Canadian government braces for surge in passport renewals ahead of U.S. border reopening

Some interesting data. Surprising that there is not a monthly report in IRCC’s “Operational Processing” open data sets, some 8 years after passport was moved from Global Affairs to IRCC in 2013:

Source: Canadian government braces for surge in passport renewals ahead of U.S. border reopening

Policy allowing traditional names on passports criticized for not going far enough

When ideology runs against the reality of international travel:

A change in federal policy allowing traditional Indigenous names on passports and other travel documents is a step in the right direction, but doesn’t go far enough, says the vice-president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council.

Mariah Charleson notes that the Nuu-chah-nulth language uses special characters and letters to help with the pronunciation of words, but currently, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada can only print in the Roman alphabet, with some French accents.

“If I just tried to anglicize [the words] and write them in English or French text, it wouldn’t be the same,” said Charleson. “It wouldn’t sound the same.”

Charleson said many First Nations people want to reclaim their names, and recognizing the special characters is important. “A lot of our culture and who we are is enshrined in our language.”

The move, which came into effect in June, was in response to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission call to action, which appealed to the government to allow residential school survivors and their families to use their Indigenous names on government documents.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada took it further to include travel documents, citizenship certificates and permanent resident cards, for all Indigenous peoples.

IRCC’s systems are developed in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organization, which set the requirements to “help ensure all passports and travel documents are machine-readable,” said Nancy Caron, spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

“All systems that handle passenger data, including personal identity information, follow the ICAO standards,” she said. “This makes sure no matter where you travel, your passport or travel document works across computer systems.”

For the next five years, any Indigenous person can apply to reclaim their Indigenous names on travel documents, citizenship certificates and permanent resident cards free of charge.

“Supporting First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in reclaiming and using their Indigenous names is an integral part of the shared journey of reconciliation,” said Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino.

“Traditional names are deeply connected to Indigenous languages and cultures, and an individual’s identity and dignity. This change means that Indigenous peoples can proudly reclaim their name, dismantling the legacy of colonialism and reflecting their true identity to the world.”

Layla Rorick, who prefers to be called by her traditional Hesquiaht name chuutsqa, said she will not be changing her government documents.

The Hesquiaht First Nation language teacher said she worries that if all her travel documents don’t match with corresponding names, she might be denied access to cross borders.

“I don’t feel that the border service agents will be educated enough to understand why my passport would have my traditional name on it,” she said.

In order to avoid any possible issues, Caron said the IRCC recommends travellers have other identification documents that match their reclaimed names.

chuutsqa received her traditional name from the late Simon Lucas when she got married in 2005. It is short for čuucqiłamuʔuqʷa, which was the name of her great-great-grandmother who lived in the Hesquiaht Harbour, where her parents continue to live today.

By using it, chuutsqa said she is helping to normalize the use of traditional names.

“It’s important to honour and remember the names that you’re given in your language,” she said.

While chuutsqa said she thinks it’s important for First Nations people to use their traditional names every day with their families and in their communities, “using it to cross borders” isn’t a priority for her.

“I really appreciate that [the government is] addressing a call to action,” she said. “It’s one more step towards reconciliation … it’s just not something that holds a lot of value for me.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report was published in December 2015. It outlined 94 calls to action to address the legacy of residential schools and to promote reconciliation in Canada.

According to IRCC, name change requests were being considered on a case-by-case basis until the formal process was established.

“A person’s name is fundamental to who they are,” IRCC said in a statement. “Indigenous names are endowed with deep cultural meaning and speak to Indigenous peoples’ presence on this land since time immemorial. Yet the impact of colonialism means that many Indigenous people’s names have not been recognized.”

Although chuutsqa said she doesn’t intend to change her government documents, she will continue to use her traditional name every day.

“It’s a way to reconnect to what our ancestors would have called us,” she said. “And to help others feel comfortable in knowing that using our language is safe, it’s fun, it’s part of living a good life.”

