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Canada passport procedure for Palestine as birthplace unchanged

Canada passport procedure for Palestine as birthplace unchanged - Featured image

Author(s): Gwen Roley / AFP Canada

Social media users are claiming Palestine has been eliminated as a birth country for Canadian passport applicants after a widely shared TikTok depicted a case where this appeared unavailable. This is missing context; persons born in 1948 or earlier may select “other” and specify Palestine, a procedure that has not changed, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

“Palestine is no longer listed in the option of countries on the new Canadian passport, instead ‘No Country of Origin’ must be selected,” the text in a February 28, 2024 Instagram photo says.

Claims circulated across social media and other sites that Canada had recently changed its policy for Palestinian applicants after TikTok user “Blair from Canada” posted a February 23 video viewed more than 4.6 million times. In it, she describes how her grandmother was told that “no country of birth” would be listed in her new passport where “Palestine” had previously been displayed.

Screenshot of an Instagram post, taken March 1, 2024
Screenshot of a Facebook post taken March 1, 2024

Different versions of the clip were shared across Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and X, racking up hundreds of thousands more views.

The application document — available for download on the Government of Canada’s website — does not list Palestine as a pre-programmed option for country of birth, as depicted in the TikTok. However, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) told AFP in a February 26, 2024 email that there had been no recent changes to the list or the procedure for specifying the country of origin.

Screenshot of Canada passport application, taken March 1, 2024, showing no option for Palestine in the drop-down menu
Screenshot of Canada passport application, taken March 1, 2024, showing no option for British Mandatory Palestine in the drop-down menu

“The process remains that if the applicant was born before May 14, 1948, and requests Palestine as their country of birth, they can do so by going into the application drop-down menu and clicking on the ‘Other’ field followed by entering or typing ‘Palestine’ in the ‘Please Specify’ field,” said IRCC spokesman Matthew Krupovich.

This was re-iterated in a February 26, 2024 X post by Canadian Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marc Miller, citing “recent claims circulating on social media.”

Screenshot of X post, taken March 1, 2024

The latest claims come amid a backdrop of rising tensions and social media misinformation related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the surprise October 7, 2023 attack on Israel by Palestinian militant group Hamas, which killed 1,160 people, mostly civilians, and saw at least 250 more taken to the Gaza Strip as hostages, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Israel responded by vowing to crush Hamas and began a near-relentless military campaign in Gaza which has killed more than 30,200 people, also mostly civilians, according to the territory’s health ministry, while the blocking of food and resources have raised large humanitarian concerns.

Simmering conflict has sporadically exploded in the region since at least 1947 when the United Nations voted to partition British Mandatory Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, with the latter rejecting the resolution. The State of Israel’s independence was proclaimed on May 14, 1948, followed by a war between the two factions which saw the displacement of over 760,000 Palestinians, known as the “Nakba.”

Maps showing the changes in Israel’s borders since 1947 – Sophie RAMIS / Valentin RAKOVSKY / AFP

‘Process isn’t being followed’

“Blair from Canada” told AFP in a February 29, 2024 interview that her 90-year-old grandmother was born in a Palestinian village 14 years before the State of Israel was established.

Blair, who asked that her full name not be used, provided AFP with copies of her grandmother’s previous passports which listed her place of birth as “El Bassa Palestine” and the recent passport renewal application in which the country selection was empty.

AFP also listened to a voicemail shared by Blair which seemed to include a passport agent saying only El Bassa and no county of birth would be listed on her grandmother’s new passport.

“She was just devastated to have her country of birth erased like that from her identity,” Blair said.

When asked how a situation like this could arise, Krupovich said IRCC could not comment on individual cases due to privacy legislation.

Blair said her grandmother had already received a tracking number for the delivery of her new document on February 26, but was notified on February 28 that a different shipment was on the way with a passport where Palestine would be listed. AFP viewed the tracking information for the two delivery notifications, provided by Blair.

Blair’s frustration was echoed by other social media users, who claimed Canada’s policy was confusing and applied inconsistently.

“This process isn’t being followed by agents on the ground,” Blair said.

Screenshot of a comment on an Instagram post, taken March 1, 2024
Screenshot of a comment on an Instagram post, taken March 1, 2024

‘No consistency’ for Palestinian applicants

Blair’s posts elicited strong reactions online, including a petition campaigning that Palestine be added back to the country list — which it was not a part of before. Some posts said Canada was attempting to declare Palestine non-existent and others called it “cultural genocide.”

There is no option for “British Mandatory Palestine,” or other versions of that name for country of birth in the Canadian passport application. However, the list includes previous names of certain places such as “British Cameroon – NIGERIA” or “Netherlands East Indies – INDONESIA.”

Krupovich said the list is based on Canada’s international policies.

He said that people born after May 14, 1948 have the option to select “Other” and specify “West Bank,” “Gaza Strip,” “Jerusalem” or “Jordan.”

Debbie Rachlis, an immigration lawyer based in Toronto, said that she has seen Palestinians applying for Canadian documents face confusion about what to list for their country of origin, pointing out that those applying for a visitor visa can select “Palestinian Authority” which is not available for passports (archived here).

Screenshot of a visitor visa application form, taken March 1, 2024

“Even within an agency, there’s no consistency,” she said.

Rachlis said that since many jurisdictions are contested or have changed names, it is not unusual that people born in these regions face administrative challenges concerning their country of birth.

“These documents reflect the complexity of these histories and so it’s not always very straightforward,” she said.

Read more of AFP’s reporting on misinformation surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict here.

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Originally published here.
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