Canadians still enduring long passport wait times amid system shakeup

Aoife Dowling may not be flying until August, but she isn’t waiting to get her daughter’s passport application done.

In an effort to get the process moving, Dowling arrived at the passport office in Surrey, B.C., at 5:30 a.m. on Friday after hearing the lineups were slightly better than Vancouver, where she had tried unsuccessfully to get the renewal done on Tuesday.

Equipped with a couple of backup chargers, sunscreen and water, Dowling informed her colleagues at work of her plans and told CTV News Channel that she will work by phone while she waits in line.

She says she spoke to someone in line about whether Uber Eats delivers to lineups.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” she said. “We’ll figure something out.”

Dowling’s story is one of many heard around the country as Canadians struggle to get their passport applications approved in time for planned trips this year.

Service Canada has been inundated with applications following a lull created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The situation is particularly dire in Montreal, where people have camped out for days outside of the passport office downtown. Police were called at one point this week to help manage the crowds.

Some have advertised services to stand in line for passport applicants. And in Vancouver, one woman shared her experience on TikTok of flying round-trip to Edmonton just to get her passport renewed.

On Thursday, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Karina Gould, who is responsible for passport services, said she is directing Service Canada to do more in major urban centres where delays are most severe.

The plan is to triage and prioritize services “to those with urgent travel needs within the following 24 to 48 hours,” a statement from Gould said.

The triage system has worked well in recent days at centres in Laval and Saint-Laurent, Que., she said, with all of the roughly 250-300 people in line at both sites spoken to by a team of managers by 10 a.m. Thursday morning.

Although Friday is Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day in Quebec, Gould’s office tells CTV News that there are people working in passport offices who are taking appointments as part of this new ticketing system introduced by the federal government.

“It will be rolled out in other major metropolitan and urban areas across the country,” Gould told reporters on Thursday.

“This is actually a strategy that we’ve been working on for a number of weeks, because we had to train up Service Canada officers at Service Canada centres.”

Along with hiring 600 new employees to process passport applications, the federal government has brought in staff from other departments and agencies, as well.

This includes dozens from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, upwards of 200 people from the Canada Revenue Agency and around 70 from Statistics Canada.

Some passport applications are even being sent from Montreal to Gatineau, which has a larger printing service, to help with the backlog.

Dowling told CTV News Channel that in some ways she feels for those working at passport offices and are now dealing with two years worth of backlog.

As a dual Irish citizen, however, she renewed her passport online within three weeks and says in the long term, the Canadian system could be more efficient.

With files from CTV News

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