Source: Policy allowing traditional names on passports criticized for not going far enough

Indigenous names can be reclaimed on passports and other immigration documents: Ottawa

Of note. Will be interesting to see take-up among Indigenous peoples:

First Nations, Inuit and Métis people can reclaim their Indigenous names on passports and other government documents, the federal government has announced.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said Monday that the change will include things such as travel documents and citizenship certificates, adding that the service will be provided free of charge for five years.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said the use of traditional names is intrinsic to Indigenous languages and cultures, as well as to identity and dignity. He said the decision is in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) call to action 17, which referenced passports.

But the department decided to go further to include a host of other documents, Mr. Mendicino said, adding that the work will be done with Indigenous leaders and communities to ensure the process is smooth.

“Our names are among the first things we receive,” he said. “They’re individualized, unique. They speak to our past, honouring those who came before us, and reflect our family’s history. Naming children is a profoundly important tradition across many different cultures and communities. The traditional names given to Indigenous children carry deep cultural meaning. Yet, for many First Nations, Inuit and Métis people, colonialism has robbed them of these sacred names.”

Indigenous children who were taken from their families and forced into the residential school system also had their names stolen from them, Mr. Mendicino said, pointing to the testimonials of survivors in the TRC’s final report.

IRCC said it is working on two other calls to action, including an update of the Citizenship Guide that will include the role Indigenous peoples played in the development of Canada and an amendment to the Oath of Canadian Citizenship that will refer to the rights of Indigenous peoples and treaties. Last week, a bill designed to amend the Citizenship Act to change the oath of citizenship passed third reading in the Senate. It is now awaiting royal assent.

In the past two weeks, Ottawa has faced pressure to further advance reconciliation in Canada after Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc First Nation in B.C. said it had discovered the remains of 215 children, former students of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, in unmarked graves. The finding touched off vigils and commemorations and demands that provincial governments and the federal government do more.

On Monday, Ottawa also announced appointees to the new Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages. Ronald Ignace will serve as the commissioner, with Robert Watt, Georgina Liberty and Joan Greyeyes as directors. The office will support Indigenous people to ensure their languages can be shared and spoken for years to come.

The federal government said the directors and commissioner were selected for their knowledge and understanding of Indigenous communities, cultures and languages.

“We celebrate this day where we breathe new life into all of our Indigenous languages for the future,” Dr. Ignace said. “Our languages will no longer stand in the shadow of other languages here in our land. Let us always honour our Indigenous languages.”

Source: Indigenous names can be reclaimed on passports and other immigration documents: Ottawa

New passport processing system $75M over budget

Yet another failing project, once again pointing out political and public servant accountability and management issues:

Another government IT project is going off the rails, this one intended to issue Canadian passports faster and cheaper than the current system.

The so-called Passport Program Modernization Initiative, launched in 2014, is at least $75 million over budget and well behind schedule.

“From its outset, the complexity … was underestimated,” says an internal document, explaining a series of setbacks to the ambitious plan.

“The project management capacity and expertise was insufficient for the complexity and scale of the initiative.”

The January 2017 document, obtained by CBC News under the Access to Information Act, says that in initial tests the new system actually increased processing times, rather than decreased them as planned, and allowed breaches to Canadians’ confidential information.

The passport mess joins the botched Phoenix payroll system, the struggling email transformation initiative and the project as IT schemes inherited by the Liberal government that have bogged down in delays and cost over-runs.

That’s because passport fees are much higher than the actual cost of producing the document, and surpluses can be used for improvements in passport processing, including the modernization project and its budget overruns.

Online renewals

The passport project was first approved in December 2013 with a five-year, $101.2-million budget, and was intended among other things to let Canadians apply online for renewals. The project was to be complete by June next year.

But Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada — which has run the passport office since July 2013 — now says modernization will cost at least $176 million, a 75 per cent increase so far, and will not meet next year’s deadline because of delays.

“The project schedule is under review and planned activities are being resequenced to occur at a later date,” says a report on the project.

