Passport applicants prepare to spend two nights away from the Montreal office

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After spending the night outside a federal building in downtown Montreal, Christian Bourque said on Tuesday he expected to have to wait another night before having the chance to renew his passport. daughter.

MONTREAL — After spending the night outside a federal building in downtown Montreal, Christian Bourque said Tuesday he expects to have to wait another night before he gets a chance to renew the passport. of his daughter.

Bourque was among dozens of people – many of whom had flights within 48 hours – who were camping in the hope of renewing their travel documents for themselves or a child. Bourque, who was trying to renew his 15-year-old daughter’s passport, got in line on Monday and said he thought he could get into the office by Wednesday.

“We haven’t seen our son for a year, he lives in Portugal,” Bourque said in an interview. “My youngest daughter needs a new passport. We sent the application to them about two and a half months ago. They said it would take about 20 working days and here we are almost three months later.”

By early afternoon, about 60 people were waiting outside the federal building and dozens more had left empty chairs to line up.

Since April, long queues have been reported at passport offices across the country amid an increase in applications and renewals.

Dave Mustaikis said he arrived at the office around 2 p.m. Monday.

He was lucky. He received an appointment for the next day – after spending the night outside.

“It will be good if I get my passport at the end,” he said.

Inside the building, about two dozen waited in the lobby, hoping to speak with passport officials.

Florent Cohen, who had been waiting since shortly after 4am, said he was told he had to report to the office 48 hours before he left to use the emergency procedure to obtain a passport for his son four months.

Cohen, who wants to introduce his parents – who live in France – to his newborn baby, said passport officials did not help.

“They haven’t given us any answers about what’s going on, what to do next,” he said, adding that he was frustrated with “the lack of communication and explanation about the procedure. “.

In Ottawa, Families Minister Karina Gould said the delays, which she previously described as “unacceptable”, are the result of the high volume of passport applications.

“I completely understand and understand Canadians’ frustration over this,” she told reporters. “Passports (are) something a lot of people didn’t have to worry about in the past, but due to the high volume we’ve received over the last two months, it’s straining the system.”

Gould’s department is responsible for Service Canada, which processes passport applications. She said 600 people had been hired since January and another 600 people had transferred from other departments.

But Kevin King, president of the Union of National Employees, which represents employees at passport offices, said the extra workers are unable to authenticate passports because they have not completed the training program of 12 weeks. Work performed by transferred employees must be validated by a passport officer, he said.

“Pulling people from other departments to help with things like traffic and stuff like that, with queues in offices, doesn’t solve the problem,” he said in an interview Thursday.

King said he was concerned about the lack of civility of some people waiting for their passports.

“There have been examples in Montreal … where employees have been pushed around, verbally harassed,” he said, adding that some of that harassment took place as workers left their offices.

In downtown Toronto, about 10 people lined up outside the passport office on Tuesday afternoon, hours before the scheduled closing for the day. David Sumantry had been in line for about an hour, the second to last person to get a seat before security started turning people away.

“I was really lucky,” he said. “I feel like people are kind of resigned to this. They’ve heard about it in the news and stuff and just say, ‘This is what we have to deal with’, but nobody is really excited.

In Montreal, Bourque said he couldn’t understand how the government hadn’t anticipated the increase in passport applications.

“There’s something a bit Soviet about the environment,” he said. “I don’t understand how this could happen in Canada.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 21, 2022.

“With files from Jordan Omstead in Toronto.

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

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