Canadian Snowbird Association applauds introduction of 10-year passports

TORONTO, March 4, 2008 – The Canadian Snowbird Association applauds the Harper Government for acting on its recommendation to double the lifespan of the Canadian passport. Starting in 2011, Canadian travellers will be issued a higher security electronic passport that will be valid for 10 years instead of the current five.

“We’ve always recommended that our members carry a passport even before one was required for air and sea travel to the United States as it’s the best form of identification when crossing the border,” said Don Gardiner, president of the Canadian Snowbird Association. “A major flaw in the current system is that Canadian passports are only valid for five years. The United States, United Kingdom, Australia and most European Union countries have passport validity of ten years”.

Canadian citizens are required to present a passport to enter the United States when arriving by air or sea from any port of the Western Hemisphere. Although not strictly required to carry a passport at this time, Canadians entering the U.S. by land are required to present proof of identity and citizenship such as a driver’s licence combined with an original birth certificate.

The Canadian Snowbird Association does have a concern with the other tens-of-thousands of Canadians who wish to travel to the United States for shorter duration holidays – possibly to visit their parents, grandparents, etc. – that are already at their secondary winter residence, as well as the millions of Canadians who live within close proximity to the Canada/U.S. border.

“Many of these Canadians wish to visit the United States, sometimes with very little advance planning, to attend family functions, worship services, sporting events, or even casual shopping,” said Gardiner. “While the Canadian Passport Office has now streamlined the speed with which it can process a passport application, there is a financial burden, especially for a typical family of four, to obtain a full passport for only short term random travel to the U.S.”.

Accordingly, the Canadian Snowbird Association is pleased that the federal government is acting on its recommendation to develop an alternative secure travel document for short-term travel to the United States. Ottawa will spend $6-million over two years to support enhanced provincial drivers’ licences that will, for the first time, list a driver’s citizenship. This new licence will help people living in border communities conform to the U.S. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which requires the use of a secure travel document at land crossings by June, 2009.

The federal government has also pledged to invest $14 million over the next two years to expand the joint Canada/United States NEXUS program by adding dedicated infrastructure, increasing the number of users from 160,000 to 350,000 and better targeting frequent travellers.

The Canadian Snowbird Association also urges all travelling Canadians to obtain travel medical insurance before leaving Canada.

“Today, travelling without supplemental health insurance is akin to gambling with your life savings,” said CSA president Don Gardiner. “Provincial government health insurance plans do not cover full medical expenses outside Canada and 80-90% of any medical bills will usually be your responsibility.”

For the 17th consecutive year, the Canadian Snowbird Association has endorsed the travel medical insurance packages of Medipac International.

The Canadian Snowbird Association is a 70,000 member, non-profit, non-partisan organization representing Canadian travellers from across the country. The CSA works in partnership with government and business to educate and advocate on behalf of all travelling Canadians, helping to ensure access to safe, healthy travel with no restrictions on freedom of movement.