Canada's new passport rule catches dual citizens by surprise
Starting Sept. 30, Canadians with dual citizenship must use their Canadian passport to travel back to Canada by air.
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Canadian citizens with dual citizenships will soon be allowed to fly into the country only if they have a Canadian passport.
The policy will come into effect Sept. 30 as a final phase of Canada’s move to an electronic screening system to step up border security and boost exit control of travellers, including Canadians on government benefits.
The upcoming requirement has caught many by surprise calling the practice “discriminatory” against dual citizens and a money grab, and is expected to create havoc as travellers with dual Canadian citizenships may find out only at the last minute when trying to board on a flight.
“What is changing is that the Government of Canada is implementing a new electronic system to assist airlines in verifying that all travellers have the appropriate documents to travel to or transit through Canada by air,” Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokesperson Lindsay Wemp told Torstar News Service.
“Air carriers are obligated by law to confirm that all persons seeking to travel to Canada carry both proof of citizenship and proof of identity. A valid Canadian passport satisfies these requirements for Canadian citizens, and is the only acceptable travel document for the purpose of air travel.”
Currently, Canadian citizens with dual citizenships can use the passport of the other country to enter Canada by air if they can provide proofs of residency in Canada, such as a driver’s licence and Canadian citizenship card.
According to the 2011 Census, at least 2.9 per cent of Canadians — 944,700 people — had multiple citizenships; the most frequently reported other citizenships were the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Poland.
Ottawa rolled out the electronic travel authorization, or eTA, system last year, requiring air passengers — including all applicants for study and work permits, as well as those from countries that currently do not require a visa to come to Canada — to submit their biographic, passport and other personal information through the immigration department website for prescreening or face being denied entry. American citizens are exempted.
However, Canadian citizens will be ineligible for eTA of Sept. 30, because they will be expected to carry their Canadian passports which, by default, bar dual citizens from using the passport of the other country to return to Canada. What baffles several observers about the new rule is that it only applies to air passengers.
“This proposed policy change is discriminatory to dual citizens and for the life of me, I cannot see why it is necessary. It would appear to be a money grab with no benefit and huge inconvenience for any of us who live overseas,” said Craig Campbell, 60, who was born to a military family in Manitoba and is a dual Canadian-Australian citizen.
“There is time to fix this appalling discriminatory policy. I served the country of my birth as did my father, uncles, aunts and grandfather before me. This is simply a shameful way to treat one very small category of proud Canadians for no discernible benefit to the country.”
Calgary-born Carey Du Gray, 45, who has lived in the U.K. since 2009, said he only found out about the new requirement when he was trying to book travel two weeks ago to fly home in October.
“My daughters were born in the U.K., but they are Canadian citizens. They would not be able to travel to Canada using their British passports. What lunacy, eh?” asked Du Gray, a fundraising consultant based in London.
“What followed was a 48-hour scramble to get all of the documentation and photos together. The guidance on the (Canadian) website said they were taking up to 40 business days to process new passport applications on account of the flood of them that are coming in ahead of the policy change.”
Canadian expatriate Sandi Logan, who worked in the Australian immigration department, said the requirement on dual citizens’ travel just doesn’t make sense.
“It’s bad policy on so many fronts. It discriminates against dual citizens of Canada for starters. It discriminates against dual citizens of Canada flying into any Canadian port, as opposed to arriving by sea or land,” said Logan, 59, who was born and raised in Toronto before settling in Australia in 1980.
“From my vast bureaucratic experience in the public service, it has all of the hallmarks of being a simple revenue grab masked as ‘border security,’ with no discernible impact on safe and stronger borders.”
(It currently costs $120 for a five-year Canadian adult passport and $160 for one that lasts for 10 years.)
Wemp said the federal government is doing everything it can to raise awareness among dual Canadian citizens about the importance of travelling using a valid Canadian passport.
A handout has been distributed at airports of entry, along with a media and social-media blitz via Canadian overseas missions since March of this year. Global Affairs Canada officials have also notified registered Canadian citizens abroad of the upcoming change by email and through their websites.
“All Canadian citizens have a Charter-protected right to enter Canada. Canadian law requires that all persons entering Canada carry both proof of citizenship and proof of identity,” said Wemp.
“A Canadian passport is the only reliable and universally accepted travel and identification document available to Canadians for the purpose of international travel. As the government does not want Canadians to face travel-related delays, we strongly encourage all Canadian citizens to travel using a valid Canadian passport.”