WHAT TO DO IF YOUR PASSPORT HAS BEEN REVOKED?
To qualify for an adult Canadian passport, individuals must be at least 16 years of age and must hold Canadian citizenship. Being in possession of a valid Canadian passport affords Canadian’s many rights including the right to travel worldwide. Unless a Canadian citizen holds another passport from a foreign jurisdiction, they are unable to travel outside of Canada without their Canadian passport. As such, being denied a passport, being unable to renew a passport or having a passport cancelled or revoked can have very serious consequences for the passport holder.
The Canadian government, specifically the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship have the authority to refuse to issue or to renew a passport as well as the authority to revoke or cancel a citizen’s passport. Such a decision may be made for a variety of reasons.
The Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship may make the decision to revoke a citizens passport in limited circumstances including in cases where the individual has committed an indictable offence in Canada or similar offence abroad, where the individual has permitted someone else to use their passport, where an individual has obtained a passport by means of false or misleading information or where the individual is no longer a Canadian citizen. Due to the very serious nature of having a passport revoked, the Minister will only do so where there is sufficient reliable information to justify the decision.
The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness may revoke an individual’s passport where reasonable grounds to believe that revoking the passport is necessary to prevent the commission of a terrorism offence. Further, the Minister may revoke an individual’s passport if there is a national security reason for doing so, either in Canada or in a foreign jurisdiction.
In addition to revoking an individual’s passport, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship may also cancel an individual’s passport in certain circumstances. A passport may be cancelled by the Minister if the individual does not retain possession of their passport, if an individual is ordered to return their passport to the Minister under section 11 of the Criminal Code and fails to do so, and where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the cancellation of the passport is necessary to prevent the commission of a sexual offence against a child.
Additionally, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness may cancel an individuals passport if there are reasonable grounds to believe that doing so is necessary to prevent the commission of a terrorism offence or where doing so is necessary to protect the national security of Canada or any other foreign jurisdiction.
The cancellation of a passport renders it invalid for travel but does not mean it is revoked altogether. A passport will generally first be cancelled by the Minister while a decision is made as to whether or not the passport should be ultimately revoked. If officials determine that there are not reasonable grounds to ultimately revoke the passport, a new passport will be returned to the individual passport holder.
Investigations and the Passport Program
Investigations into the possible cancellation or revocation of a passport are carried out by the Passport Program. An investigation by the Passport Program may be launched for any of the reasons outlined above. Once an investigation has been launched, the Program will gather the facts in the particular case and then determine, on a balance of probabilities, whether or not there exists reasonable grounds to believe that the passport should be revoked or cancelled.
When an investigation is launched, the Passport Program will inform the individual passport holder and will provide the passport holder with all of the information gathered in the investigation. The passport holder will then have the right to respond to the evidence that has been presented.
To respond to an investigation letter from the Passport Program, a passport holder must make a written response outlining the reasons why the Passport Program should not revoke or cancel the passport. At the conclusion of the investigation, the Passport Program will make a decision which will then be communicated to the passport holder as well as the Minister, along with written reasons for the decision.
Passport Revocation and Criminal Offences
In some cases, the Minister may revoke an individual’s passport if they have been charged with an indictable offence, particularly where the allegations involve a sexual offence against a child. If an individual’s passport has been revoked by the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship because of an allegation of a sexual offence related to a child, the passport holder may file an application to have the decision reconsidered by the Minister within 30 days of the decision. In these situations, the Minister will give the passport holder a reasonable opportunity to provide reasons as to why their passport should be reinstated. The Minister will then make a final decision. After a reconsideration has been made, citizens have the ability to challenge the decision of the Minister by filing an application for judicial review before the Federal Court. The decision of the Federal Court will be final.
In situations where an individual has been charged with an indictable offence, having a passport revoked in addition to the criminal sanctions imposed can have harsh consequences. This is particularly true for individuals who hold no other passport or individuals who may have family living abroad. As such, it is important to contact experienced and qualified legal counsel at the outset of an investigation by the Passport Program.
Our Firm can assist in drafting the written response as well as any reconsideration letters. Additionally, we have experience filing Federal Applications for judicial review of the Minister’s decision in situations where the reconsideration of the Minister does not yield favourable results.