OTTAWA - The iconic images on Canada's new passports, unveiled with fanfare last week, short-change women and multicultural communities, says a report ordered by Passport Canada.

The passport agency hired a survey firm to "disaster check" more than a dozen of the watermark images on the pages of new passports being introduced next year, to ensure nothing offensive would be released.

Eight focus groups assembled in four cities last April found nothing "inappropriate or disturbing," but almost all said the choice of images failed to reflect Canada's diversity.

"Participants routinely suggested that the set of images should be more representative of Canada, with emphasis on including more women and better reflecting Canada's multicultural character and heritage," says the report by Phoenix Strategic Perspectives Inc.

Younger participants also said there were too few images of contemporary Canada.

The new passport images were praised by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird in an elaborate media event last week at the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Que. — soon to be rebranded the Canadian Museum of History.

"It tells the world who we are: a nation built on freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law," he said of the mostly historic images.

The watermark set includes the Bluenose schooner, the Last Spike, Niagara Falls and the Parliament Buildings, among others. But participants repeatedly cited the absence of women, including in an image showing the evolution of the RCMP.

"What tended to elicit most critical reaction in this image was the absence of a woman in the picture depicting the RCMP," says the report. "Part of this evolution surely includes the introduction of female officers."

One image does show a statue of early feminist Nellie McClung, which some in the focus groups called "unattractive," urging use of a photograph instead.

Another image, of Pier 21 on Halifax's waterfront to evoke immigration, "lacks people, which are needed to really connect the port to immigration."

The image of the Last Spike, completing Canada's transcontinental railroad, may show some Chinese labourers in the background, though the picture is unclear. And a totem pole and Inukshuk refer to aboriginal cultures.

But general feedback was that the historic images on balance are "exclusionary," failing to reflect the diverse communities who built the country.

Passport Canada paid $53,290 for the study, which queried small groups in Coquitlam, B.C., Toronto, Sherbrooke, Que., and Halifax.

In the summer, another government institution, the Bank of Canada, came under fire after The Canadian Press reported that an image of an Asian woman on the new $100 bill was changed after focus groups raised questions about her ethnicity.

A spokesman for the bank said her Asian features were removed to give the image a "neutral ethnicity," provoking outcry from Chinese Canadian groups and others. Mark Carney, governor of the bank, later issued an apology, saying the next set of currency images would be more inclusive.

Victor Wong, head of the Chinese Canadian National Council, said Passport Canada needs to change the imagery on the new passports.

"The photos appear to be archival, so in that respect they are a step ahead of the Bank of Canada bank note debacle, in that the designers are using authentic Canadian images," Wong said in an email from Toronto.

"However, the selection is not diverse enough and the government should make some adjustments to reflect Canada's female and diverse populations."

Anthony Morgan, a black Canadian law student articling in Ottawa, called the images "disheartening" after decades of efforts to make Canada truly multicultural.

"I feel they're a step backwards," Morgan, 27, said in an interview. "There's an outright exclusion of the true face of Canada."

He noted that no actual aboriginals are depicted, only symbols of aboriginal cultures that "give the impression they disappeared." Morgan called on the government to suspend the project until more inclusive images can be chosen.

A spokeswoman for Passport Canada said the images were tweaked slightly after the focus-group report to include visible minorities, though the additions are not readily seen.

Beatrice Fenelon said a picture of kids playing sports has a visible minority person "in a helmet in the back." And a visible minority was added to a picture of RCMP officers on horseback, though no women were included as the focus groups had recommended.

The new passport includes chip technology and watermark images designed to prevent fraud, and can be renewed for up to 10 years.


On the web:

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  • Pages 4-5: Aboriginal Peoples

    <b>Significance</b>: "The very start of the Canadian story," according to Passport Canada, which is why the watermark is on the first pages <b>What to look for</b>: The eagle feather, considered a link between the Creator and the people; the inuksuk, representing the Inuit; and the infinity symbol for the Métis

  • Pages 6-7: Samuel de Champlain

    <b>Significance</b>: The first governor of New France, and the man who established Quebec City <b>What to look for</b>: 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

  • Pages 8-9: Fathers Of Confederation

    <b>Significance</b>: The people who created Canada as a nation <b>What to look for</b>: 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."

