Open Jaw Exclusive: Canada’s First 10-year Passports Set to Expire, Adding Pressure to Passport Crisis

Despite Ottawa’s assurances that passport offices are revolutionizing to solve wait times, passport workers’ unions say working conditions to dig out of the backlog are unsustainable. 

Plus, Open Jaw is the first media outlet to connect the dots –  that the first decade-long passports expire in 2023. According to sources, those renewals are starting already, ballooning demand on a system in crisis.

Read more...

Long lineups for Canadians applying for or renewing passports – as well as lengthy processing delays – have made headlines as travel continues its recovery.

Like the extraordinary lineups and delays in Canada’s major airports, it appears that the federal government was caught flat-footed and unprepared for the resurgence of travel, with the passport office admitting in MAY that there was a half-million passport backlog.

Despite assurances for weeks that it was taking measures to improve application and processing wait times, the situation has gone from bad to worse. Open Jaw has reported about residents in major cities where the lineups are longest hiring people to wait overnight outside passport offices, about police having to be called to a passport office lineup in Montreal, and even about some desperate people flying to cities where there’s less demand for passport services – just to get into the office to apply in person.

The minister responsible for passport services was forced to address her ministry’s shortcomings late last week. In a statement, Karina Gould promised that the federal government is on top of the delays at Service Canada, and is fixing the problem, especially for those in the busiest urban centres.

“Triage” and Other Creative Solutions

Gould announced that Service Canada had started using a new “triage system” designed to help people who are in most urgent need of a passport based on their flight time. Those flying in the next 12, 24, 36 and 48 hours will get priority service, according to Gould.

The triage system debuted in Montreal before being extended to Toronto on 23JUN and Vancouver on 27JUN. Service Canada is deploying managers to speak with customers in line before they reach a customer service agent, to provide a more “intensive, client-specific” approach.

“In the early morning, increased numbers of managers and executives are assisting and speaking directly with clients in order to triage lineups at specialized passport sites,” explained Gould in her statement.

While Gould said passport lines in Montreal had made “much better progress” by 23JUN, the government web site that tracks wait times at the 35 specialized passport offices was still warning of delays of at least six hours at Montreal’s Guy-Favreau complex, which is experiencing “the worst delays in the country.”

In addition, according to the minister, the government is adding even more additional staff to help ease delays, and pulling federal employees from other offices to help.

Staff from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, Statistics Canada, the Canada Revenue Agency are also assisting with passport processing and printing, said Gould. The new measures are on top of the 600 additional Service Canada staff who have already been hired to meet demand, as well as an estimated 600 more the department plans to recruit.

“Public servants from across numerous departments are working overtime, evenings, holidays and weekends to help address the situation and deliver service,” Gould’s statement reads.

“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 added that more passports will be printed in bulk at the Gatineau, Que., processing centre and sent to other locations to ease the burden on smaller passport offices that don’t have larger industrial printers.

Union Sounding the Alarm

Kevin King, national president of the Union of National Employees, which represents employees at Canada’s passport offices, says delays for passports will get worse before they get better.

King reportedly warned the federal government of potential backlogs for passport services “for a good chunk” of 2021, but to no avail.

He also added that employees are being harassed as tensions mount due to passport delays.

“If our employees are continuing to be harassed and swarmed…the issue is not a strike. But federal legislation allows for employees to participate with the Canada Labour Code, meaning they have the right to refuse dangerous work. And that’s what it’s becoming,” he warned.

But Wait, There’s More: First Cohort of 10-Year Passports Set to Expire

Open Jaw has also been doing the math. Canada first introduced 10-year passports in 2013. Part of the rationale behind those extended-length passports was for Canadians to avoid having to renew their passports more frequently, a benefit to Canadian passport holders – and reducing the workload for Canada’s passport offices.

But now, those first 10-year passports are set to expire in 2023. And according to Open Jaw’s sources, savvy 10-year passport holders are already queuing up for renewals.

That’s on top of the other factors contributing to the crisis in Canada’s passport offices, and appears to support union warnings that the passport office crisis is only going to get worse – and is likely to last well into 2023.

Lynn Elmhirst

With a background in broadcast news and travel lifestyles TV production, Lynn is just as comfortable behind or in front of the camera as she is slinging words into compelling stories at her laptop. Having been called a multi-media ‘content charmer’, Lynn’s other claim to fame is the ability to work 24/7, forgoing sleep until the job is done. Documented proof exists in a picture of Lynn at the closing celebrations of an intense week, standing, champagne in hand - sound asleep. That’s our kind of gal.

You may also like
Regent Seven Seas Mariner in Skagway, Alaska
More Rockslides Close Busiest Skagway Cruise Dock for the Rest of Alaska Season
As the White Pass Railroad Dock is set to remain closed for the season, an estimated 30 ships - totalling 100,000 ...
American Cruise Lines' American Symphony
American Cruise Lines’ Latest Riverboat Debuts in NOLA in AUG
Currently on the way to New Orleans for the start of its inaugural season sailing the Mississippi River, 175-guest American Symphony ...
Viking Saigon
Newest Viking Ship Begins Inaugural Season in Asia
Until 31AUG, Viking is offering special savings on select river and ocean voyages, with a limited-time USD $25 deposit as part ...
Paul Gauguin Cruises in Tahiti
Paul Gauguin Cruises Announces $500 Air Credit for Select 2023 Sailings
Paul Gauguin Cruises is offering a USD $500 air credit per guest on 7-night voyages exploring French Polynesia. This offer is ...
African Travel Inc. Safari Elephant
African Travel Inc. Offers More Departures in 2022, New Incentives for Advisors
With an uptick in demand, luxury safari operator African Travel, Inc., is offering advisor incentives for trips reserved in 2022 along ...

Leave a Reply