Canada's Passport Photo Policy Gives Us a Reason to Smile

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), September 16, 2003 | Go to article overview

Canada's Passport Photo Policy Gives Us a Reason to Smile


Byline: Burt Constable

Since you rarely see mad suicide bombers flashing their pearly whites in gregarious grins, Canada will ban smiles from all passport photos beginning Nov. 3.

Our neighbor to the north wants its citizenry to appear as bland as tundra. No smiles, no frowns, no impish grins, no arched eyebrows, no looks of wistful whimsy or exhilarating ecstasy. Each passport photo must show only a "neutral expression."

The thinking, espoused by the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization, is that people will be easier to recognize if they are impassive lumps.

Pshaw. If we surrender our right to an expressive ID photo, then the terrorists have won. Here in Illinois, we don't cotton to such Canadian capitulation. At the Illinois drivers' license facility in Schaumburg, a resident puts his mettle where his mouth is.

"We encourage them to smile," says manager Tom Bush, pointing to signs inviting applicants to "Look Here. Smile."

And if the sign isn't compelling enough, photographer John O'Connor of Palatine coaxes smiles from the crowd.

"Smile if you like," O'Connor, 60, tells one bored-looking woman. "It's your face."

Caught off guard, she snickers just in time for O'Connor to capture her Cheshire cat-like grin on the digital camera.

"Here you go, you're on 'Candid Camera,'" O'Connor tells a man whose face instantly broadens into a smile.

He wheedles a wide smile from an octogenarian using a walker by admonishing her that "there's no flirting with the youngsters," and assuring her that "you just have to look gorgeous, darlin.' "

"Don't pay any attention to that man behind the curtain," he tells another, playing off a famous scene in "The Wizard of Oz."

"This is fun," O'Connor says, adding that he prefers the driver's license photo booth over the oh-so-boring vision-test department.

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