Politics

New passport processing system suspended after glitches, security gaps revealed

Citizenship and Immigration Canada has suspended a new system to process passport applications after CBC News reported about widespread glitches with the program.

Move comes after CBC News revealed widespread issues with Citizenship and Immigration program

Citizenship and Immigration Canada has suspended its use of a new system to process passport applications after CBC News reported about widespread glitches with the program.

The department confirmed it is "pausing" the processing of passports through the Global Case Management System in order to incorporate "lessons learned" during the testing phase. Citizenship and Immigration is also taking time to evaluate feedback from employees, said spokesman Remi Lariviere.

At least 1,500 Canadian passports have been produced under a flawed new system that opened the door to fraud and tampering, according to documents obtained by CBC/Radio-Canada.

Internal records from Citizenship and Immigration revealed the processing program was rushed into operation on May 9, despite dire warnings from senior officials that it was not ready and could present new security risks.

Lariviere insisted that no passports have been issued with security gaps.

"This is a regular part of good product management," he said. "To be clear, at no point has the integrity or security of passport issuance been compromised.

Department warned about risks

Since the launch of the new system, officials have been scrambling to fix hundreds of glitches and seal security gaps. Weeks after the new process was brought on line, there were calls to stop production.

Those recommendations were ignored, and the passports continued to be issued in the first phase of production under the new system, designed to enhance security and integrate with other global programs. 

Numerous reports show that during a period of several weeks, it was possible for Citizenship and Immigration employees to alter the photo on a passport after it had been approved. And there are numerous reports of discrepancies between information contained in the database and what actually appeared on a passport.

In some cases, information disappeared from the system, making it difficult to verify if the applicant had used questionable guarantors or had made repeated claims of lost or stolen passports in the past.

That information acts as a safeguard to flag potential problems with applications.

Lariviere said the migration to the new system will continue as the current information technology system for issuing passports is nearing the end of its lifespan. 

"[The new system] has the capacity and security features to offer a sensible, cost-effective alternative that will ultimately enable a move to online applications," he said.

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