New Canadian Passport Shows Land of Sporty White Guys

The Canadian government has designed new passports, including watermarks showing “iconic images from Canadian History”, according to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. What can we learn from these images? That Canada is a land of sporty and occasionally military white guys. Almost no women, people of colour, artists or poets, and Canada’s aboriginal peoples are symbols only, not actual historic or contemporary peoples.

Canadian columnist Heather Mallick puts it best:

“The passport contains 22 visual watermarks portraying the essence, the uniqueness of Harperlandia. There are, by my count, 98 images of males, six of females. There are various landscapes, from the north, the Prairies and Newfoundland, plus Niagara Falls. There are football players and hockey players, a warship, three war memorials, the RCMP and a soldier. But there is no image of Toronto or Vancouver and no aboriginal Canadian. Apparently only one Canadian verging on our lifetime (Terry Fox) has ever distinguished himself.

According to the government, we are white guys, rural, warlike and sporty, but not literate. Our landscapes are bleak, our buildings drab, our statuary undistinguished. These are not propellant images. In most, we are either stationary or plodding.

Worse, not a single Canadian face is shown cracking a smile.

All the historical maps are blank, apparently sans Inuit or First Nations, and there are no modern maps including the border cities we favour.”

This is not a Canada I know, or want to inhabit!

6 thoughts on “New Canadian Passport Shows Land of Sporty White Guys

  1. I don’t know, those images of nature, such as the Niagara horseshoe falls, are not bleak or drab. And how vibrant can a drawing in a passport be? (I realize that I tend to kick against almost everything Heather Mallick writes, so my bias may be inhibiting my receptivity here.)

  2. I’m maybe less bothered by the lack of urban representation than I am by the lack of women and aboriginal people.

  3. Yeah, I’d have loved to have seen a Famous 5 group in there, but I have to agree with Kate that Mallick is stretching too call those images bleak and drab. Inukshuks are not bleak, but are markers of human activity on a changing, and very vibrant landscape. The prairie montage of elevators, trains and oil wells is bad, but it’s bad because it’s cluttered and poorly rendered, not because rural landscapes or prairie landscapes are drab (they are, actually very vibrant).

    I guess that’s what bugs me about Mallick’s writing. She starts with a good point (under representation of women and First Nations people in the images) but they adds on her personal hate of Steven Harper, and seems to lose all focus.

  4. Governments have a weird habit of not leaving well enough alone when it comes to passports. I am thinking particularly of the “new” U.S. passports, which are just chock full of stuff (quotations, Americana artwork, a a bunch of bald eagles of course, etc.) I liked the old passports because the empty space really made the visas really stand out.

    But although I do not like the design (that said, I have no natural sense of style or design), it looks like we did a decent job when it comes to the representation of women and minority groups in the passport.

  5. As is so often the case, there is much weirdness in Mallick’s column, a fair bit of which seems to be based on a bizarre inferential interpretation of the historical images and landscapes in the new passport.

    The historical maps are blank, so…?

    Because the images include some war memorials and soldiers, the government is saying that Canadians are warlike?

    Because the series didn’t include images of authors or poets (or, for that matter, columnists from the Star), the government is telling the world that Canadians are illiterate?

    Because in this series inspired by Canadian history no individual more recent than Terry Fox is depicted, the government must be taking the position that no other Canadian in the last few decades has distinguished himself? (Please no jokes – but seriously, how is that inference at all warranted under these circumstances?)

    Maybe the new microchips in the passports are beaming these government messages directly into Mallick’s head.

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