Young girl’s journey never got go-ahead
December 20th, 2004
By Guidy Mamann
As the holiday season approaches, my thoughts are with two young girls, who this week each had their first brush with immigration bureaucracy.
Lindsay, 10, was directed to my office by a caring government official who works in my building. She came upon this little girl sobbing in the hallway of our building, which houses one of Canada’s busiest passport offices.
This kind-hearted woman stopped to see if she could be of any assistance. She learned from Lindsay and her stepfather that they had just learned that she would not be getting the passport she needed to travel to Alabama that evening to perform with her choir.
This official brought her to me to see if I could be of any help.
Initially, I thought this would be easy since Lindsay was Canadian-born and didn’t need a passport to travel to the U.S.
She could simply use her Ontario birth certificate. Her mother had assumed the same thing. However, in November, her church informed her that a passport was essential. Lindsay’s mother went to the passport office and was told that she would need a long-form birth certificate in lieu of a signature from Lindsay’s biological father who had long been out of Lindsay’s life. This certificate was obtained but immediately misplaced. A replacement was obtained on Thursday – the very day Lindsay’s bus was to leave for Alabama.
Assured that a passport could be issued on the same day, Lindsay and her stepfather rushed to the passport office again. Once there, they were confronted with two previously unknown requirements; an affidavit from Lindsay’s mother regarding the whereabouts of Lindsay’s biological father, and the requirement that Lindsay’s mom personally pick up the passport. Neither condition could be met in time, since Lindsay’s mother was working clear across town.
With only a few hours before the bus was to leave for Alabama, I repeatedly tried to reach Lindsay’s pastor, hoping to persuade her that Lindsay only needed a birth certificate to enter the U.S.
I gave Lindsay and her step-dad official documentation to that effect in the hopes that it would persuade the pastor to let her on the bus. Unfortunately, the church’s policy was firm.
The church, and apparently their insurers, consider the passport as essential proof that appropriate parental consent was obtained for Lindsay to travel abroad. Lindsay would not be permitted on the bus.
Today, my daughter Hannah, age 9, will be flying alone for the second time to visit my brother and her cousins who live in Florida. She was proud and excited that this year she would be getting her very first passport.
When she went to pose for her passport photo, she was puzzled when she was told by the photographer that she wasn’t allowed to smile for the picture.
On Friday, I could see her disappointment when she opened her brand new passport and saw her photograph with the now-compulsory "neutral expression."
What was to have been a source of great pride was now a contrived portrayal of nothing that truly represents her.
Yesterday, Hannah finished her packing while Lindsay, I was told, spent the afternoon unpacking the suitcase she never got to use.
While recognizing that, today, we live in a more complex world where safeguards are needed for just about everything, I can’t help but wonder if we can accomplish those goals without disappointing our children for whose sake, after all, we are securing the future.
With that in mind, I wish all of you, yours, and especially all of our children, a holiday season filled with peace, health and tranquility.