Canada's “urgent”-only passport renewal process violates Charter rights: JCCF

Canada's “urgent” passport renewal process violates Charter rights: JCCF

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has sent a letter to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship demanding that the Government of Canada resume passport renewal services.

Since March 19, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada has only provided access to passport or travel document services if you have a reason to travel which “urgently” which falls under one of a number of “valid” reasons.

Valid reasons for urgent travel include “for humanitarian reasons” with a humanitarian organization, in response to the “death of someone you know” and if “you'll have financial problems from the loss of a job or a business.”

In a letter to Minister Marco Mendicino, the JCCF explained that this process infringes on the Charter rights of their client Shelley Baker, a woman who was told that her passport renewal application is not "urgent" and will not be processed:

Ms. Baker attempted to renew her passport in May, as it had expired on March 26. When she discovered that all processing offices had been closed to the public, she called IRCC. She was advised 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.

The refusal to receive and process Ms. Baker’s passport renewal application infringes her constitutional rights as protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the “Charter”). Further, Ms. Baker should not have been required to divulge personal details about her circumstances and travel intentions to the government as a condition of obtaining a renewal of her passport.

The Justice Centre will pursue legal action if they do not receive a reply before the end of the week.

In a press release, JCCF lawyer James Kitchen states:

“There is no reason, related to COVID or otherwise, for the government offices that process passport applications to remain closed.”