CBC News has previously reported on the first flubbed test of the new system, starting on May 9, 2015, in which at least 1,500 passports were produced that were vulnerable to fraud and tampering.

But unlike the other three, the fees Canadians pay directly for their passports are going to bail out the modernization project rather than general tax revenues.

‘The reporting did not track project spending … against budgeted activities.’– Internal report on passport modernizaton project

The test was carried out despite warnings of some officials that it posed significant security risks. In the summer of 2015 the department suspended its use of the new system, which was plagued with hundreds of glitches. Officials said none of the 1,500 problematic passports was issued to any citizen.

An internal audit of the initiative’s first stages found a raft of problems, including lack of cost control.

“The reporting did not track project spending against budgeted activities,” says the February 2016 audit report, adding the project “did not include a plan for security requirements.”

In 2013, the new fee for a five-year passport was set at $120 compared with $87 previously, and the department introduced a new 10-year passport for a $160 fee.

Revenues currently far exceed expenses; the passport program generated a surplus of $253 million for 2015-2016, the most recent year reported.

Revenue to drop

But because more Canadians are holding 10-year passports, the department expects revenues to drop significantly starting next year as fewer people need renewals.

The program will start drawing on its accumulated surpluses after next year to avoid deficits — but the modernization program’s cost overruns will add to the fiscal pressures.

That’s the opposite of the original plan, which was for the passport modernization project to dramatically cut the cost of issuing passports, and help IRCC get through the lean years from 2018 to 2023 as revenues decline because of the effect of 10-year passports issued in 2013 and after.

Source: New passport processing system $75M over budget – Politics – CBC News

Canadian passport will have new marker for transgender travellers, justice minister says

As expected and good that this is being done government-wide to ensure consistency:

Transgender travellers will soon have another option to tick off on their passport other than “male” or “female.”

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said the government is working to update its gender identity policies right across federal departments, and they will include a revamped travel document.

“The prime minister is very mindful of perhaps a third box or an ability to mark something other than male or female. This work is being undertaken at Passport Canada,” she said. “Individual ministers and (people) within their departments are recognizing that this bill has been introduced, that there is work that needs to continue to be taken.”

Wilson-Raybould was testifying before the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee, which is studying government legislation to protect the human rights and security of Canadians based on gender identity and gender expression.

She said the government has much work to do to ensure its own policies accord with the intent of C-16, including a recognition that “simply ticking a box of male or female” doesn’t comply.

A sex field is mandatory for travel documents under International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) rules. ICAO allows one of three markers: F for female, M for male or X for “unspecified.”

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has already removed a requirement for proof of sex reassignment surgery for persons requesting to change the sex marker on IRCC documents, and the department is taking further steps to change the sex marker on travel documents, citizenship certificates and documentation for temporary and permanent residents, according to a government official.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to make all government-issued documents more reflective of gender diversity.

Seven countries have issued identification documents, such as a passport, with a third-sex designation.

‘Where does that end?’

But Conservative Senator Don Plett said changing the passport could have implications on international travel.

“When you start putting other boxes in, where does that end? How many boxes are we going to put in? I don’t think it’s a workable solution,” he said.

Bill C-16 would update the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, making it illegal to discriminate based on gender identity or expression and extending hate speech laws to include the two terms. Under the legislation, judges would also consider it an aggravating factor in sentencing when someone has been targeted for a hate crime based on gender identity or expression.

Wilson-Raybould said the protections are “long overdue” to end discrimination, lift barriers to employment and fill an important gap in the Criminal Code.

The bill has been praised by human rights and transgender advocates, but some senators on the committee raised concerns that there is no definition of the term, leaving it too vague for clear interpretation. Plett said the word “gender expression” could refer to what a person wears or how they comb their hair.

He asked what would happen if a person simply does not recognize more than two genders.

Personal pronouns

“For personal, scientific or faith-based reasons, do you believe they should have to refer to a person by a personal pronoun and should failure to do so constitute discrimination?” he asked.

Wilson-Raybould said Canadians should rest assured the bill will not infringe on freedom of expression, or compel anyone to refer to an individual by a certain personal pronoun.

