Passport Woes

April 7, 2008

The Honourable Diane Finley

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Jean Edmonds Building, Tower South, 21st Floor
365 Laurier Street West, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L1


Dear Ms. Finley,

I greatly appreciate your efforts to bring resolution to the tragic saga of Don Chapman, a “lost Canadian” who has been put through more pain and angst than any one human should have inflicted on him or his family.

His sin is that as a Canadian he has had to deal with the vast bureaucracy that we taxpayers fund. I am not singling you out as responsible. This lost Canadian business happened before your election, yet you are resolving it. Good for you!

When Don told me of his problems I thought he was exaggerating government red tape. You helped him sort things out…although it took over 25 years to address his concerns (Bill c-37).

Perhaps you can also help me sort things out.

I am 66 years old and from age 19 have held a Canadian passport. My latest passport expired and in compliance with regulations (the simplified ones touted on TV and in print) I filled out the forms for a new one.

My first application was rejected because I was smiling (ever so slightly). Apparently you cannot show your teeth. You can of course have a beard — which would mask a smile or scowl or teeth. (I don’t mean you personally could have a beard. That would be silly. And a waste of good beard glue.)

A curious rule, that no smiling provision.

We Canadians are a happy lot, Ms. Finley, and we travel the world. We are pleasant and easy to get along with. (Question:  Why did the Canadian cross the road? Answer:  To get to the middle.) From a PR point of view, and to contribute to international goodwill, might we slightly relax this smiling regulation?

Certain maniacal border guards are uh, touchy. You can see the problem — a border guard’s first impression is a non-smiling Canadian photo. Not good. And you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression. Hello, Guantanamo Bay.

I am sending along a copy of my “smiling” passport photo (Exhibit A) along with your rejection form (Exhibit C). If you were to use a magnifying glass you might see a tiny dot under each ear. You will note that your screeners found no objection to these tiny dots, little more than dust spots or fly specks or wayward pixels. (More about this later.)

By the way, I visited your website and there is a terrific photo of you. You are beautiful and you don’t have a single wrinkle. What a marvelous smile you have. As soon as I saw your photo I trusted you.

Of course you couldn’t use that photo on your passport. The smile would have to go. The shadows on your face and the background would get you a quick rejection. You’d have to drop the Maple Leaf. But again, you look just terrific! Canada is lucky to have such a pleasant smiling person representing it. I bet that photo could get you past the most vicious border guards. Even cannibals. Maybe even Republicans.

Anyway, back to my problem with my passport. I redid everything for the second time.

Today I received yet another rejection. (Exhibit D) Apparently the Canadian passport office has a division that deals with rejection. At least that is who sent the latest rejection. Is there a special office that deals with passport acceptance? Maybe that is where I should send my application. I’m curious: how large is this passport rejection division? Do more people work in it than the passport acceptance division? (You don’t have to answer that. I was being sarcastic. Please forgive.)

As you can see this latest passport was rejected because of shadows. Why do I have shadows on my face? Because I am 66 and have wrinkles. Wrinkles cause shadows. How does one get rid of the wrinkles? Botox? Plastic surgery? The latter might work but then my wife would look too old beside me and cruel people would call her a cougar.

Please refer to photo (Exhibit B) that was rejected. There is a shadow all right. It’s my dang chin. The photo was taken by an official Auto Club of America photographer. She has taken 100s of passport photos for a variety of other countries. None of these have been rejected to my knowledge.

My application was also rejected because your Guarantor Instructions say:  One photo must be signed by a guarantor “as a true likeness of the applicant.” My photo was signed by my guarantor. This is the same person who swore to my identity on my passport application.

In addition to this rejection your people sent me an additional fact sheet indicating there were shadows “under the ears.” (Exhibit D) This was written in by hand so I assume at the time I took the photo this regulation did not even exist in your printed matter. Please look at the photo. It’s me. I am not smiling. I am not scowling. I look like a regular stupid Canadian. The only shadows I have are from wrinkles. (My wife has just read this letter, and now she’s on a campaign to buy Botox for herself.)

I counted the number of requirements your fact sheet indicates an applicant has to abide by in order to get a passport. It’s over four dozen. And that does not include the incredible and complicated directions for a photo. It appears to me that many of the guidelines are contradictory and vague. Based on these regulations it is my opinion that any application could be denied based on the whims of your photo examiners.

Let me tell you why. Both photos were taken by the same organization with the same camera. Exhibit A seemed to be fine when it came to any shadows. It was my seditious smile that caused the rejection. (Please, I am teasing about sedition but I could not resist the alliteration.)

Exhibit B was then rejected because of the same tiny (this time tinier) shadows under my ears. Fly specks? Dust spots? Minuscule shadows?

So while I am falling more into line with your unwritten regulations, the screeners seem to be becoming ever more vigilant. What is going on? Have they recently been issued electron microscopes?

Any reasonable person would accept Exhibit B. I know this because I am a reasonable person and I would pass Exhibit B with flying colors. (My wife, who is not a reasonable person, has just said this is not reasonable.)

It feels I am being singled out for some Machiavellian and/or draconian measures and no matter what I do my application will be rejected. (My wife, who for the record has smooth skin, has now suggested that I am the cause of these Machiavellian and draconian measures since I won’t fall into line and pay yet another $12 for a photo and yet another $17 for mailing. She has also cautioned me to stop writing letters and wasting the time of our representatives who know what is best for us.)

Please excuse my wife. She is becoming unmanageable and increasingly petulant because we have had to delay travel and holiday plans for four months. (And yes, I do regret promising my smooth-skinned mate that a passport application would only take a week or so.)

Please help me replace my expired passport before I expire. Or become yet another lost Canadian. Possibly a divorced one.


Jaron Summers

Exhibit A & B


Exhibit C


Exhibit D


Update/April 08/08

Took yet another set of photos, sent entire passport application off again.

Update/May 16/08

Passport arrived (gasp, at last). Major screw up with return of my documents.

(The Marx Brothers knew how to deal with passports.)


passport-4Here is my tip of the month. If you live in Los Angeles and you want a perfect passport or visa photo go to Westwood Photo Studio. The experts there have digital equipment and can delivery exactly the kind of photo required by any government in the world. Phone 310-470-9233 / 1244 Westwood Blvd., LA, CA 90024.


They are not paying for this ad and they are not compensating me. I was delighted with their knowledge, service and price.

Look, no shadows. No smile. No frown. Passport Canada agreed.




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