Early years of the Canadian passport

The story of the Canadian passport is entwined with Canada’s history, both as a colony of Great Britain and as a neighbor of the United States.

Before 1862, Canadians, as British subjects, could travel freely to and from the United States without passports. To travel to Europe, however, a Canadian had to obtain a British passport from the Foreign Office in London. Those who were not British subjects by birth could still go to the United States with a certificate of naturalization, which was issued by local Canadian mayors mainly for the purposes of voting in municipal elections.

During the American Civil War, however, authorities in the United States wanted more reliable certification from people living in Canada. In 1862, the Governor General, Viscount Monck, introduced a centralized system for issuing passports. For the next 50 years, a Canadian passport was really a “letter of request” signed by the Governor General.

It is difficult to trace the history of Canadian passports in the first few years after Confederation because so few were issued. The financial statements of the Secretary of State in 1878 record an annual passport revenue of $50. Since passports then cost $1 each, we know 50 must have been issued. Over the next few years, annual revenues varied between $35 and $50.

In those early years, passports were issued as single-sheet certificates and stamped with the official seal. In 1915, Canada switched to the British form of passport, a ten-section single sheet folder printed in English only.

Canada 1915

A series of international passport conferences (1920, 1926 and 1947) led to a number of changes to the Canadian passport. The 1920 conference recommended that all countries adopt a booklet-type passport, which Canada began issuing in 1921. Another recommendation of 1920, that all passports were to be written in at least two languages, one of which was to be French, led to the first bilingual Canadian passport in 1926. The 1920 conference also recommended that passports should be valid for at least two years and preferably for five. It is interesting to note that, since 1919, Canadian peacetime passports were already valid for five years, with the possibility of a five-year extension.

So basically here the same statement is valid as for the early Australian passports – grab them whenever you can and if it is your collection focus. They not often to find!

Source: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/games/teachers-corner/history-passports.asp