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Quebec Alters Requirements for Passports

November 26, 2001|Associated Press

TORONTO — Quebec's provincial government is changing identification requirements in an effort to make it harder to obtain Canadian passports with false documentation.

The move comes two years after Ahmed Ressam, who held a passport he obtained with a phony Quebec baptismal certificate, was arrested at the U.S. border with a trunkload of explosives apparently intended for a terror plot during millennium celebrations.

There has been criticism since his arrest that Quebec baptismal certificates are easy to falsify. Quebec was the only Canadian province where such certificates were a common form of identification.

Starting today, the province will not accept baptismal or birth certificates issued before 1994 as proof of identity to obtain a passport.

Under the new rules, any Quebec native who wishes to obtain a Canadian passport must present either a birth certificate issued by the province on or after Jan. 1, 1994, or a certificate of citizenship.

Ressam, an Algerian who said he trained in terrorist camps financed by Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, pleaded guilty to U.S. conspiracy charges and agreed to testify against other terror suspects in hopes of reducing a potential 140-year sentence.

Quebec's new identification requirements are the latest in a series of security changes since the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States.

The province no longer lets people apply for birth certificates over the Internet, nor does it still issue certificates within 24 hours of application.

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