After years of pandemic-related travel restrictions, Canadians are looking to travel, but are still finding themselves held back by passport delays. According to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, the backlog mayhem will not be cleared until the end of summer at least, which hurts those without access to Passport Canada offices disproportionately, say NDP MPs Carol Hughes and Charlie Angus.
“In Northern Ontario, individuals are having to readjust their travel plans by cancelling their flights from regional airports and having to travel long distances to either Toronto, Thunder Bay or Ottawa to personally pick up passports in time for international travel,” said Hughes, MP for Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing. “Many are incurring additional costs and are extremely stressed by the process, and the anxiety increases even further when they are being told that the passport will only be ready the day before, or the day of, their travel.”
The delays in processing have resulted in days-long wait times in major centres, but those in Northern and rural communities are unable to reach Service Canada agents by phone, and their only recourse is to contact the offices of their local MP so they can have their passports fast tracked as their travel dates near.
“The Minister must ensure that Canadians are able to reach someone when they are making inquiries to get an update on the status of their passports,” said Angus, MP for Timmins-James Bay “The process must be improved so that travellers can receive passports in a timely fashion without being inconvenienced. It makes people anxious that they won’t make their travel dates, it costs them more, and it again makes people outside of major urban centres feel like they have no recourse. The serious incompetence in the process and the lack of planning have led to these delays, and frankly it’s unacceptable.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic the NDP had repeatedly pushed the Federal Government to establish a Safe Border Reopening Task Force which would have helped to identify issues such as a growing demand for passports as travel reopened – this could have been acted on before becoming a crisis.