The Conservative government’s fervour for Canadian history will play out on the pages of your new passport, soon to be unveiled after nine years of delays and cost overruns.
After a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign for the War of 1812 and the announcement that they plan to rename the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa as the Canadian Museum of History, the Tories are set to unveil new designs for Canada’s electronic passport that focus on key historical moments, HuffPost has learned.
Bureaucrats at first recommended the government adopt images of fauna and flora to grace the inside pages of the new travel document, similar to the United Kingdom’s passport, but the Conservatives chose instead to focus on history and follow the example of the United States’ passport with its images of the Declaration of Independence and Mount Rushmore.
“It will be something that Canadians can be proud to carry,” said Rick Roth, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. Roth refused to elaborate on the design sketches that will be part of the new electronic passport, which will be issued for five- and 10-year time periods.
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The implementation of Canada’s ePassport, which includes an electronic chip with facial recognition information, has been delayed for nine years. A pilot program for diplomats and public office holders was planned for 2005 but did not get under way until 2009. The national roll-out was put on the back burner until the 2008 budget announced ePassports would be ready in 2011. Then it was 2012. Now, they should be ready in 2013.
STORY CONTINUES BELOW SLIDESHOW
Significance: "The very start of the Canadian story," according to Passport Canada, which is why the watermark is on the first pages What to look for: The eagle feather, considered a link between the Creator and the people; the inuksuk, representing the Inuit; and the infinity symbol for the Métis
Significance: The first governor of New France, and the man who established Quebec City What to look for: A picture of the statue of Champlain in Ottawa, as well as a rendering of the Don de Dieu, his ship, and the map he drew representing New France
Significance: The people who created Canada as a nation What to look for: A quote from Canada's first Prime Minister, "…a great nation—great in thought, great in action, great in hope, and great in position," as well as one from co-premier Sir George-Étienne Cartier, "Le temps est venu pour nous de former une grande nation."
Significance: As every Canadian who took history knows, this term stands for the final connector in the railway that brought together Canada's vast Atlantic and Pacific borders What to look for: Besides railroad director Donald A. Smith putting in that last spike, the image also shows the Chinese workers who played such an instrumental role in building the railway — and who were officially apologized to in 2006 for the Chinese Head Tax policy that existed during that time
Significance: If you've ever called Canada "the great white North," (and you probably have), you know why honouring our northern territories matters What to look for: Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut, along with explorer Captain Joseph-Elzéar Bernier, who helped establish Canada's sovereignty over these lands with his travels
Significance: Representing Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, these provinces not only make up a huge portion of Canada's land, they also give us - and the world - much of our food What to look for: Beyond the fields and silo, the Prairies are also where oil and gas can be found, and the emphasis on that is significant
Significance: Canada is a nation of immigrants, and celebrates the multiculturalism of its people in every community What to look for: Pier 21 in Halifax was the port of entry for one million immigrants from 1928 to 1937
Significance: The place where parliamentary decisions take place for our country What to look for: The Peace Tower, built to remember Canada's commitment to peace, as well as a quote from former Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker: "Parliament is more than procedure - it is the custodian of the nation's freedom."
Significance: One of the most recognized tourist destinations in Canada — not to mention a massive source of power What to look for: The fact that the image shows only the Horseshoe Falls, the biggest and arguably the best of the three Falls, and the only one in Canada
Significance: The capture of Vimy Ridge changed the First World War and established Canada — who four divisions took the stronghold — as a force on the international stage What to look for: Designed by Canadian sculptor and architect Walter Seymour Allward, with the names of the 11,285 Canadians who were "missing, presumed dead" in France etched upon it
Significance: Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Québec City was founded in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain, and is "the modern heart of Francophone Canada" What to look for: The Château Frontenac on the hill, built in 1893, is one of the world's most photographed hotels
Significance: Canada's national police force, and a symbol of the country all over the world (for better or for worse) What to look for: The stetsons that are part of their uniform, and the evolution from old-time policemen to a modern day force which includes men and women (though only male officers are depicted)
Significance: Sports are the way in which many countries band together, and Canada is certainly no different, with its emphasis on football and hockey (not to mention curling, lacrosse and rugby, not pictured) What to look for: The Grey Cup and the Stanley Cup, one of which is inherently Canadian, the other of which has not been won in Canada for 20 years
Significance: People who will forever be known as great Canadians: On the left, the women who pushed for equal status of their gender in the Senate and country, and on the right, Terry Fox, who lost a leg to cancer and vowed to run across the country raising money for the disease's eradication What to look for: Images of Nellie McClung (statue), Henrietta Edwards, Louise McKinney, Emily Murphy and Irene Parlby, and the 1981 car following Fox, representing the year he sadly passed away before completing his Marathon of Hope
Significance: Our various battles on sea, land and air What to look for: W.A. "Billy" Bishop, legendary Canadian flier and recipient of the Victoria Cross in the First World War; Her Majesty's' Canadian Ship (HMCS) Sackville, used in World War II; Canadian infantry during the Korean War; and the National War Memorial in Ottawa
Significance: Canada's strong fishing industries, and one of the vessels that helped make it so What to look for: The iconic Bluenose (which is also on the dime), and Cape Spear in Newfoundland and Labrador, the most easterly point of North America
Canada is the last G7 country to implement the international standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in 2003. All of Canada’s key allies and more than 95 countries, including Pakistan, Sudan and Tajikistan, have pushed ahead with the technology.
