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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Elizabeth Eberly

What happens when an Application for a Canadian Passport contains False or Misleading Information



Entitlement to a Canadian Passport


One of the essential requirements for applying to a regular Canadian passport is to be a Canadian citizen.  However, being a citizen does not guarantee that a Canadian is entitled to a Canadian passport, and Canadian passports remain at all times the property of the Government of Canada.  There are a number of circumstances under which a Canadian citizen can be refused a Canadian passport, and their entitlement to passport services can be suspended for a period of time, including by providing false or misleading information during the application process. 


The Initial Application and Request for Additional Information  


Canadian passports are governed by the Canadian Passport Order (‘Order’). The Order requires that Canadian citizens wishing to obtain a regular passport must submit an application with all of the required information and documents.  If there is a concern about the application, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (‘Passport Program’) may require applicants to provide additional information and documents. The Passport Program may also consider information provided in previous passport applications, among other sources of information.


Investigation by the Passport Program


If the Passport Program believes that an applicant has provided false or misleading information in the passport application process, they can launch an investigation, called a Category one entitlement investigation. The purpose of the entitlement investigation is to determine whether there is enough information to refuse the application and to refuse passport services for a period of up to 10 years.  


Applicants are typically notified by the Passport Program, typically by the Passport Entitlement Investigations Division, as soon as an entitlement investigation is launched, and their entitlement to passport services is suspended during the investigation process.  


Once the Passport Program has completed its investigation, the applicant should receive an investigation letter.  Among other information, the investigation letter should provide the applicant with all material facts and information in the possession of the Passport Program, advise the applicant of the applicable law and procedure, provide the applicant with an opportunity to respond to the investigation letter and the deadline by which to do so.  


Once concluded, the Passport Program then provides the applicant with a final letter containing the conclusion of the investigation.  If the Passport Program determines that there is insufficient information to find that the applicant provided false or misleading information in the passport application process, then the letter should inform the applicant that their entitlement to passport services has been reinstated and the next steps they need to take.  If the Passport Program determines that there is sufficient information to find that the applicant provided false or misleading information in the passport application process, the investigation file is sent to a decision-maker who makes a decision.


Rendering a Decision


In addition to considering the investigation file, the decision-maker may request that the investigator or the applicant provide additional information or documents before making a decision.  The decision-maker then decides whether to issue the requested passport to the applicant. If the decision-maker decides to refuse to issue the passport, then the decision-maker also decides whether to impose a period of ineligibility for passport services and the duration.  The decision-maker must provide the reasons for their decision.  


These decisions may be challenged by filing an application for judicial review before the Federal Court of Canada within a set amount of time within the date of the decision.


Dealing with a Passport Entitlement Investigation


I have helped a number of clients with responding to passport entitlement investigations over the years, and I have a few takeaways from these experiences. 


One of the first things to note about an investigation is that the applicant’s entitlement to a Canadian passport is suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.  This means that the applicant is not entitled to a regular Canadian passport.  It can take the Passport Program several months to complete an investigation, and several more months for a decision-maker to make a decision.  If the decision is made to refuse the application and impose a period of ineligibility for passport services, then the applicant can be left without access to a regular Canadian passport for several years.  However, individuals who are subject to an investigation or a period of refusal of passport services may apply for a limited-validity travel document if they have urgent, compelling and compassionate reasons for traveling.


Entitlement investigations can include voluminous correspondence.  In my experience, investigators and decision-makers often disclose additional information and request additional information and documents from applicants before concluding an investigation or making a decision.  While the process may appear to anticipate that the applicant will receive approximately four letters from the time the investigation is launched until a decision is made, it is not unusual to receive additional correspondence that the applicant is asked to respond to.


When I have assisted clients with responding to an entitlement investigation, I have frequently referred to helpful jurisprudence of the Canadian Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal. This jurisprudence acknowledges that refusal of passport services is not a trivial matter and infringes on the mobility rights protected under subsection 6(1) the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  This jurisprudence also requires that decision-makers balance the objectives of the Passport Program with the applicant’s Charter-protected mobility rights.  For example, the applicant in Thelwell v Canada (Attorney General), 2017 FC 872 provided false or misleading information in her passport application and a five-year period refusal of passport services was imposed on her. On judicial review of this decision, the Federal Court held that the decision-maker failed to balance the objectives of the Passport Program with severity of a five-year suspension of passport services on the applicant’s mobility rights in light of the gravity of her conduct and her burgeoning career as an aspiring pop singer.  As a result, the decision was set aside.


If you have reason to believe that the Passport Program may be concerned that your passport application contains false or misleading information, you should not hesitate to seek legal advice at an early stage in the process and I would be happy to speak with you.


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