Amateur Radio License Plates in Ontario, Canada

The Province of Ontario, Canada, like many jurisdictions worldwide, offer personalized license plates to licensed amateur radio operators. I’ve had conversations with several at the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario as well as ServiceOntario (the organization that contracts out service centers where you can go to get your license plates, health card, etc.) and I thought it’d be a good resource for the amateur community to share my experiences.

How do I get amateur radio license plates in Ontario?
Simply visit any ServiceOntario location that offers the personalized license plate ordering service. Bring your Certificate of Proficiency in Amateur Radio (your license) with you.

Can Ontario amateur radio license plates be ordered online?
No, a copy of your license is required, which is why you need to visit a ServiceOntario location in person.

What is the cost of an amateur radio license plate in Ontario?
The cost is $30 + tax (as of April 23, 2013 – subject to change at any time).  The grand total with taxes, fees, etc. which was charged to me was $31.30. This is a very steep discount from the over $250 regular fee for personalized license plates in Ontario.  There are no other fees for amateur radio plates other than the $30 + tax fee to purchase the plates.

What should I expect when I visit the ServiceOntario location to order my amateur radio license plates?
From my experience ordering a few sets of plates, expect your transaction to take longer than usual.  Amateur radio plates are something they don’t do very often so it may take them some time to find out how to process it through their systems.  Once they are ordered (and paid for), you’ll get a receipt and you’ll need to wait up to 8 weeks (as per ServiceOntario) for them to be manufactured and shipped to you.

What if the person who previously held my call sign had amateur radio license plates, but never returned them to the Ministry of Transportation?
If the plates are not attached to any vehicle, you should still be able to order them.  Advise the ServiceOntario representative that these are a special series of plates with very specific rules.  Specifically, recommend that they review the MTO Vehicle Policy Manual or contact their support team who should be able to assist them with placing the order.  This kind of order needs to go through differently than if the plates do not already exist – this process is called “special handling.”

What if the plates for my call sign are listed as attached to someone else’s vehicle?
As mentioned, amateur radio license plates are a special series with very specific rules as to who can order them and transfer them.  A member of my local club has discovered that the spouse of the amateur that previously held his call sign, who passed away. had the plates transferred into her name.  As this is a violation of the rules of the amateur radio license plate series (unless the spouse is also an amateur radio operator and holds the call sign on the license plate), the Ministry of Transportation should be contacting the current registrant of the plates to advise them that they will need to return the plates as they are in contravention of Ontario law.  In the case of the member I referred to, the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario advised that the transfer to the spouse should have never taken place due to the policy, described in section 6.2.2 of the MTO Vehicle Policy Manual.

How can I find out the history and status of my desired amateur radio call sign license plate?  (In other words, how do I find out if it’s attached or not?)
You can purchase, for $12, a Vehicle Plate History from the ServiceOntario website using a major credit card.  The report is immediately produced and you can review it instantly.  To order the report, go here and select the Vehicle Plate History abstract.  If the report says STATUS: ATTACHED then you will need to get the Ministry to follow the process above, otherwise, you should be able to order the plates.

Where can I review the Ontario policy regarding amateur radio license plates myself?
Take a look at the MTO Vehicle Policy Manual provided to me by the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario.  Specific areas of interest within the document include:

  • Section 2.3.3 (amateur radio license plates)
  • Section 6.2.2, page 2 (transfers)

The Amateur Spirit

One thing I’ve noticed since becoming both a licensed amateur radio operator in 2011 as well as being a member of a local amateur radio club is that amateur radio clubs seem to be becoming more of a factioned group.

One club I’m aware of feels like they have to tiptoe around certain things, such as avoiding mentioning the word ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) because some members take offence to mentioning ARES during club activities, such as membership meetings.  This club is not alone.  I’ve seen many similar stories on amateur radio forums around the internet and while talking with fellow amateur radio operators.

I feel that things like this hurt the image of amateur radio and contribute to inhibiting growth of the hobby.  All of us, as amateur radio operators, need to realize that we, individually, are not the “be all & end all” of amateur radio.  Amateur radio is a vast and diverse hobby with many areas for interests such as DXing, contesting, APRS, digital modes, QRPing, emergency communications such as ARES and much, much more.

To help combat this, I have drafted a document that I’ve titled The Amateur Spirit.  The document consists of ten basic principle statements that I think help define the true spirit of amateur radio.

