Aug 11th, 2020
CALGARY: After over four months of refusing to accept most passport applications, the Federal Government has resumed processing passport applications by mail. This comes after the Justice Centre filed a court application on behalf of three Canadians who had applied to renew their passports and were denied.
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.
However, on Friday, July 31, four days after the Justice Centre filed its court application, 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.
Canadians have a Charter-protected right to leave the country, which, as courts have recognized, can only be meaningfully exercised by those possessing a passport. Even assuming the normal processing time of 20 business days for mail-in passport applications, it will take more than another month for Canadians needing to renew their passport to receive a new one in the mail. The Justice Centre will continue to advance its court application to vindicate the mobility rights of Canadians who, for many months, were unable to exercise their right to leave the country because they could not obtain a passport.
“The resumption by the Government of accepting passport applications by mail is good news for Canadians who need to travel, but don’t have a valid passport,” states Justice Centre lawyer, James Kitchen. “However, the Federal Government must be held accountable for breaching Canadians’ Charter-protected right to leave the country for months on end.”