Canada·Go Public

Canada Post 'sloppiness' in handling passport 'horrendous,' says BC woman

A North Vancouver woman is going public after Canada Post lost her passport, forcing her to cancel an international flight to her father's memorial and raising concerns about security within the mail system.

Crown corporation reopens investigation into lost document after Go Public inquiries

Larissa Zalesnykh had to miss her father's memorial service in Kazakhstan when her passport disappeared and she was unable to fly. (CBC)

A North Vancouver woman is going public after Canada Post lost her passport, forcing her to cancel an international flight to her father's memorial and raising concerns about security within the mail system.

CBC News investigates ​

"What is concerning is that thousands of Canadians send important personal information — passports, applications — and things get lost. It seems there is no security within the system even though they claim [on the website] your information is secure with us," Larissa Zalesnykh says.
  
Zalesnykh's father died suddenly in Kazakhstan and she needed to travel to the country for his memorial and to help her mother. 

Viktor Zalesnykh died suddenly in Kazakhstan on Sept. 28. His daughter Larissa, who lives in Canada, missed the funeral and memorial. (Larissa Zalesnykh family photo)

In order to make the trip, she needed a visa from the Kazakh Embassy in Ottawa and had to send her passport there to get it. 

The embassy issued the visa and sent the passport back through Xpresspost, a service of Canada Post which offers expedited delivery and tracking of the package. However, the package disappeared en route. Tracking information shows Zalesnykh's passport went missing in Montreal.

"I'm sitting on pins and needles praying it doesn't get into bad hands," Zalesnykh says.

"What's also frustrating is the attitude. Not only that they lost the passport, but I'm calling them and trying to talk with someone and they talk to me as if I lost something of theirs not they lost something of mine.... [The] sloppiness of Canada Post in handling important personal information and complacency of their customer service has been horrendous," she said.

Financial, personal cost

As a result of the loss, Zalesnykh had to cancel her flight to Kazakhstan and missed her father's memorial. Now she faces the time-consuming task of replacing her passport, which could take months. 

"I'm talking to my mom she says she's looking at the pictures she's still crying and upset — I'd like to go there and share this with her," she says.

Zalesnykh says she's out about $800 between the cost of the new passport, a new visa and the cancellation fee for the flight. She says booking a new last-minute flight will also be more expensive.

Canada Post's tracking shows the passport made it from Ottawa to Montreal and then disappeared. (CBC)

Three days after she reported the passport missing, Canada Post sent her a $120 cheque and an email saying the investigation is closed.  

The money covers the insurance on the package and her postage costs, but Zalesnykh says she won't cash the cheque, because she doesn't want the corporation to think it's off the hook.

"This is completely unsatisfactory … I want Canada Post to find my passport and be more responsible tracking documents like this," she says.

Go Public put Zalesnykh's situation to Canada Post — it didn't explain how such a vital document that was being tracked could disappear. However, after our inquires, it did reopen the investigation and issued this statement to CBC News:

"Canada Post sincerely regrets the fact that we are unable to account for Ms. Zalesnykh's item. We understand how important it was to her and we are taking this matter very seriously. We continue to investigate to better understand what transpired."

Investigation lacking: expert

Michel Juneau-Katsuya, a former senior intelligence officer and manager at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service,  says while lost mail may not be unusual, what worries him in this case is the type of document that went missing and the swiftness of the Canada Post investigation that followed.

"When somebody takes the extra step to register — it is now recorded and now being been tracked and it should not disappear so easily. If it does disappear, it needs a more thorough investigation to understand exactly what took place," Juneau-Katsuya says after hearing the initial investigation had been closed.

Security expert and former senior CSIS intelligence officer Michel Juneau-Katsuya says investigations into lost passports need to be more thorough. (CBC)

"I think it is alarming here to see that very quickly Canada Post seems to sort of rush this issue and treated it like a normal package. It's not a love letter or a pack of gum that disappeared — it's a passport. A very important travel document that needs to be reported and investigated properly ... so far we have no indication of that."
 
Lost or stolen passports that end up in the wrong hands are often used in criminal activity including identity theft. He says Canadian passports are also highly valued on the black market — so they could also be sold to those who need to travel to foreign countries with forged documents. 

"It's important for the integrity of system, for the integrity of our travel documents and therefore for safety for all Canadians travelling, that we have tight and very close security around our travel documents, particularly our passports."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rosa Marchitelli is a national award winner for her investigative work. As co-host of the CBC News segment Go Public, she has a reputation for asking tough questions and holding companies and individuals to account. Rosa's work is seen across CBC News platforms.

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