  • Pages 10-11: The Last Spike

    <b>Significance</b>: 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 <b>What to look for</b>: 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

  • Pages 12-13: The Canadian North

    <b>Significance</b>: If you've ever called Canada "the great white North," (and you probably have), you know why honouring our northern territories matters <b>What to look for</b>: 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

  • Pages 14-15: The Prairies

    <b>Significance</b>: 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 <b>What to look for</b>: Beyond the fields and silo, the Prairies are also where oil and gas can be found, and the emphasis on that is significant

  • Pages 16-17: Immigration

    <b>Significance</b>: Canada is a nation of immigrants, and celebrates the multiculturalism of its people in every community <b>What to look for</b>: Pier 21 in Halifax was the port of entry for one million immigrants from 1928 to 1937

  • Pages 18-19: The Centre Block of Parliament

    <b>Significance</b>: The place where parliamentary decisions take place for our country <b>What to look for</b>: 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."

  • Pages 20-21: Niagara Falls

    <b>Significance</b>: One of the most recognized tourist destinations in Canada — not to mention a massive source of power <b>What to look for</b>: 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

  • Pages 22-23: The Canadian National Vimy Memorial, France

    <b>Significance</b>: 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 <b>What to look for</b>: 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

  • Pages 24-25: The City of Québec

    <b>Significance</b>: Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Québec City was founded in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain, and is "the modern heart of Francophone Canada" <b>What to look for</b>: The Château Frontenac on the hill, built in 1893, is one of the world's most photographed hotels

  • Pages 26-27: Royal Canadian Mounted Police

    <b>Significance</b>: Canada's national police force, and a symbol of the country all over the world (for better or for worse) <b>What to look for</b>: 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)

  • Pages 28-29: Moments In Canadian Sport

    <b>Significance</b>: 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) <b>What to look for</b>: 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

  • Pages 30-31: The Famous Five and Terry Fox

    <b>Significance</b>: 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 <b>What to look for</b>: 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

  • Pages 32-33: Canadians In War

    <b>Significance</b>: Our various battles on sea, land and air <b>What to look for</b>: 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

  • Pages 34-35: Cape Spear and the Bluenose

    <b>Significance</b>: Canada's strong fishing industries, and one of the vessels that helped make it so <b>What to look for</b>: The iconic Bluenose (which is also on the dime), and Cape Spear in Newfoundland and Labrador, the most easterly point of North America

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  • Name Change

    If you've gotten married or changed your name for other reasons and it says so on other official documents, like driver's licenses, it's recommended to order a new passport in your new name -- otherwise you might encounter problems at the border.

  • Spelling Mistake

    If there's an error printed on your passport -- either due to your mistake or the government's -- don't just try to book tickets under your misspelled name. Get that mistake fixed, or it can come back to haunt you in a foreign country, far from any embassy, if they ask for further identification.

  • Additional Pages

    If you're a frequent traveller, you know the panic of running out of space in your passport because its expiration date -- but whatever you do, don't add in pages yourself, as they'll be seen as invalid. Passports with more pages can be ordered when you get your passport (for an additional cost).

  • Scanned Copy

    Although one news story earlier this one told of <a href="" target="_hplink">a man who used a scanned version of his passport on his iPad to enter the United States</a>, that practice generally won't work at most borders. Always have the physical document with you.

  • Covering The Passport

    Putting anything on your passport as a covering material is not legal in most countries (note: the stickers depicted here are usually placed there by airline employees, and just fine).

  • Stamps For Certain Countries

    This one's a bit more detailed, but there's long been rumours about stamps from certain countries making it impossible to cross borders into other ones -- Israel is one country that often crops up in these discussions. A thread on <a href="" target="_hplink">Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree forum discusses this in detail</a>, but one option is asking Israel border guards - who are familiar with the issue -- not to stamp your passport in the first place.

  • Expiry Dates

    Most people know not to travel with an expired passport, but some countries are even stricter in their regulations, requiring that a passport be valid for up to six months once you're entered their territory. Be sure to check specifics for any location -- a good list of <a href="" target="_hplink">countries that enforce the rule is found here</a>.

  • Passport Photo

    Even if some countries have different regulations about their passport pictures (for example, some nations still allow for smiles in the shots), it's a good idea to adhere to international regulations for photos. A full list of <a href="" target="_hplink">requirements for Canadian passport photos can be found here</a>.

  • Water Damage

    Watch out for that pool! Water damage, even a small amount, can render a passport invalid, and because it's difficult to predict how stringent particular border guards will be, it's a good idea to replace it even if it's only a few drops.

  • Ripped Pages

    Pages that are ripped are considered to be damaged when it comes to passports. This is particular the case on the photo page, where airline staff might suspect falsified photos or details.