Anger, frustration and rumours exterior Montreal passport workplace as delays proceed

Giant crowds have gathered exterior the workplace daily this week, as individuals attempt to renew their passports or receive a Canadian passport for the primary time.

MONTREAL — The federal authorities has mentioned it carried out a system to cut back delays plaguing the downtown Montreal passport workplace, however those that had been ready in line on Thursday mentioned the state of affairs remained chaotic.

Florent Cohen mentioned he had been ready exterior the workplace since 4 a.m. Tuesday, attempting to get a journey doc for his four-month-old son.

You are reading: Anger, frustration and rumours exterior Montreal passport workplace as delays proceed

On Thursday morning, it appeared like he would lastly get his probability. After inching towards the entrance of the road and coming into the workplace, he mentioned he was instructed new functions weren’t being processed — solely those that had already submitted functions could be prioritized.

Cohen, who mentioned he couldn’t apply earlier as a result of he didn’t have the paperwork for his younger baby, was despatched again exterior.

“I really feel a bit exhausted, pissed off,” mentioned Cohen, who was scheduled to take his son to France to satisfy his dad and mom Thursday morning however has since modified his flight to Saturday.

Passport workplaces throughout the nation have been swamped in latest weeks due to the huge variety of individuals making use of for paperwork following the lifting of pandemic-related journey restrictions, the federal government has mentioned. Many Canadians are utilizing the “pressing” software system to acquire passports inside 48 hours, resulting in delays.

The issue is especially acute in Montreal. Households Minister Karina Gould instructed reporters in Ottawa Thursday that earlier than the pandemic, 5 per cent of passport functions had been made by way of the pressing system. Now, her workplace mentioned it’s near 50 per cent in Montreal.

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Gould mentioned earlier this week her division would institute a triage system to prioritize probably the most pressing circumstances, however she admitted Thursday the plan “didn’t go as easily, fairly frankly, as we had hoped.”

Greater than 300 individuals had been ready exterior the downtown Montreal federal constructing round midday on Thursday. Giant crowds have gathered exterior the workplace daily this week.

“Each day, they modify the principles they use to pick out individuals,” Cohen mentioned. “On Tuesday, there was sort of a listing; on Wednesday, they took 70 individuals; and as we speak, they determined, ‘make a line, we’ll come to you with questions.”‘

Gould mentioned passport workplace staff would communicate to everybody in line in Montreal to make sure they get appointments earlier than their departure dates.

“There are 10 managers who’re working within the line and they are going to be there till midnight (Thursday),” she mentioned. The passport workplace will keep open for appointments on Friday — a provincial vacation in Quebec — and Saturday, she added.

Individuals who had been ready in line mentioned they didn’t consider {that a} triage would truly occur, and rumours had been spreading that officers wouldn’t be capable to course of everybody in time.

Kevin King, the president of the Union of Nationwide Staff, which represents passport officers, mentioned his union had warned the federal government that it wanted to rent extra employees to organize for the resumption of journey as COVID-19 restrictions lifted.

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“We instructed representatives of the employer — anyone who has ears to listen to — that this was coming, over a 12 months in the past,” he mentioned in an interview Thursday.

He mentioned the federal government didn’t enhance the variety of employees to serve individuals arriving in individual and to cope with the backlog of mail-in functions. King mentioned the issue is getting worse: greater than 700 individuals had been lined up in downtown Montreal on Wednesday.

“The lineups are literally growing, not lowering,” he mentioned.

Whereas the federal authorities has mentioned it employed extra employees and transferred staff from different departments to passport workplaces, King mentioned it’s not clear what number of of these persons are skilled passport officers — the one individuals who can authenticate journey paperwork.

Zidane Tarbi, a type of ready in line Thursday, mentioned he visited a passport workplace two months in the past and was instructed to come back again two days earlier than his flight. Tarbi, who’s scheduled to fly to Morocco subsequent week to get married, mentioned that with the lengthy weekend, Thursday was his final probability to get an appointment.

“I’m very scared,” he mentioned. “That is my final probability; I can’t miss the flight. It’s a large number.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first printed June 23, 2022.

— With information from Morgan Lowrie in Montreal.

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