April 2023,” Mr. Rodriguez said June 19 in the House of Commons. “The KTDI Project never launched.”

KTDI is one of several initiatives from the World Economic Forum (WEF) that Canada has participated in. The WEF gathers word leaders from politics and industry to implement its agenda.

The project involved the Dutch government, airports in Canada and the Netherlands, airlines Air Canada and KLM, and services firm Accenture.

Mr. Rodriguez was responding to an order paper question from Conservative MP Leslyn Lewis. The MP, who has previously unearthed details about KTDI through the same process, asked why the decision was made not to “resume the KTDI?”

Mr. Rodriguez said KTDI, which involved creating a digital credential for crossing borders through air travel, was terminated in April 2023 after his department and the Dutch government notified the WEF they were officially ending their participation “due to resource constraints, travel restrictions, and competing priorities.”

Transport Canada told The Epoch Times in January 2023 that all KTDI partners remained “committed to working together to close out the project and disseminate the knowledge gained through this initiative.”

Shortly after, the Dutch government told The Epoch Times the project had been “finalized.”

“The KTDI project was a first trial to see if a passenger could travel with a digital identity, but is not prolonged further after that initial stage,” said government spokesperson Diantha Raadgers.

No Data Retained

Ms. Lewis also asked the federal government how the data obtained during the KTDI project was stored and shared.

Mr. Rodriguez said because it never launched, no data of any type was obtained, retained, or stored.

The KTDI project had been announced in 2018 and Ottawa set aside $105.3 million for it in Budget 2021. Mr. Rodriguez said a total of $638,565 was spent on the project while it was in operation, for salaries and other operating costs.
Testing digital ID in travel was a priority for the WEF, which sees the implementation of broader digital ID systems in society as “urgent.” The organization’s white paper on KTDI in 2021 said Canadians were “demanding” public-private collaboration to develop a “joint identity framework.”
At the time when KTDI was being put to rest in early 2023, a new Digital Travel Credentials (DTC) project was being planned with the Dutch government.

Mr. Rodriguez said this project ran from January to March 2024 and was industry-run by KLM in partnership with the Dutch government.

The minister said Transport Canada facilitated the DTC project by issuing a ministerial exemption to KLM from Public Safety Canada to allow its use of facial recognition technology to verify the identity of passengers boarding flights to the Netherlands from Montreal-Trudeau International Airport.

“A condition of the ministerial exemption was for KLM to ensure that all passenger participation in the DTC pilot project be voluntary,” said Mr. Rodriguez.

He added the WEF was not involved in this project and that neither Transport Canada, Montreal-Trudeau International Airport, nor third parties obtained data from the DTC.

The government incurred no costs from the project and the results are proprietary to KLM, Mr. Rodriguez said.

Air Canada separately started its own digital credential project in February 2023, involving select flights from Vancouver to Winnipeg.