Canadians are camping outside for days in final effort to get passports

A confused scene at a passport office in downtown Montreal saw police called in to help manage the crowds on Tuesday, while hopeful travellers committed to stay overnight just to secure their place in line.

For some, simply waiting to get a passport has grown from hours to days.

Sonia Basili dropped off her son’s passport application in-person back in April.

Sitting outside the Montreal office on Tuesday, she says she and her family had no choice but to get in line, starting at 6 p.m. the previous day. Her flight to France leaves Wednesday night.

“My mom sat here, then my husband slept here. We went inside this morning, it was very disorganized. We didn’t make the cut, so we’ve come back out and we’re going to sleep here the night and go in tomorrow morning,” Basili told CTV National News.

She is staying positive but says she is lucky to have family members who can sit in when needed, knowing others don’t have that privilege.

Basili says she even had to take the day off work just to wait in line.

“When we go inside, what happens next?” she said. “Are we going to make it or are we going to be stuck outside, sleeping again outside for the next day.”

A resurging interest in travel after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen passport applications skyrocket, creating massive backlogs that are forcing some Canadians to cancel or reschedule their travel plans, potentially leaving them out thousands of dollars.

Some are advertising services to stand in line for passport applicants, for a price, while one woman from Vancouver purchased a round-trip flight to Edmonton just to get her document in time for a trip to Las Vegas. She documented her experience on TikTok.

A statement from Service Canada in May said it had hired 600 new employees to process passport applications and opened additional dedicated passport counters at more than 300 centres.

“We’ve hired 600 additional folks since January, in the process of hiring another 600,” Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Karina Gould said.

“Hundreds reallocated internally within Service Canada, bringing on folks from CRA (Canada Revenue Agency), immigration. Talking to Global Affairs, as well as other departments, to see how we can further expand the workforce, so that we can ensure that Canadians receive their passports in a timely way.”

A ticketing system is expected to come into place so passport applicants don’t need to camp outside.

With files from CTV News

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