Source: Canadian passport will have new marker for transgender travellers, justice minister says – Politics – CBC News

Ottawa looks at user-fee hikes for potential new revenue

While it is appropriate that the government is reviewing the User Fees Act to streamline the process (and increase revenues), there is a risk in providing departments with too much flexibility and too limited public consultations.

A clear case in point is with respect to citizenship fees, set at $100 in 1995.

The previous government obtained an exemption from the Act in Budget 2013 omnibus legislation which allowed it to avoid lengthy consultations and increase the fees to $300 in February 2014 along side Bill C-24’s revamping of the Citizenship Act. The government then did a further increase to $530 January 2015, with the change buried during the Christmas holidays.

This further increase was never mentioned during the Commons and Senate hearings on C-24, highlighting again the risk to public accountability.

There is also the broader risk that the current government may only look at fees from a cost recovery or private interest perspective, and not take into account that some fees reflect a mix of private and public interest.

I have argued elsewhere that citizenship fees have such a mix (see The impact of citizenship fees on naturalization – Policy OptionsC-6 Senate Hearings: Expected Impact on the Naturalization Rate) given the shared interest in encouraging political as well as economic and social integration.

Passports, also part of IRCC, are IMO more of private than public interest, where full cost recovery makes sense. Passport fees are subject to the Act and in testimony, departmental witnesses indicated that it took about two years to obtain approval:

The Liberal government is eyeing the user fees Canadians pay for federal services as a new source of revenue.

Since 2004, fees for everything from fishing licences to campsites have generally fallen farther behind the cost of providing those services. That’s the year the User Fees Act was passed, compelling departments to justify to Parliament any proposed fee increases or new fees.

The requirements under the law have been so onerous, however, that they effectively discouraged departments from applying for increases even as costs rose. The result is that taxpayers are stuck with higher bills for private benefits enjoyed by individuals and corporations.

The federal Treasury Board wants to fix the law to smooth the way for more fee increases, putting the fee-cost arithmetic back into balance — and snaring fresh revenues that could be worth millions of dollars.

The wide-ranging initiative, called the Modernizing of the Management of User Fees, is outlined in an internal document CBC News obtained under the Access to Information Act.

“While fees have not increased over time, costs have,” says the heavily censored Aug. 8 memo for Scott Brison, the Treasury Board president. (Numerous sections of the document, available below, have been whited out.)

“This resulted in an increase in the rate of taxpayer subsidies for government services that benefit private interests,” it says.

The freezing effect of the 2004 User Fees Act was dramatic, says the memo. Prior to the legislation, there were an average of 10 proposals each year to increase fees. After 2004, that dropped to 2.4 proposals annually.

Increased paperwork

Changes brought about by the legislation added “significant time and effort” in paperwork for fee increases or new fees, which discouraged applications. Departments have also since been wary of a provision that requires them to cut fees whenever they fail to meet performance standards, says the document.

As a result, 84 per cent of existing user fees have not been revised in nearly 13 years, and now cover a diminishing fraction of the cost of providing the services.

The memo cites the example of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which in 2004–2005 collected $54,999 in user fees for services that cost government $694,641 — or only about eight per cent of the bill.

Nine years later, at $55,988 in fees versus $877,306 in costs, the ratio had worsened to 6.4 per cent.

Other departments, including Health Canada and Industry Canada, have been more successful in keeping the fee-to-cost ratio in balance.

The released sections of the memo do not contain an estimate of potential new revenues.

A spokesman for Treasury Board declined to provide details or timing for the initiative.

‘Strengthening the accountability’

“While the matter of modernizing user fees is still under consideration, we remain committed to strengthening the accountability, oversight, and transparency of user fees,” Alain Belle-Isle said in an email.

Sheila Fraser, then-auditor general of Canada, found in 2008 that there were about 220 federal fees reported publicly, worth about $1.9 billion to the federal treasury. Fees are charged on a wide range of services, including passports, licences for manufacturing drugs, marine navigation, citizenship, and national park entry.

