Those looking to renew a passport in Winnipeg may still find themselves in long lines, months after many COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were lifted.
Sharon Boulette had kept an eye on the queue of people waiting at the federal government’s passport office near Portage Avenue and Main Street for days before she joined in Thursday. She hadn’t made an appointment, and had been waiting for around an hour to get her passport renewed, she told the Free Press.
"It’s a lot shorter than the last couple of days, it was right around (the building), even into the parking lot," said Boulette, who’s planning a trip to Alaska to visit friends.
The passport backlog has remained steadfast across Canada. Winnipeggers reported waiting hours over multiple days just to be turned away earlier this year; in Montreal this week, people were camping out in the lineup in hopes of renewing their travel documents in time.
In a statement, Service Canada acknowledged there were still delays.
"These wait times are far from normal, and we know many people have been put in very difficult and stressful circumstances… In every corner of the country, Service Canada Centre employees are working overtime and on weekends. In many locations, Service Canada has also adapted hours of service for clients who cannot be accommodated during regular hours," a spokesperson said in an email.
"Due to high volumes, processing times are longer than usual. We may not always meet our service standards as a result."
Some observers say the overwhelming backlog may be caused in part by staff errors, not just processing times.
Local couple David and Miranda Piec are fearful a long-time yearly tradition of travelling to where they first met in Minnesota will have to be cancelled a fourth year in a row after they were not informed Miranda’s passport application had hit a snag.
They had mailed in documents in April for their plans to travel on June 30. Their credit card was charged for the passport processing fee, leading the couple to believe it was underway.
On Thursday, Miranda went to check on the status of the passport in person at 433 Main St. and was told her birth certificate had slight damage and her application had been put to the side.
"There’s no record of anyone attempting to call her, there’s no one attempting to notify us of the issue, it was just simply brushed off," David said.
The Piecs were told it was unlikely at this point she would receive her passport in time. The couple was distraught but didn’t plan to give up.
"We’re going to wait in line for four to five hours if I have to, and I’m going to speak to someone who has the ability to expedite this," he said. "Because I know they have the ability and the authority to prioritize our application — because this was an error that they created."
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.