'I am embarrassed for Canada' to 'Get a life': Canadians slam passport redesign, while others scoff at all the drama

A new Canadian passport design is usually a reflection of the party in power, history expert says

'I am embarrassed for Canada' to 'Get a life': Canadians slam passport redesign, while others scoff at all the drama

The newly introduced Canadian passport is sparking a range of reactions from across the country. The redesigned document, which was revealed on Wednesday, includes high tech security features, such as a polycarbonate data page and laser engraved personal information, along with a complete design overhaul.

The imagery of historic Canadian moments and figures like Terry Fox and Vimy Ridge Memorial, which feature on the current passport design, is being replaced with Indigenous imagery and nature scenes to reflect the four seasons. These include a child jumping into a lake and an iceberg alongside a polar bear.

Who decides what the passport looks like?

The last passport design overhaul took place in 2013, under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.

Jonathan F. Vance, a history professor at the University of Western, says designing a passport is a partisan task, as each party has a different understanding of history and symbols.

“Harper’s Conservatives were very much into history…as a symbol of Canadian achievement and unity,” he tells Yahoo News Canada. “The Liberals have shown much less interest in history generally, historically, because it can be divisive.”

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Vance adds that it’s not surprising the passport redesign includes imagery that he describes as “pretty generic."

“There’s very little there that’s going to say to a passport holder or anyone overseas who’s looking at it that this is what Canada is,” he says.

Does history matter in a passport?

On social media, the unveiling of the new passport design proved to be polarizing.

Some were upset that the references to Canada’s history were completely removed.

The Royal Canadian Legion expressed their disappointment on the decision to drop the image of the Vimy Ridge memorial.

Others felt that the new passport design wasn't a big deal.

Some even expressed that they liked the new design.

Some users pointed out that the new design features include technology to help protect against identity theft and fraud, something Vance says Canada's been a leader in for years.

The Ottawa-based Canadian Bank Note Company, which has been around since 1896, was tasked with the most recent redesign. In 2019, they were awarded a 14-year contract with the government of Canada.

In an e-mail statement, Nancy Caron, a spokesperson with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, explained that the theme of the passport was first identified more than 10 years ago and approved in 2020 following broad consultations, including with the Government of Canada’s forensic specialists, Canadian Heritage, and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada. The new theme was chosen to reflect Canada's "natural beauty, our multicultural identity, and our welcoming spirit."

She stresses that the complete redesign of passports is now the norm among leading nations, not the exception.

"Stagnant designs are significantly more vulnerable to counterfeiting," she says. "This will be a world leading travel document from a security point of view.

The redesigned passports will be rolled out in July.