Fraser’s report, which made headlines that spring, criticized the government for overcharging Canadians for consular fees that were attached to passport application fees.

‘Inappropriately subsidizing’

Less noticed was her warning that the government “may be recovering less than an appropriate amount from fee payers, or, depending on the fee, taxpayers may be inappropriately subsidizing a private benefit …”

Source: Ottawa looks at user-fee hikes for potential new revenue – Politics – CBC News

New gender-neutral Ontario health cards make it harder to get a passport

Inexcusable lack of communication and due diligence by the Ontario government. While I know that OHIP cards are not intended for identification purposes, the reality suggests otherwise.

Systems are linked and it is the responsibility of officials to make the necessary checks:

Ontario’s decision to issue gender-neutral health cards is making it more difficult for some of the province’s residents to get a passport, since the federal government wasn’t consulted on the switch.

….The province announced in June that it will start issuing health cards that no longer display information about a person’s gender on the front of the card.

Changes made to be fair and equitable, province says

Beginning in early 2017, drivers will also have the option on their licences to select X, instead of an M for male or F for female.

The province’s Liberal government said it is making the changes “to ensure the fair, ethical and equitable treatment of people with trans and non-binary gender identity.”

Bestard maintains this is a positive step for non-binary people, and one that she has absolutely no problem with. “I do understand the nuances of the LGBTQ community, and the challenges they face,” she said.

The issue, she says, is the headache that has been created by the two levels of government not working together.

“The lack of communication is quite surprising,” she said.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokesperson Lindsay Wemp told CBC News that “IRCC was not consulted as part of this initiative from the government of Ontario.”

Christine Burke, spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, says ServiceOntario has been working with the federal government to address this situation.

“No consultations took place with the federal government prior to the change, as we were unaware that the photo health card was being used and accepted as an identity document by Passport Canada,” she said in an email.

Kwok Wong, spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario, told CBC News that the ability to just mark an X for gender on an Ontario licence complies with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards for machine-readable official travel documents.

“In various other countries, X is used in place of M or F when gender is not specified,” he said in an email.

“Ministry of Transportation officials discussed this proposal with the federal government counterparts including Passport Canada and Canada Border Service Agency.”

It appears that a licence marked with an X would not be able to be used to obtain a passport, as proof of gender is still one of the requirements.

Source: New gender-neutral Ontario health cards make it harder to get a passport – Hamilton – CBC News

Canadian passports exposed to security risks under new processing system

Normal teething pains or more serious problems?

At least 1,500 Canadian passports have been produced under a flawed new system that has opened the door to fraud and tampering, according to documents obtained by CBC/Radio-Canada.

Internal records from Citizenship and Immigration Canada reveal the processing program was rushed into operation on May 9, 2015, despite dire warnings from senior officials that it was not ready and could present new security risks.

One government source told CBC/Radio-Canada there are concerns that passports produced under the new system could wind up in the wrong hands.

Internal reports warn these problems endanger the security of the Canadian passport.

Since the launch of the new system, officials have been scrambling to fix hundreds of glitches and seal security gaps. Weeks after the new process was brought on line, there were calls to stop production.

Those recommendations were ignored, and the passports continue to be issued in the first phase of production under the new system, designed to enhance security and integrate with other global programs.

Numerous reports show that during a period of several weeks, it was possible for Citizenship and Immigration employees to alter the photo on a passport after it had been approved. And there are numerous reports of discrepancies between information contained in the database and what actually appeared on a passport.

In some cases, information disappeared from the system, making it difficult to verify if the applicant had used questionable guarantors or had made repeated claims of lost or stolen passports in the past.

That information acts as a safeguard to flag potential problems with applications.

Responding to the CBC report during a campaign event in Etobicoke, Ont., today, Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson said ensuring the Canadian passport is secure is a top priority.

“Any mistake, any problems are quickly looked into and remedied,” he said. “The system that we have in this country is as good as any in the world, and I’m confident that will continue.”

Source: Canadian passports exposed to security risks under new processing system – Politics – CBC News

Planned passport renewal change opens door to fraud, forgery

My working assumption is that there would have been considerable risk analysis undertaken before making this change, and that Public Safety and its agencies would have been consulted and likely would have commented on the potential risks.

As more and more information is captured and shared electronically, hard to see how an expired passport would allow entry to any OECD country or equivalent.

Option summary worth noting:

From the Citizenship and Immigration Canada documents

Option No. 1 — Status quo of requiring passport holders to return their travel documents


  • Allows passport program to take previous travel documents out of circulation and invalidate them in the system.
  • Prevents applicants from having two valid travel documents in their possession.


  • The application process would not be entirely online, since applicants would have to return their previous passport to a designated location or by mail.
  • May reduce the number of online applications.
  • May increase application processing time and the number of incomplete applications if the previous passport can not be located.

Option No. 2 — Policy change that does not require passport holders to return their travel documents to the passport program


  • In line with New Zealand’s current practices.
  • Adapted to online service and in line with client services, since clients do not have to return their passport to the passport program.
  • The online declaration and the sharing of information about cancelled and expired travel documents would address the risks related to the fraudulent use of passports by a third-party.


  • Goes against the United Kingdom, United States and Australian current practices, as all three countries require that the most recent travel document, whether valid or expired, be returned. These countries do not offer an online renewal service.
  • Could inconvenience travellers crossing a border with their previous passport that has been invalidated in the system.
  • Risk of not “catching” applicants that damaged or lost their previous travel documents.

Source: Planned passport renewal change opens door to fraud, forgery – Politics – CBC News

Montreal imam has passport revoked; was once named as ‘subject of interest’ in probe

Seeing how the policy is being applied and what (public) risk factors are considered:

The case is spelled out in documents filed last week in the Federal Court of Canada, where Mr. Goldberg is arguing the government “erred in law” by revoking the cleric’s [Sheikh Ali Sbeiti’s] passport “and denying him passport services for an unspecified time.”

In his application, Mr. Goldberg claimed the decision violated Mr. Sbeiti’s mobility rights and was based on “erroneous findings of fact it made in a perverse and capricious manner.” Passport Canada also failed to observe procedural fairness, he said.

The case is the latest test of federal regulations that allow the government to revoke or refuse passports on several grounds, including if it is deemed “necessary for reasons of the national security of Canada or another country.”

A 46-year-old Shi’ite cleric, Mr. Sbeiti was born in Najaf, Iraq, and studied religion in Lebanon and Iran, according to the Centre Communautaire Musulman de Montreal website, which identifies him as its imam, although a person who answered the centre’s phone said he no longer worked there.

“He immigrated to Montreal, Canada, in 1988 and went back to Qom, Iran, to continue his religious studies. Few years after he came back to Canada to serve the community,” it said. He founded “associations and community centres all across Canada,” including in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Windsor, Edmonton and Vancouver, the CCMM biography said, adding he was an “active member of several committees and bodies involved in the community and religious activities across North America.”

According to Quebec corporate records, Mr. Sbeiti is president of the Association El-Hidaya, a Montreal non-profit group founded in 1997. The association’s address, according to provincial records, is the same as that of the CCMM.

In 2006, he told a self-styled “People’s Committee on Immigration Security Measures” about “his personal and community experiences of harassment” by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Quebec activist group wrote in its report.

“He has been interviewed tens of times by CSIS (starting well before 11 September 2001), often for hours at a time,” and people who arrive in the country are regularly asked about him and whether they plan to attend his prayers; they are made to feel as though he is dangerous,” the committee’s report said.

Mr. Sbeiti “began having problems at airports” and complained about delays getting his boarding passes and being “asked to stand aside and wait while others were processed,” it said. “Eventually, he found out that he had been placed on the no fly list in the United States and that this was affecting him even when he was flying in Canada.”

Montreal imam has passport revoked; was once named as ‘subject of interest’ in probe | National Post.