As COVID-19 restrictions have eased, lineups at Vancouver's passport office have grown dramatically over the last month, with staffing issues and an influx of passport renewals leaving some travellers in limbo.
At the Passport Services office on West Hastings Street in downtown Vancouver Thursday, dozens of people queued up, some sitting on the floor, in the hopes of getting a rushed passport to make a flight later in the day or on Friday.
Hamid Rahimi was trying to get to Iran after his father passed away.
"I am angry because I am not able to go to Iran for my father's ceremony," he said. "I couldn't sleep last night. You can see so many people who are sleeping on the ground here. We are Canadians."
Brad Edgelow said he was at the passport office at 5:15 a.m. Thursday to help his daughter-in-law, whose passport suffered water damage. It was their sixth trip to the passport offices in Metro Vancouver, he said, including spending all day Wednesday at the Downtown Vancouver office.
Edgelow said a family trip is at risk if it doesn't get resolved.
He questioned Service Canada's planning, saying that of the more-than-20 booths at the office, only five were staffed due to COVID protocols to protect staff.
"But there's no protection for the citizens who are standing out here cheek-to-jowl waiting for their passport," he said.
Service Canada says federally-mandated occupancy limits affect the number of staff that can work at one time in Service Canada centres.
Edgelow said he doesn't understand why measures couldn't be put in place to better serve the public while still protecting staff.
"If they have the employees available, they could at least stagger their work shift and extend the hours to deal with this incredible backlog," he suggested.
Service Canada says passport applications and renewals have grown with the easing of restrictions and the resumption of travel.
In an email to CBC, it said it received approximately 69,000 applications in April last year, while there have been about 194,000 applications in the first three weeks of this month.
Service Canada said standards for passport service are 10 business days if applying at a specialized Service Canada passport site, and 20 business days if applying at a Service Canada Centre or by mail.
As of April 18, it said, the average processing time for passports is five days if applying in-person at a specialized passport site, and 25 days if applying at a Service Canada Centre or by mail.
It also said anyone who requires a passport within two business days must visit the nearest specialized passport site offering urgent pickup service. In these cases, proof of travel or need is required.