Canadians falsify travel plans to avoid queues for passport applications, says minister

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Backlogs in Canada’s passport system are prompting some people to find loopholes that allow them to renew or obtain a new passport without a long wait, said the minister responsible for passport services.

Liberal MP Karina Gould, Minister for Families, Children and Social Development, told CTV News she had heard of people booking flights – without a valid passport – and using the impending travel plans as an excuse for passport services give priority to their applications.

“It’s not something we’ve heard of happening across the board, but of course if it does, I would advise against it altogether, as it exacerbates an already overwhelmed system,” Gould said in the report. published on August 16.

“I would be very disappointed if someone decided to do this because it’s very unfair to the people who have done all the right things.”

Millions of Canadians are applying for new passports or renewals since the federal government lifted various travel restrictions related to COVID-19 in the spring.

The government says it has received more than a million passport applications since the start of 2022, but it was only able to issue around 740,000. In April and May, the systems were so congested that passport applications exceeded over 240,000 the number of requests processed.

“Canadians should be able to obtain a new or renewed passport in a timely manner. I remain seized to resolve this unacceptable situation as quickly as possible,” Gould said in a July statement.

Service Canada says it has faced “a series of interconnected issues” left over from the pandemic that are slowing passport waitlists. These include increased application volumes and an increase in the number of applications sent by mail, “which take longer to process,” says Service Canada.

“Requests submitted by mail are processed within 10 weeks, plus postage time,” he said.

In July, the federal government nearly doubled its initial forecast for annual passport applications, from about 2.4 million to 4.3 million.

The government also says passport service workers have worked more than 50,000 overtime hours since the week of June 20 in a bid to make up for backlogs.

Despite their extended opening hours, passport services still fail to keep pace with requests on a weekly basis.

During the week of July 25 to July 31, the government received over 57,000 applications but only processed about 47,000. From August 1 to August 7, passport services fell behind by 5 000 other requests.

Tory MP Laila Goodridge, shadow family minister, said in a June statement that Gould had shown “incompetence” in trying to resolve passport delays.

“It is not enough for the Minister to share ‘the frustration of Canadians’, when she is the Minister responsible for the long lines at Service Canada offices,” said Goodridge. “It is not enough to say that ‘improving this service is a top priority for the Government of Canada’, when action should have been taken months ago.

Gould said in the statement that “nearly 150” new employees are being trained for Canadian Passport Services. At present, the total number of passport department employees is just over 1,900.

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Peter Wilson is a journalist based in Ontario, Canada.

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