How to Look at a Passport (Canadian Edition)

©Copyright 2021 Silva Carka Student, Ryerson University.

At first glance, a passport is nothing more than a blank book to fill with stamps of our travels. We think nothing of it other than a requirement for travelling, never giving it much thought other than a keepsake of sorts. Not only does it serve as a way of remembering our travels, but our passports classify us as citizens of our respective country too. Looking at it only when we need it and going into a panic when we cannot find it, you can say that a passport is neglected in a way.

Fig. 1. Silva Carka; “Fathers of Confederation page spread”; 2021; Digital Photograph.

How many of us have really looked at our passports? That small navy Canadian passport with the gold accent emblem in the middle of the cover (for this project’s purpose, I will be referencing the Canadian passport because that is what I have). Those pages that get stamped are not plain to begin with; they are decorated with images. Faint images that are there depicting some of Canada’s geography and what seem to be some defining moments in our history. With this in mind, these defining moments are there to portray Canada in ‘glorious’ light. In my passport issued in 2016, we see the Fathers of Confederation, Samuel de Champlain, the RCMP, some brief moments from World War 1 and 2 and the Korean War. Each one of these pages is incredibly detailed when showing us these images. The scenery, the architecture and even the people printed on these pages are full of detail.

Fig. 2. Silva Carka; “Aboriginal symbols page “; 2021; Digital Photograph.

They are all moments that capture Canada as we were taught in elementary school. Throughout all the pages with printed images, there is only one dedicated to the Indigenous people of Canada, and when compared to the other pictures, this one is bland. Representing Canada’s Indigenous people is one eagle feather, the Métis flag and an Inuit Inukshuk (stone person), and that is it. The image of a memorial located in France is included in our passport, which is incredibly detailed, unlike the page dedicated to our Indigenous community. If you pay attention, you can also notice how everything included in our passport is given the full two page-spread while the one dedicated to our Indigenous community is on a single page. It goes to show how to represent Canada in this ‘glorious’ light; we hide what we can about our past, including gliding over our Indigenous community as much as possible.


Fig. 3. Silva Carka; “Niagara Falls “; 2021; Digital Photograph.

There is more than what meets the eye to our passports. When we shine a UV light over our passport pages, we see more images light up our pages. Niagara Falls transforms from day to night, and the Parliament building in Ottawa is lit up with fireworks. The fact that not many know about and often goes unnoticed unless you have this special light. Along with this little detail that goes unnoticed, it adds to the uniqueness of this important document with its biased representation of Canada in its pages.

Fig. 4. Silva Carka; “Niagara Falls under UV Light “; 2021; Digital Photograph.


Works Cited

Carka, Silva. “Fathers of Confederation page spread.” 2021, Digital Photograph.

Carka, Silva. “Aboriginal symbols page.” 2021, Digital Photograph.

Carka, Silva. “Niagara Falls.” 2021, Digital Photograph.

Carka, Silva. “Niagara Falls under Uv Light.” 2021, Digital Photograph.