Montreal passport seekers camp overnight, wait hours in line at service centre amid backlog

·2 min read
Massinissa Abibsi is hoping to get a passport before his flight to North Carolina tomorrow. He's one of many scrambling to get their travel documents in time as Canada deals with an
Massinissa Abibsi is hoping to get a passport before his flight to North Carolina tomorrow. He's one of many scrambling to get their travel documents in time as Canada deals with an

Massinissa Abibsi is looking forward to a camping trip in North Carolina tomorrow — if he can get there, that is.

Like many would-be travellers across Canada, Abibsi has been waiting months to receive his passport due to what Ottawa is calling "unprecedented" demand since pandemic travel restrictions lifted.

"I made my demand in March and I still haven't received my passport," he told CBC News, sitting in a fold-up chair in line at the Guy-Favreau Complex Monday morning.

Abibsi arrived at the passport office in downtown Montreal at 5 a.m. after spending what he described as hours on the phone with officials over several months.

"I've had some wait times on the phone where 300 people were in front of me," he said.

He was one of more than 100 passport seekers at the Guy-Favreau Complex Monday — some of whom arrived as early as 11 p.m. Sunday night.

The federal government has warned of long wait times for passports since April, saying there is a surge in the number of people applying for them since COVID-19 border measures were relaxed. While Service Canada says it's doing what it can to combat the backlog, Abibsi decries the delays.

"It's really disappointing, it's unacceptable as a Canadian," he said.

Kate McKenna/CBC News
Kate McKenna/CBC News

Millions of passports issued in past year

Between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021, Service Canada issued 363,000 passports as services were limited to urgent travel cases.

But as the world reopened, nearly 1.3 million passports were issued between April 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022.

Since April of this year, more than 317,000 passports have been handed out, and the federal forecast for 2022-2023 is between 3.6 million and 4.3 million applications.

Kate McKenna/CBC News
Kate McKenna/CBC News

Riley Lewicki hopes to have her application processed on Monday.

Looking to travel to France in the coming days, she arrived at the Guy-Favreau Complex before 5 a.m. She said she and her girlfriend tried to get passports weeks ago, but were told by officials that they were only processing emergency passports and that they needed to come back 48 hours before their trip.

"It felt pretty irresponsible to show up two days before a trip ... but we didn't really have a choice, so here we are," she said.

Service Canada has said it's brought on 600 new employees to help sort through the influx of paperwork, and additional counters have also been added at more than 300 centres.

Despite this, problems have persisted, and Abibsi is frustrated about the prospect of having to cancel his trip.

"Especially in a first-world country like Canada ... it shouldn't be so complicated to get your passport," he said.

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