Passport Canada called 'asinine' after 'insensitive' comments

One senior is offended and calls Passport Canada "asinine" after the agency suggested seniors and low-income Canadians could avoid the 2013 passport fee increase by simply not travelling abroad.

“I think Passport Canada has shown quite incredible insensitivity and really disrespect to the seniors’ community," said Larry Duffield, chair of the senior advisory committee in Windsor, Ont. "I don’t think they appreciate the difficulties that seniors have in trying to make ends meet when they’re on relatively fixed incomes."

Passport Canada acknowledges the increases may be too much of a burden for seniors or low-income Canadians, and also suggest they use alternative documents.

The cost of getting a five-year Canadian passport will jump to $120 in July from the current price of $87.

As a 70-year-old with family in the U.S. Duffield travels across the border as many as three times a week.

“For us that passport is an essential document and we use it regularly," said Duffield. "It just was disrespectful and insensitive and dismissive of the situation that many seniors face."

Children's passports will cost $57, up from the current fee of $37.

Without the fee increases, Passport Canada says it would not be able to maintain current operations, introduce a 10-year e-Passport and keep pace with technological advances.

The e-Passport looks like a regular passport booklet, but contains an electronic chip that holds all the personal information listed on the second page of the document.

The chip, which is already being used in dozens of other countries, can be read by border authorities to confirm the passport is valid.

The agency is also going to start offering those 10-year passports this July, at a cost of $160.

Even a one-time expense of $160 once every 10 years can be a burden for seniors, Duffield said.

"They’re going to have to forgo expenses of another kind or cut back on expenses of another kind which may be really quite essential like food or rent or their regular monthly expense," said Duffield. "Not a lot of seniors are putting away and saving at this point in their lives, they’re pretty well maxed on what their income is.”

Duffield said Passport Canada must not have put much thought into its statement.

"The whole concept of suggesting to seniors not to travel and stay at home is completely contrary to the idea of active and healthy lifestyle that the government is supposed to be promoting, which includes travel," said Duffield.

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