|My SIN card|
Canada (Vancouver) has been my home since 1975. It was in that year, while Rosemary, our two daughters and I were living in Mexico City, that Rosemary told us that our future in Mexico would not be a good one for our daughters and that we should move to her native Canada.
Until that point I was used to and suffered extreme bureaucracy and long lines to get passports or anything else.
Sometime around Christmas 1958 my mother gave me as a Christmas gift a roundtrip flight on a Comet 4C to San Antonio and from there I was going by bus to my boarding school high school in Austin. I did not notice that when I was leaving at the Mexico City airport that in customs they did not stamp my Argentine passport that I was leaving.
When I returned I was almost not allowed back as the man at customs told me, “It is impossible for you to be coming from the US as you never left.” That cost my mother lots of money and we lined up for days at the infamous Gobernacíon. Finally she hired a coyote (a facilitator) and my passport was duly stamped.
In 1964 when I attempted to re-new my Argentine passport at the Mexico City Argentine Consulate, I was told that I had to do my military service and I needed to have an important document called a Libreta de Enrolamiento (a draft card document). It was for that reason that I returned to Buenos Aires to serve those two years in the Argentine Navy so I could hold my Argentine citizenship. I was stupidly patriotic.
Some many years later I returned to Buenos Aires with that passport and upon arrival my passport was stamped “not valid”. I asked and I was told that this is what happened to all passports issued abroad and that I would have to apply for one at the police station (that is where until the late 70s one went for the document and for the DNI (Documento Nacional de Identificación). Since I was going to stay in BA for only a week and a few days more, I could see myself lining up for hours and days. I appealed to my half-brother Enrique. He told me he knew a police chief. With the police chief we went into the Casa Rosada (from its balcony Perón and Evita would make their speeches) and I had my passport in minutes. The police chief told me that the next time I returned to Argentina that I become first a Canadian citizen and get a Canadian passport as he might not be around to help me. This I did.
By 1999 President Carlos Saúl Menem got rid of the obligatory draft and the Libreta de Enrolamiento became an extinct document.
As a joke about three years ago, when I arrived at the Buenos Aires airport, from my Vancouver flight, I produced my ancient libreta (my document was new in 1926 and nobody had ever asked for one at the Argentine consulate until I came along.) as my ID when customs asked for my passport. The man laughed. And then I showed him my Canadian passport and I was in.
Sometime around 1977 The RCMP in Vancouver recommended that we embed our Social Insurance Number (SIN) with a special little tool on all our valuables like TV sets and cameras. I did just that on my primary work camera, a Pentax S-3. Shortly after that I lost my SIN card.
I never replaced it. Such is the lack of bureaucracy in Canada (at least in comparison to Argentina and Mexico) that I have managed since then to do everything without that “important” card. When I am asked for the SIN number I look at the bottom plate of my Pentax.
That’s Canada for you. I don’t need the help of a police chief or a coyote.
For anybody who might be curious about the number 588737, that was my ID during my two years in the Argentine Navy.