The Government of Canada has amended the rules governing Canadian passports to address concerns for both the safety of children and passport misuse.
The modified rules give Canada’s Immigration Minister the right to refuse a passport to a Canadian child under the age of 16 years of age if there are reasonable grounds to believe that doing so is in the child’s best interest.
This same concern can now also be used to justify the granting of a passport to a child under 16 in cases where the parent or legal guardian hasn’t applied for one.
“There are circumstances in which it is in the best interest of a Canadian child to have a passport, but the child’s parents/legal guardians are unwilling or unable to apply (e.g. when a child needs to travel to escape maltreatment, neglect or exploitation and parents are complicit or unavailable),” the amending order reads.
Refusal, cancellation or revocation of a child’s passport is permitted when it is deemed in the child’s best interest to prevent travel. An example of this would be in so-called “Amber Alert” cases, when a child disappears and there is concern for his or her safety.
The amendments address concerns raised by Parliament’s Standing Committee on Human Rights that the original orders “did not do enough to help ensure the protection of children,” the revised orders say.
In both cases, the child’s best interest is to be determined by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada in collaboration with government and non-government partners with due consideration for the child’s physical, cultural and emotional safety and well-being.
Refusal / revocation for misuse
The new rules also give Canada’s Immigration Minister the right to refuse or revoke the passport of a person who allows someone else to use it.
“Prior to the current amendment, there was no explicit authority to allow passport refusal or revocation in cases where an individual facilitates the misuse of a passport issued to someone else (for example, when a parent allows someone to use the passport issued to their child),” the order says.
“The Minister may refuse to issue a passport to a person if he or she has reasonable grounds to believe that the person facilitated the use of a passport by a person other than its bearer.”
IRCC said this amendment addresses integrity gaps resulting from court decisions that have hampered the ability to refuse or revoke passports in cases of passport-related offences, such as identity fraud, forgery and false statements in relation to a passport.
Many offences related to passport issuance are what are known as hybrid offences, meaning they can be prosecuted as either an indictable or a summary offence. Under the previous orders, there was no explicit authority to refuse or revoke a passport when a person is charged with a hybrid offence which the Crown had decided to pursue summarily.
This new rule clarifies the authority to refuse or revoke a passport when a person is charged with a hybrid offence.
The amended rules took effect immediately.