Update: ePassports Available in Spring 2013

In a previous Slaw post we discussed growing privacy concerns raised by the features used to enhance security measures for the new Canadian electronic passports. The ePassport is being designed to limit flight fraud, to reduce identity theft, and to meet international counter-terrorism measures already in use in travel documents in over 60 countries, including the United States, the European Union, Australia and Israel. As we previously stated, the Canadian ePassport will have an electronic chip embedded in the back cover that stores personal information of the passport holder, including a photo — effectively the same information found on page 2 of the passport. A country-specific digital security feature will also be stored in the chip, verifying the authenticity of the ePassport, as generated by the Government of Canada.

On October 26, 2012, the government confirmed a few more changes anticipated with the ePassport. One change will be the new option to choose to buy the ePassport for either five or 10-year periods.

The first 5-year ePassports will be issued in select Passport Canada offices during the first quarter of 2013. Production will ramp up through the spring, resulting in the full availability of both a 5- and 10- year e-Passport on July 1, 2013.

The passport application process will not change significantly when the ePassport is introduced. However, the service fees will change.

A five-year passport fee will be $120, up from the current $87, and $160 for the 10-year option. Passports for children will be $57, an increase of $20 and will only be issued/renewed for five years.

For those applying outside of Canada, the fee will be $190 for a five-year passport – up from $97 – and $260 for the document that would be valid for 10 years.

The new ePassport will include various images relating to Canadian heritage and history. The images can be previewed here.

If you could, do you think you would opt for an ePassport? How would you weigh the convenience against the potential privacy concerns and changes in cost?


  1. Do we know what kind of personal information will be added to the chip? And who can add personal information to it?

  2. Are the ePassports mandatory? Will there be an exemption for those who object on religious grounds to having information of this sort used in this way? I can certainly see the ‘mark of the beast’ arguments coming.

  3. Connie… refer to page 2 of your passport… that is the information that will be included in the chip… more information on how the chip works is found in the previous Slaw post… link provided in first paragraph of this post.

    According to Passport Canada nobody can add information to the chip. The chip is electronically locked. This means that even if someone were to attempt to tamper with the data on the chip, the chip would indicate that the lock had been broken and the fraud would be detected.

    Chris… have not read anything about exemptions yet… what about the chip on debit cards or credit cards… and now in the health card do they object to that?

  4. I recall specifically a grievance involving grievors who were Pentecostal Christians who objected to having any body measurements converted into numerical form,http://canlii.ca/t/1qdbj Specifically, as adherents of the Pentecostal faith, the grievors subscribed to an interpretation of Scripture which warns that such numbers could one day serve as the “Mark of the Beast,” which will identify followers of the Anti-Christ, resulting in their damnation. The belief is founded on the Bible’s book of Revelation, which provides in part, in Revelation 14:9,10: “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath.”
    This was in the context of hand-scanners for security, but I would imagine the same principle would likely apply to any biometric information contained in the chips in the passports.
    I also lived for a time in an area of the United States where fundamentalist Christian beliefs predominate. One of their favourite interpretations of the mark of the beast passage above is that it refers to a computer chip implanted into a human being. I realize this isn’t an implanted chip, but different religious groups interpret the above passage differently, ranging from the Pentacostal belief above to the chip implant belief to the belief that the passage is not prophecy and has no literal meaning. (I remember some controversy in the area in which I lived even surrounded whether a social security number was the mark of the beast.)
    The Ontario Divisional Court heard a case in which a man sought an exemption to having a digital photograph taken for a drivers licence on the basis that the digital photo process could meet the biblical description of the mark of the beast: http://canlii.ca/t/1jm4v
    So I am not aware of specific objections, but I imagine there are some out there.

  5. I would like to clarify my comments above by stating explicitly that I do not mean to cast aspersions on or belittle anyone’s religious beliefs. I think that in many if not most cases of objections to these types of technologies the inviduals objecting do so on the basis on genuinely held beliefs and that they have a right to do so, which is why I raised the subject in the first place.

  6. Interesting stated purposes of the new passport: to combat ‘flight fraud’ – whatever that is. Is it the business of the Canadian government to help the airlines enforce their tariffs? And how often is ‘flight fraud’ worth attempting?

    How does the ePassport fight identity theft? Is the printed information on the current passports easy to forge or alter? I would have thought not, with all the security features surrounding it.

    Having a fast way to compare the information on the person in front of the inspector with the data base may help fight terrorism (though no-fly lists are notoriously inaccurate and have not been demonstrated to be effective at their principal purpose.) We don’t have much choice internationally whether this is a good use of resources or not (there might be better cheaper ways to fight terrorism) – our allies will insist.

    What are the chances that unauthorized people will be able to read the info on the cards from a distance? The official line is that the chip broadcasts to a few centimetres, but is that reliable, and won’t scanners get stronger? Is it a problem if people sitting elsewhere in the airport, or on the street in a foreign country, can read your passport as you go by – or even just identify you as a national of a particular country?

  7. David Collier-Brown

    One of the best factual discussions of e-passports is at the Economist, at http://www.economist.com/node/14066895

    IMHO, these are a solution looking for a problem, and providing some unpleasant trade-offs to achieve the “fix”, including the broadcasting of one’s identity.

    To quote the Econiomist, “Embarrassed officials are now appealing to people carrying such ID cards to keep them safely tucked away in metal sheaths. Truth be told, shielding them merely reduces the range from which they can be read. The current record is 65 metres.”

    They do have some moderate value to the airlines, if and only if said airlines invest in passport scanners in place of boarding pass scanners. This is uneconomic, though, in any country where you don’t require a passport for internal flights…