RCMP, Privacy Commissioner Looking Into Missing Mailed Passport Applications

RCMP, privacy commissioner looking into missing mailed passport applications

The Cape Breton Post
Last updated at 9:23 PM on 10/12/08

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. (CP) Canadas privacy commissioner and the RCMP are looking into the disappearance of several courier packages containing passport applications.

Seven packages containing a total of 107 passport applications and supporting documents have been reported missing in the last 15 months.

They were sent by Canada Posts Priority Courier in packages addressed to a Passport Canada processing facility in Gatineau, Que., and all originated at Service Canada outlets.

The most recent incidents involved three packages sent Oct. 31 from the southern Alberta cities of Lethbridge and Medicine Hat, as well as Cranbrook, B.C.

Canada Post spokesman John Caines said Wednesday from Ottawa that a special RCMP immigration and passport unit is now assisting postal inspectors to try to track down the missing packages.

He wouldnt say if foul play is suspected.

In addition, Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart is now expanding her examination of security problems at Passport Canada to include transportation methods for passport applications.

Last week, Stoddart reported she found serious security risks with the way Passport Canada collects, handles and discards sensitive personal information.

We have received a letter from Passport Canada informing us that some passports have disappeared in the mail, and were looking into it, said Stoddarts spokeswoman, Valerie Lawton.

As part of our examination of this issue, well be looking at mailing procedures involving passports.

In her report, Stoddart noted that passport applicants could be vulnerable to identity theft if the highly sensitive information in their applications, such as credit-card numbers, names, addresses, birth dates, birth certificates and sometimes social insurance numbers, fell into the wrong hands.

The missing packages came to light in late November after a Lethbridge woman learned her passport application, which she left with a Service Canada receiving agent, had been lost with 18 others in a package sent via courier Oct. 31.

Canada Post says the package arrived at the Lethbridge post office Nov. 3, and the trail ends there.

Two other packages containing a total of 36 other passport applications similarly vanished at the same time in Medicine Hat and Cranbrook.

The Lethbridge woman, who asked her name be withheld, said she felt her concerns about her security were being downplayed by the various agencies involved.

Since then, Passport Canada has confirmed that two other packages of passport applications disappeared March 27 after being couriered from Service Canada offices in Lethbridge and Medicine Hat. Similar incidents have also been confirmed involving two packages originating in Drummondville, Que., on July 7 and Langley, B.C., on Aug. 30, 2007.

Officials with Passport Canada and Canada Post insist such incidents are rare and the mail system is secure and trustworthy.