'Bucket list' Disneyland trip for woman with terminal cancer a go after passport delay apparently resolved

·3 min read
Barb Walter, centre, is pictured with her granddaughters Sydney, left, and Mara. Walter was diagnosed with terminal cancer in April at age 56. (Brandon Williams - image credit)
Barb Walter, centre, is pictured with her granddaughters Sydney, left, and Mara. Walter was diagnosed with terminal cancer in April at age 56. (Brandon Williams - image credit)

Update May 26, 3:51 pm: About 24 hours after CBC contacted Service Canada and Citizenship and Immigration, passport officials phoned the Williams's to tell them their children's passports would be processed Thursday and ready for pick up May 30 in Surrey, in time for their Disneyland trip on June 3.

Ask Barb Walter's family, and they'll tell you the 56-year-old grandmother would give anything for her loved ones.

But since they found out she has terminal cancer, the family said they have been scrambling to give back to her with a trip to Disneyland in California.

They said they want to make the trip as a family so Walter can make lasting memories with her three beloved grandchildren.

"This could very well be her very last thing that she gets to do with us as a family while she's still in any capacity to be able to leave the house," said Brandon Williams, 42, Walter's son-in-law and the father of her grandchildren, speaking from his family's home in Hope.

Brandon Williams
Brandon Williams

"She wanted to take the family to Disneyland and make this trip happen any way possible. Part of her bucket list."

But the trip is in question, Brandon said, because of delays getting the kids their passports.

Williams' wife and Walter's step-daughter, Cheyenne Williams, applied in late April for passports for their three kids, ages three to seven — as soon as they found out the cancer, originally discovered in late 2020, was terminal.

She applied by priority mail as there were no in-person appointments available in the Lower Mainland. A passport office in Ontario received the application April 25.

Since then, she said they've heard nothing from Service Canada. Cheyenne described calling, at one point, 20 times a day to get an update. All she'd get is an automated system that provided no answers, she said.

Brandon Williams
Brandon Williams

She tried on May 15 to get information from an online form system but that has yielded no response either.

Their flight from Vancouver to California is set for June 3.

"It's definitely a stress that I've carried every single day since we sent the passports in the mail," Cheyenne, 30, said.

"Trying to plan this trip and knowing how excited my mom is for it and how wonderful it would be for her to have that time with them. But every time I think about it, I think, 'There's this chance that it might not happen.'"

In recent months, Canadians across the country have described excruciating delays in renewing or applying for passports.

The federal government has bolstered efforts to clear the backlog, but the Williams family said they are seeking assurances that the special trip will still be possible while the family still has time together.

Canada-wide issue

CBC asked Service Canada and Citizenship and Immigration Canada for comment on this story but did not receive a response by deadline.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said clearing the passport application backlog is a priority.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Trudeau has said 43,000 passports are now being processed every week. Several hundred passport workers have been hired in recent months.

An estimated 500,000 passport applications were submitted in April and May, according to Service Canada.

It added that travellers should have a valid passport before planning any international trips.

Brandon said he wants action on their file or at least some answers.

But he also wants to highlight that sometimes a family vacation is more than a holiday, he said.

"For some people, this is everything," he said. "I mean, it's everything for my mother-in-law, you know?"

Walter, speaking briefly on the phone, said it would be "absolutely devastating" not to make the Disneyland trip as she tries to make the most of the coming months.

"It's very frustrating," Walters said of her grandkids' passport delay. "It's quite unbelievable."

To give her family their best chance at making their flight, Cheyenne said she plans to camp out overnight at the Vancouver passport office for an in-person appointment.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting