In July, with no fanfare and barely any media attention, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC, now IRCC) took over control of Passport Canada from Foreign Affairs. Foreign Affairs had overseen Passport Canada for decades, even though Passport Canada was officialy independent and not funded by the federal government. 

 

About Passport Canada

Vimy Ridge Special Passport

Vimy Passport [Public Domain]

For most Canadians, Passport Canada was a breath of fresh air from other government experiences; they were efficient and usually exceeded their promised processing times, even if the staff weren't always the friendliest. (Their twitter account is besieged by Canadians pleased by the speed of their services.) Over the years, they tried various ways to make life easier for Canadians applying for passports. One year - maybe 2005 or 2006 - I was able to use my Notice of Assessment to log into their website when filing a renewal application. I completed the application online and printed it off. The next day I entered the Victoria Street Passport Canada office in downtown Toronto and got bumped to the head of the line because I had already completed most of my application online and passed one level of security checks. I was in and out in five minutes. I am not making this up. (I don't know why they stopped this particular method of applying. If I had to guess it was because the process violated somebody's very Canadian idea of fairness: only people have internet connections could take advantage.)

Even though you cannot apply that way any more, it's still really easy and passports still show up in the mail way before you expect them. My last renewal application took less than 10 business days and I had been told 4-6 weeks for delivery. They even often crazy-fast expedited services and people have got their passports within a day, if they are willing to pay. There are few - if any - bureaucracies in Canada that offer this kind of service.

 

Why Did CIC Take Over Passport Canada?

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC, now Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada or IRCC) has long distrusted the security measures of Passport Canada. In fact, Canadian citizens are not able to use their passports as proof of citizenship when applying for proof of citizenship (or anything else one might need) from IRCC. IRCC only accepts birth certificates or citizenship certificates as proof of citizenship.

CIC's suspicions were confirmed by the Auditor General of Canada in 2005, when she reported that Passport Canada was not doing enough to screen employees for security concerns. This, conbined with US fears that Canada was not carrying their full weight for North American security, created some serious doubts about how Passport Canada was run. Another report in 2007 revealed that things had not been fixed, despite the Auditor General's report. By 2009, things had supposedly improved in the security department, but obviously this was not satisfactory for the federal government, especially with the launch of the new biometric passport in July.

The government amended the The Canadian Passport Order to put Passport Canada under the umbrella of CIC. CIC has not made any major changes yet, at least for Canadians applying for passports. What they have done is they have begun issuing questionaires to passport holders who they think might have lied on their applications.

 

What's Next?

Bureaucracy by Harald Groven (http://www.flickr.com/photos/kongharald/)

Bureaucracy by Harald Groven / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Given the recent changes in immigration policy in Canada, it's likely that changes are coming to the passport regulations as well. More to the point, Canadians can expect investigations into their applications if there is an inconsistency, or possibly even revoked passports. It is likely that this will effect naturalized citizens of Canada more than it will effect people born in Canada, but of course it will effect anyone who has inconsistencies on their application. 

Also, Permanent Residents of Canada with Canadian children born in Canada should be wary of this change.

But perhaps the most worrisome change for everyone is CIC's reputation for backlogs versus Passport Canada's reputation for service. Depending on how much influence IRCC exerts on Passport Canada (or the Passport Office, as they are calling it), we may or may not see longer processing times, more annoying security procedures and generally poorer service.


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