These principles are:

  1. We recognize that amateur radio is a very diverse hobby with many niches;
  2. We respect the areas of the amateur radio hobby that an amateur decides to participate in or not participate in;
  3. We respect that while I may not be interested in a particular part of amateur radio, another amateur may be and I will respect that amateur’s interests;
  4. We do not discriminate against, harass or treat others with disrespect because they share their viewpoints or may have viewpoints and interests that are not the same as my own;
  5. We welcome and treat every member, prospective member, guest and the public with dignity and respect;
  6. We are always inclusive and not to exclude any person from participation in the hobby for any reason, including age, gender, background, knowledge or experience;
  7. We always follow the letter and spirit of the law and act ethically in all we do;
  8. We seek to learn new things and share our knowledge;
  9. We get involved and participate in club activities and events, including helping to organize, operate and/or plan them;
  10. We recognize that an amateur radio club “belongs” to all of its members and not to any one particular individual or group.

If you’d like a PDF version of the principles to share, you can download one here.

Comments, suggestions, etc. are always appreciated.

73, Matt Dean, VE3MDN

Should Information & Communication Technology be a Regulated Industry?

Computers and new technologies such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) which facilitates voice telecommunication over data networks like the Internet makes me wonder if perhaps Information and Communication Technology should be a regulated industry.

Typically, governments regulate industries where there is an overwhelming need to ensure the integrity of professionals, such as in the medical field.  Doctors must be licensed by a governing authority in order to practice.  This governing authority establishes minimum competency and education standards, ensuring that the public receives care from a doctor who knows what they are doing.  I don’t know many people who would want to be cared for by a healthcare professional who did not, for whatever reason, meet the standards established by the governing authority.

Information and Communication Technology professionals, in many organizations, are ordained with an extremely high level of trust.  Many businesses and other organizations use technology to perform a large portion of their work.  This might include maintaining personal and confidential information in a human resources database for a business to updating patient records in a healthcare system.  By the nature of their job, ICT professionals typically have full and complete access to all systems, which includes the data they contain.

Many organizations have made headlines regarding data breaches.  These include both large enterprises as well as smaller organizations.  In many cases, there is little recourse to those who have had their personal information compromised and much of that information can be used to facilitate other crimes, such as identity theft.

Larger organizations may have the resources to provide complete background checks prior to hiring an ICT professional.  Smaller organizations, however, often do not have these resources for security and background checks, often due to the costs associated with executing the checks.  Background checks alone, however, do not eliminate all risks associated with a potential ICT professional.

As of today in Ontario, Canada, anyone can start their own Information and Communication Technology services business.  There is no barrier to entry other than the costs associated with registering a business name with the government.  With ICT devices, such as computers, mobile phones, tablet computers and more being used to store personal and confidential information, this is an area which I, personally, believe  requires much scrutiny.

Smaller businesses often rely on outside vendors for much, if not all, of their Information and Communication Technology needs.  These smaller businesses, however, do not typically have the knowledge or experience to vet their service providers and often trust what they are told by the vendor.  Many ICT service firms do not employ staff who are intimately familiar with business class systems.  Just because someone knows a little bit about computers does not necessarily make them qualified to perform ICT work for a business or enterprise.  Many more of these technicians have little, or no, security training/education.

Businesses are facing pressure from regulators in regards to the safeguarding of personal and confidential information.  These regulations can differ depending on the industry of the organization.  A health care organization, for example, has strict rules regarding the storage, protection and disclosure of patient information.  Similarly, a financial institution is regulated to protect the privacy of its customers.

Malicious hackers are always trying new exploits and trying new ways to break into secure systems.  The ways they attempt this are numerous.  If a business, for example, hires an ICT firm to set up a network for them at their place of business, what assurances do the clients have that the way the system is configured is secure against intrusion?  Continuing on that train of thought, what assurances do the clients have that the ICT firm even knows about security considerations and how to make the system secure?

I believe that it is in the best interests of the public, whose personal and confidential information is stored in several different computer systems, often worldwide, that the Information and Communication Technology industry become a regulated profession.  The industry should, in my opinion, establish a College of Information and Communication Technology who would define specific education, training and possibly experience requirements in order to be a ICT firm or to be an ICT professional at a business.

At the very least, I believe that we should open a dialogue to discuss options to work to ensure the safety of the information that we, as Information and Communication Technology professionals, have been entrusted to protect.

Another area where I believe that we, as an industry, should have a dialogue is the possibility of requiring disclosure of data breaches.  Some locales, like California, already mandate that companies and organizations disclose when their systems have been breached and personally identifiable information has been compromised, but many more jurisdictions have not yet adopted similar legislation.  I believe that a person has the right to know if their personal information was compromised, as well as how and through which organization (for example, a financial institution being compromised would likely be more of a concern to a person rather than a video store customer database being compromised).

I welcome your comments and ideas on this topic.  Please feel free to add a comment.