Saturday July 2, 2022
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday July 2, 2022
The misery of waiting overnight in line in hopes of getting a passport
After two days and one night lining up outside the passport office at downtown Vancouver’s Sinclair Centre, Kris Hansen still hadn’t made it inside, still hadn’t spoken to a single Service Canada official. The 50-something school principal spent a Thursday night last week under a blanket on the sidewalk on Hastings. There were no security guards outside. No Porta Potties. No signage. No one in line had any idea when – or if – they would be seen.
After sitting cross-legged on the concrete for hours on end, Mr. Hansen had bought himself a canvas camping chair. He was trying to renew his son’s passport. The boy wants to see his dying grandfather in Japan one last time. He is desperate to say goodbye.
“I have no choice,” Mr. Hansen said, shaking violently from the bitter, pre-dawn cold. “I know how much this means to him.”
A few minutes later, a kind soul began handing out blue plastic ponchos, to help cut the north wind coming off the Burrard Inlet.
“I’m just so tired,” Mr. Hansen said, his eyes filling with tears. “I haven’t slept. I’ve had to cancel classes. There are so many better ways this could be handled. This is lacking all logic. All common decency.”
For the past five months, this is how people in B.C.’s Lower Mainland have been applying for – and renewing – their passports. A surge in demand is creating massive backlogs across the country. The wait times at the Surrey passport office are just as bad. The office in Richmond doesn’t have a printer able to create passports. Last week, police had to be called to the Montreal passport office to help with large crowds.
A week earlier, the federal government rolled out a new “triaging” system to deal with the passport crisis, which began ahead of March break: Those flying out in less than 48 hours are now given priority access, explained Karina Gould, Minister of Children, Families and Social Development, whose portfolio is responsible for the passport office.
So, people began immediately booking tickets for fake trips that they won’t be taking, to increase their odds of actually setting foot inside a Service Canada office.
Julie Scott-Ashe, a GIS mapping analyst with the B.C. government, managed to secure an appointment at a Saskatoon passport office. Saskatoon and Regina are the only two passport offices in the country with appointments before August. Since it would cost $1,200 to fly to Saskatchewan from Vancouver, she is planning to book a cheap flight to Edmonton, then rent a car and drive the rest of the way.
She needs to renew her daughter’s passport, so their family in Europe can reunite for the first time since the pandemic began.
Five months into the crisis, Canadian passport offices still close for weekends and holidays. They still shutter at 4, every afternoon. Last week, the Vancouver office had just half the 15 staff that normally work there.
Why hadn’t Ottawa asked bureaucrats to temporarily help staff passport offices, Ms. Scott-Ashe wondered. Before B.C. began rolling out COVID-19 vaccines, she noted, the province encouraged its civil servants to volunteer to work on the project. (The Globe & Mail)