Federal Government violates Charter mobility rights by refusing passport applications


OTTAWA: The Justice Centre has issued a letter to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) on behalf of Shelley Baker, after IRCC refused to accept her May 2020 passport renewal application for processing. The Justice Centre has demanded IRCC immediately process Ms. Baker’s passport renewal application and cease the unconstitutional practice of only processing passport applications that are arbitrarily deemed by IRCC to be “urgent”.

Since March 19, 2020, numerous Canadians have attempted to renew their passports, only to be told that unless their application is deemed “urgent” by IRCC, it will be not be accepted and processed. Ms. Baker’s passport expired on March 26, 2020 and she attempted to renew it in May. She discovered that all processing offices had been closed to the public, and phoned IRCC. She was told by IRCC that only “urgent” passport applications were currently being accepted.  Ms. Baker explained why her situation was “urgent”, but her request to have her passport renewal application accepted was denied without reasons.

Section 6(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides that “[e]very citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in, and leave Canada”. The practical reality is that the right to leave Canada can, in most cases, only be exercised by citizens who have a passport. The government’s refusal to receive and process Ms. Baker’s passport renewal application infringes her constitutional rights, without justification. Nothing regarding the declared COVID-19 pandemic or remaining travel restrictions in any way justifies the refusal to accept for processing from citizens passport renewal applications.

“The Federal Government has a constitutional obligation to accept and process passport applications in a timely and fair manner,” explains Justice Centre lawyer, James Kitchen. “Without their passports being renewed, people are not able to get on a plane to leave the country for any number of personal reasons, as is their Charter right to do so.”

“There is no reason, related to COVID or otherwise, for the government offices that process passport applications to remain closed. The continued refusal to accept passport applications unless bureaucrats deem them “urgent” unjustifiably violates the section 6 mobility rights of Canadians,” concludes Kitchen.