Passport, slightly torn, a 'ridiculous' bureaucratic nightmare

A British Columbia man says he’s enduring a bureaucratic nightmare that is preventing him from leaving the country – all because of a small tear in his passport.

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Grant Smith, of Kelowna, B.C., said he taped the slightly torn passport page and was using the document without any problems until he had to renew it last fall. That’s when he was told that his passport was invalid because of the damage.

Smith was told to apply for a new passport, and he needed to show proof of his Canadian citizenship. But Smith, who was born in England and became a Canadian citizen 50 years ago, had misplaced his citizenship certificate over the years. When he went online to request a copy, a notice on the Customs and Immigration Canada website warned him that could take five months.

Smith said a government representative told him that the process could take as long as two years in some cases.

Smith, who needs to travel for work, said he doesn’t understand why his citizenship and identity can’t be confirmed in the government database. He has a valid Nexus card that is now useless because it’s tied to his passport. He also still has his old, expired passports that show he’s been a Canadian citizen for decades.

"The favourite phrase I've been using lately is ridiculous,” Smith told CTV Vancouver. “I will actually be locked here in Canada unable to travel anywhere."

Citizenship and Immigration Canada told CTV Vancouver that it receives 55,000 requests every year for citizenship replacement certificates. The department said the certificates can be expedited under special circumstances, such as the need to travel in case of family illness or death or, like in Smith’s case, the need to cross the border for work.

The department also confirmed to CTV Vancouver that it has the ability to confirm someone’s citizenship through internal systems and that can be done within 48 hours.

"I don't think the average Canadian has a clue about what can potentially happen if you don't have all the of the documentation on hand when you want to renew an important document like a passport, " Smith said.

With a report from CTV Vancouver


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