The specific reason for the delay is blacked out in documents released to The Huffington Post Canada under the Access to Information Act.
Passport Canada officials said funding delays and disagreements with management over the scope of the project contributed to the problem. The office operates on a cost-recovery basis and the ePassport required substantial upfront costs for technology and infrastructure.
In a report on the lessons learned, Passport Canada program manager Julie L’Ecuyer wrote that an unprecedented spike in passport applications in 2007 — after the U.S. imposed passport requirements on Canadian citizens crossing the border — contributed to the delay, as well as “misinterpretations of the requirement and design” of the ePassport.
Passport Canada began to plan for adoption of the ePassport in 2004, but a $2.2-million pilot program was started only in January 2009. It took 450 days longer than expected and cost $2.366 million — $165,000 more than planned, although a $622,000 budget increase for the project went mostly unspent, according to the records.
The pilot program was also plagued with problems: the contractor missed delivery deadlines; the first batch of passport booklets was of poor quality; a grammar error in the French text was discovered during the implementation phase; it took a long time to “figure out” how to safely deliver the transport keys; the ePassport symbol was not printed on the right page as per ICAO’s recommendation; and the chips did not respond on the first attempt when scanned. L’Ecuyer noted: “We were told 30 per cent of the chips don’t. ...”
The ePassports were also rushed through testing and Passport Canada suffered from a lack of technical expertise, L’Ecuyer wrote.
“In the end, the whole situation created a lot of stress and confusion,” she said.
The lengthy delays raised concerns with Passport Canada and Foreign Affairs officials who suggested in 2010 that the holdup could jeopardize Canadians’ easy access to the United States. Officials repeatedly noted that the U.S. required all visa waiver countries to issue ePassports and said Canada could lose its privileged status if the country didn’t move forward quickly with the new technology.
Security concerns also dogged the project.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner raised questions about the security level of the chip, the privacy implications of using radio-frequency identification technology and potential future uses of the data chip.
Passport Canada explored the feasibility of adding a second biometric, such as fingerprints or iris scans, but decided in the end not to include more information on the chip than what is found on page 2 of the current passport.
The system, however, is set up to use facial recognition software if desired. One briefing note states: “US and Canada have no immediate plans for automated border entry systems using facial images in ePassports.” But if both countries wanted to, they could easily implement such a network. Passport Canada’s facial-recognition database has more than 20 million records that include old photos of passport applicants that it uses to match new applicants and those seeking renewals.
Andrew Clement, a professor at the faculty of Information at the University of Toronto, is particularly concerned by Passport Canada’s growing database.
He believes Passport Canada should have both consulted the public on the type of biometric information it wanted to collect and publicly stated what future use it might have for the data.
“The database could be used for other purposes if there aren’t sufficient restraints on it,” Clement said in an interview. He noted that the Crown-owned Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) offered the Vancouver police the use of its facial recognition technology and database to find people involved in the Stanley Cup hockey riot in 2011.
The temptation over time to use the database as a way of identifying people from photographs could just be too great, he said.
“It is opening the door to a range of possible biometrics. They are creating an online biometric database which needs very strong safeguards, and they are proceeding without due oversight,” Clement said.
Several other Canadian agencies collect biometric information: the RCMP runs the Canadian Criminal Real Time Identification Services; the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) has the NEXUS program for frequent travellers to the United States; CBSA also has a 5CC information sharing program; and, with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, it operates a Temporary Resident Biometrics Project. Provincial motor vehicle operator licensing units also have large facial-recognition databases.
Passport Canada has so far issued some 50,000 diplomatic and special ePassports using the new chip technology. It expects to begin the rollout to the general public next spring.
To make up for the higher cost of the ePassports, Canadians will have to pay more: $57 for a five-year child passport, $120 for a five-year adult passport and $160 for a new 10-year passport for adults.