Canada’s minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said veterans’ groups and others were not consulted when the decision was made to drop images of Vimy Ridge, Billy Bishop, and other historical images from Canada’s redesigned passport.
Answers to questions by four MPs filed in order papers about Canada’s new passports were answered in the House of Commons on Sept. 18.
The new passports were unveiled in May of this year. But instead of traditional images like Vimy Ridge and Terry Fox, the new passports contain generic natural images such as polar bears and a boy jumping into a lake.
At the time, it prompted Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre to speak out.
“Why is he deleting our veterans from our history?” he said.
During routine proceedings on Sept. 18, however, the answers tabled by the government said the redesign was focused mostly on security.
“Consultations with forensic specialists were focused on the security features of the new passport. The surveys were conducted on broad themes for the design of the new passport, and not on the inclusion of images or representations of specific individuals or events,” said Mr. Miller.
“A new design is required in order to maintain the integrity of the new passport and to align with international security best practices of a five-year passport redesign cycle,” he continued.
“Consultations on the new theme and images occurred, including with the Government of Canada’s forensic specialists at the Canada Border Services Agency and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and with Canadian Heritage and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada.”
“Due to the secrecy of the passport design and security features, there were limitations to the number of groups that could have access to the design,” he said.
Mr. Miller also laid out the timeline for the new development.
While development was underway for about ten years, he said a competitive procurement process began in June 2016, and in May 2019, the contract was awarded to the Canadian Bank Note company. In July 2019, he said, the theme of the design was approved by Ahmed Hussen, the IRCC minister at the time. In May 2020, a preliminary version was approved by then-IRCC minister Marco Mendicino, along with some suggestions. The final design was approved in November 2020, said Mr. Miller.
“The contract was awarded for $284 million,” he is quoted as saying, adding the passports had to go through several manufacturing and testing steps involving several international suppliers.
He said the pandemic also added delays.
“The pandemic, health restrictions, staff illnesses, and supply chain issues had repercussions on the project as a whole, adding two years to the original one year that should have been required to complete this work.”
While the redesign is being described as routine, critics have not been impressed.
On May 10, Conservative MP Michelle Ferreri said it was disappointing.
“Symbols represent a lot, and it feels definitely like they’re trying to erase Canadian history,” she said.
Conservative MPs Michelle Rempel Garner, Clifford Small, and Michelle Ferreri had all tabled questions about the new passports, as well as Independent MP Kevin Vuong.
Peter Wilson contributed to this report.