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8-year-old Canadian citizen can’t get passport renewed

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A Toronto couple reached out to Speakers Corner after months of frustration trying to renew the passport for their daughter, who’s a Canadian citizen.

It all started six months ago when Miranda, Derek Harpell, and their daughter Hope were planning their first family vacation.

“Hope was so excited. We were planning a trip to Jamaica, and she was very much looking forward to it,” they explained.

Hope’s Canadian passport, issued after she was legally adopted by the couple six years ago, had expired.

“We planned in advance of this trip to get that passport renewed,” Miranda said. “We went to the passport office, filled out the paperwork, got her picture taken.”

But a clerk told her there was a problem.

“They would not renew the passport, saying there was an issue with her country of birth.”

The Toronto couple adopted Hope from South Africa

“It was done in a court of law over there, a court of law here in Canada. Everything was done very precisely and legally,” said Miranda.

Hope’s documents, from her citizenship certificate to her original passport, listed her country of birth as South Africa. However, when the Toronto family went to renew her passport, the records of the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) system didn’t match.

“Someone at IRCC recorded on her internal record that she was born in Swaziland, not South Africa. Despite the fact every hard copy and record we have states, South Africa as her country of birth. It was an error in their system.”

The Harpells immediately thought it would take a simple phone call to correct. They were wrong.

“We were told that it may take a few weeks to get it fixed.”

Family forced to cancel vacation

Weeks turned into months, and the vacation the family was looking forward to had to be cancelled.

“Hope was very upset. She said to me, ‘Why do my friends get to travel and I don’t? Why does Canada not let me travel?’” Miranda said.

The couple says they sent dozens of emails and made multiple phone calls over several months to resolve the problem.

“There were so many times we wouldn’t be able to reach them because the phones were down or the call would drop,” Miranda said. “When we would get to the operator, they would ask us the whole story over again telling us to file a report despite us telling them repeatedly we already did so months ago.”

Frustrated, the Harpells contacted their Member of Parliament (MP), who also reached out to the IRCC.

“No matter where we turned, the answer we kept getting was ‘we don’t know what you need to do. And we don’t know how to fix this.’ And that’s the frustrating part,” Miranda said. “We’re willing to do whatever they need. We’ve sent them all the documents and were being told ‘no, you’ve done everything you can. We’re not sure; just wait.”

The Harpells then reached out to Speakers Corner.

“I felt as though we had no other option but to get our story out there,” Miranda said.

Speakers Corner reaches out to IRCC

We contacted the IRCC on May 15 and asked them to investigate the Harpells case.

“In this case, the subject’s country of birth was incorrectly recorded as Swaziland on her Canadian Citizenship Certificate issued in 2017. It was a regrettable error, and we apologize for that,” said Isabelle Dubois, an IRCC spokesperson.

“In terms of the next steps, on May 15, IRCC mailed a new Canadian Citizenship Certificate with the subject’s correct country of birth,” Dubois said. “Our system has also been updated to correctly reflect the applicant’s country of birth for any future passport applications.”

While relieved, the Harpells say it should never have been this difficult.

“The system needs an overhaul,” Miranda told us by phone after we called to tell her the news we received from IRCC. “This was a simple error and should have been a simple fi. Why it took months to get here is beyond me.”

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