Amid reports of tired Canadians camping outside of passport offices, spending several stressful hours – if not days – in line to renewed their travel documents, Minister of Social Development Karina Gould released a statement on Thursday (June 23), once again calling Canada’s passport crisis “unacceptable.”
"I am deeply concerned about the delivery of passport services to Canadians, and the difficult and stressful situation too many Canadians are facing in getting passports in time for their travel plans,” Minister Gould stated. “Improving this service is a top priority for the Government of Canada.”
In response to the high demand for renewed passports, Service Canada has added staff, streamlined procedures and increased processing capacity to help deal with what the Minister calls “an unprecedented situation.”
Significant challenges remain
But “significant challenges remain,” the Minister said, saying that she has directed Service Canada continue to do more, and it is now implementing measures to make waits at specialized passport sites more predictable and manageable.
"Given the large crowds and lineups for passport services in urban centres, Service Canada is implementing new triage measures to provide a more intensive, client-specific approach,” she said.
The situation in Montreal has received the most press as of late – earlier in the week, police were called in to oversee the crowd of dozens and dozens of people who lined up, and camped out, at Complexe Guy Favreau with the hope of renewing passports for themselves or a child.
With new measures, the Minister said the circumstances in Montreal should improve and that similar efforts will be extended to Toronto and Vancouver on Monday (June 27) as well as in other cities across the country
The Minister said staff at passport offices will prioritize service to those with urgent travel needs within the following 24 to 48 hours.
They will also be directing clients with longer term travel plans to the most appropriate service channels to ensure their passport needs are met and their travel is not interrupted.
This includes making better use of the network of over 300 Service Canada sites, and ensuring all centres have the staff, technology and processing capacity to offer by-appointment passport service to clients with less urgent situations, who have been redirected to them through the triage process.
Gould told reporters yesterday that passport office employees are speaking to everyone in line in Montreal to ensure they get an appointment before their departure dates.
But according to a report from Global News, the people who are waiting in the line in Montreal say they don’t believe that will actually happen and rumours are now spreading that officials won’t be able to process everyone in time.
The government says it has seen a sharp increase in the number of people applying for passports and using the “urgent” system to obtain passports within 48 hours, which causing delays.
"It is important to note that despite the lineups and challenging circumstances on the ground, Canadians with urgent travel who apply at specialized passport centres are generally receiving their passports in time to travel,” Minister Gould reiterated yesterday.
As of the week ending June 19, 96 per cent of Canadians receive their passport within 10 working days of submitting an application in person at a specialized site, according to the Minister.
“But I recognize, the delayed delivery of passports is not uniquely an urban problem, which is why I have directed officials to also focus on improving the processing times at centres that handle mail applications and to address the inventory of applications already in hand,” Gould said.
All hands on deck
Staff from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) are also now assisting with direct passport processing, she said, and Service Canada expects up to 200 Canada Revenue Agency staff to join the service team for passports in Quebec as the tax filing season draws to a close.
Additional print capacity has been added to support applications from the Montreal area, Gould said.
"I want to reassure Canadians that no option to improve service will be left on the table, and solutions are being implemented as rapidly as possible when they are identified,” Gould said.