The newly introduced Canadian passport is sparking a range of reactions from across the country. The redesigned document, which was revealed on Wednesday, includes high tech security features, such as a polycarbonate data page and laser engraved personal information, along with a complete design overhaul.
The imagery of historic Canadian moments and figures like Terry Fox and Vimy Ridge Memorial, which feature on the current passport design, is being replaced with Indigenous imagery and nature scenes to reflect the four seasons. These include a child jumping into a lake and an iceberg alongside a polar bear.
Who decides what the passport looks like?
The last passport design overhaul took place in 2013, under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.
Jonathan F. Vance, a history professor at the University of Western, says designing a passport is a partisan task, as each party has a different understanding of history and symbols.
“Harper’s Conservatives were very much into history…as a symbol of Canadian achievement and unity,” he tells Yahoo News Canada. “The Liberals have shown much less interest in history generally, historically, because it can be divisive.”
Vance adds that it’s not surprising the passport redesign includes imagery that he describes as “pretty generic."
“There’s very little there that’s going to say to a passport holder or anyone overseas who’s looking at it that this is what Canada is,” he says.
Does history matter in a passport?
On social media, the unveiling of the new passport design proved to be polarizing.
Some were upset that the references to Canada’s history were completely removed.
Terry Fox and the heroes of Vimy Ridge have been scrubbed from the Canadian passport and replaced with random geese and a narwhal? Awful. Who approved this? Why? pic.twitter.com/DVIEGUewN1
— James Moore (@JamesMoore_org) May 10, 2023
Out: Terry Fox
I guess we know the ballot question for the next federal campaign. https://t.co/3YtuAlw1lI
— Jason Lietaer (@jasonlietaer) May 10, 2023
That we’ve gone from Vimy Ridge and Terry Fox to a Canadian passport that looks like a kid’s colouring book tells me everything I need to know about the people in charge and their utter disdain for nationhood. pic.twitter.com/AWHzzVfC5V
— Ted Bird (@manofbird) May 11, 2023
Terry Fox was a Canadian hero/legend replaced by a rainbow and some snowflakes on the Canadian passport.
“Our country needs more Terry Fox, not less.”
I am embarrassed for Canada. https://t.co/W0MlIBTBkw
— Christy 💕🇨🇦🇺🇸 (@Christy4Change) May 11, 2023
The Royal Canadian Legion expressed their disappointment on the decision to drop the image of the Vimy Ridge memorial.
Comment from Royal Canadian Legion on decision to drop the image of the Vimy Ridge memorial from the new Canadian passport design. pic.twitter.com/a1JzJhU0CA
— Glen McGregor 🐘 (@glen_mcgregor) May 10, 2023
Others felt that the new passport design wasn't a big deal.
If y’all have the time and energy to be outraged at the new Canadian passport, y’all should get a life. FFS.
— Gail Vaz-Oxlade (@GailVazOxlade) May 10, 2023
I agree with the changes, it is necessary so they are more difficult to copy. It doesn’t really matter to me what’s on the page. How often do people really recall Canadian history by looking at their passport?
— Mom Earle (@momearle) May 11, 2023
I love history. I wish more time was spent teaching it and civics. I like my (current) passport. But I think we need a bit of perspective. If you’re this upset over a passport redesign, maybe you just want to be upset. https://t.co/YPWnjxVcw3
— Althia Raj (@althiaraj) May 10, 2023
I don't give a shit what the passport looks like. I like what it stands for and represents.
People would kill to have a Canadian passport.
I guess I'm just not easily outraged.
— Michael (@mikethenavyguy) May 10, 2023
Imagine a life so good your biggest problem is the new Canadian passport.
— Hal O be thy name. (@Halbeerz) May 11, 2023
Some even expressed that they liked the new design.
The new Canadian passport ate and left no crumbs. Big purrr.
I will gladly exchange my current Canadian passport for this new design even though I still have like 8 years validity on it.
I like this new one.
Am I the only one? 😁 pic.twitter.com/SbFlqcJ8UT
— Olú (@Olufemiloye) May 10, 2023
The Canadian passport redesign is actually quite nice.
A bit of friendly advice for those having a meltdown. If you are triggered by everything, no one will know when you are truly serious about an issue.
Enjoy the art. Touch grass. Move on.#Cdnpolihttps://t.co/TElD9j5JkK
— David Jacobs (@DrJacobsRad) May 10, 2023
For all the pearl-clutching about the minimalist designs on the new Canadian #passport, here is what Norway did. Its a Fjord... In fact Norway's minimalist design won awards. None of this nonsense about "losing our heritage". https://t.co/cu2oOco7Fl pic.twitter.com/YBoYzDilaL
— Artur Wilczynski (@Arturmaks) May 11, 2023
Some users pointed out that the new design features include technology to help protect against identity theft and fraud, something Vance says Canada's been a leader in for years.
People now bitching how the new Canadian passport has “erased” or “cancelled” historical icons/images used in the previous design.
Ironic they don’t even realize the new design features a ton of new technology to protect their identities from being erased or cancelled by fraud.
— Dale Thompson (@daleethompson) May 11, 2023
The Ottawa-based Canadian Bank Note Company, which has been around since 1896, was tasked with the most recent redesign. In 2019, they were awarded a 14-year contract with the government of Canada.
In an e-mail statement, Nancy Caron, a spokesperson with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, explained that the theme of the passport was first identified more than 10 years ago and approved in 2020 following broad consultations, including with the Government of Canada’s forensic specialists, Canadian Heritage, and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada. The new theme was chosen to reflect Canada's "natural beauty, our multicultural identity, and our welcoming spirit."
She stresses that the complete redesign of passports is now the norm among leading nations, not the exception.
"Stagnant designs are significantly more vulnerable to counterfeiting," she says. "This will be a world leading travel document from a security point of view.
The redesigned passports will be rolled out in July.