Friday, August 07, 2009

Canadian Immigration - Culture of Distrust

The recent passport scenario, where Somali Canadian Suaad Hagi Mohamud was arrested at the airport, had her passport confiscated, and was sent to a Kenyan jail for alleged passport fraud, is just one of a growing list of embarrassing screw ups by Canadian Embassies, and related immigration and passport services.

I'm reminded of my time in Egypt, where the pages in my passport were all full, including the page extension, and I needed to apply for a new one.

The various pieces of identification and papers I needed for a new passport included: my birth certificate; and a letter from an Egyptian official (Doctor, Lawyer, Police officer, etc.) whom I'd known for two years, and stating that I was who I claimed to be.

To have known an Egyptian official for two years was a silly demand for three reasons.
1) I'd only just arrived in Egypt, how was I supposed to know one for more than a few days, let alone two years.
2) For the bribe of a few bucks, an Egyptian cop will swear he's your long lost brother. For much less, he'll sign something saying you are who you are.
3) Many Egyptian officials don't understand English or French and would have no idea what they were signing.

Moving on, how many people travel with their birth certificates? I HAD my old passport. I COULD have gone back to Canada with it. What was the need for all the extra documentation?

The way I saw it, the Sept 11 terrorist attacks occurred, Canada got criticized for border issues, and our response was to have a bunch of Public Service gits pass incompetent, ineffectual, and irritating passport application legislation.

While I was going through this ordeal, (it took me six months to get a new birth certificate issued from Canada,) I met an American embassy worker who issued passports. I asked him, "What's the process for issuing new passports to Americans overseas."

He said, "After they fill out their application, we interview them and ask them a handful of questions like, "What street did you grow up on? Where was your first school? What was your first phone number?"

"That's it?" I asked.

"Yep," he said. "People lose their passports all the time."

"No, no," I said. "What if they already have a passport, but the pages are all full."

He looked at me like I was an idiot. "Then we just issue them a new one. What kind of idiot would question an already valid passport?"

Canadian immigration could learn a thing or two from their American counterparts.

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