The Justice has filed a court application on behalf of Shelley Baker, Sonia Faye and Diane Smith, three Canadians whose passport applications were refused in violation of their Charter-protected right to leave the country.
The normal processing of passports, even those sent by mail, have not been processed since March 19, 2020, when all Service Canada Centres and Passport Offices closed. Citizens who required new passports or passport renewals were unable to obtain passports, unless they were able to prove to bureaucrats that they needed to travel for reasons that were “valid urgent”. According to the Government, “valid urgent reasons to travel” were:
- For a medical reason because [they] have a serious illness;
- Because of the serious illness or death of someone [they] have a relationship with;
- Because [they’ll] have financial problems from the loss of a job or business;
- To support an essential service;
- For humanitarian reasons (with letter of proof from humanitarian agency).
No definitions or explanations of the above criteria were provided to the public. The Justice Centre’s three clients attempted to convince bureaucrats that they had “valid urgent reasons to travel”, so their passport applications would be processed, but were refused.
On July 2, the Justice Centre sent a letter to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada demanding the Minister fulfill his constitutional obligations to accept and process passport obligations. No response was received.
The Justice Centre filed a court application on Monday, July 27, seeking an order from the court requiring the federal government to resume processing all passport applications, and a declaration that the refusal to process Ms. Baker’s, Ms. Faye’s and Ms. Smith’s passport applications violated their Charter right to leave Canada.
On July 31, four days after the court application was filed, the Government quietly resumed processing passport applications by mail. Canadians can now mail in their passport applications and receive their passport through the mail. There is no requirement for mail-in applications to disclose to the Government the reasons for needing the passport or to satisfy any criteria of urgency.
However, hurdles remain for Canadians needing a passport. In-person services are still suspended. Out of 343 passport processing locations nationwide, 342 remain closed to the public. For Canadians requiring a passport in less than 30 days, they must provide the following “proof of travel”:
- an airline, bus or train ticket
- a written declaration, if traveling by car
- a travel itinerary showing travel proof of payment
- proof of illness or death in the family requiring immediate travel
Even upon disclosing the above personal information, Canadians needing their passport renewed in less than 30 days “may need to show other proof that [their] situation is urgent”.
If a passport applicant can satisfy these arbitrary requirements, they will be permitted to attend by appointment to a Service Canada location or Passport Office to submit their passport application. However, only 10% of these passport processing locations have resumed providing in-person pick-up services for approved passports, meaning even some “urgent” passports will only be issued by mail.
The Justice Centre will continue to advance its court application to vindicate the rights of Canadians who, for many months, were unable to exercise their right to leave the country because they could not obtain a passport.