Anger, frustration after hundreds continue to camp out outside B.C. passport office

More anger and frustration at a Surrey passport office, as people who've been lining up for days were told to go home. John Hua reports.

There has been more anger and frustration at a B.C. passport office Thursday as people have been lined up for days for walk-in appointments.

Many of the people outside the Surrey Service Canada office need emergency passports because they have to fly in the next 24 to 48 hours.

Others are in line because appointments are all full.

However, they have been told by security guards that the office will accept no walk-ins until next week.

Avang Najarli just spent her second night outside the passport office and was only second in line when they were told there were no more tickets for appointments Thursday.

At 7 a.m. she said they were told by a security guard that the office is not accepting any applications for the next week.

“I almost had a heart attack,” she said. “I thought, ‘What am I supposed to do now?’

“How come no one is helping? How come no one is saying anything?”

Najarli ended up being given one of the only two tickets handed out Thursday.

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But she said about a hundred people are in line and they are just getting turned away every day.

She said the information from Service Canada has been terrible and she waited for three days to get her appointment.

“I’m a proud Canadian citizen but this is not how it’s supposed to be,” she said.

Traveller Jenna Patridge, who needs a passport to attend a friend’s wedding in Maui, said she knew her passport was expiring and called Service Canada a few months ago to inquire about it.

She said she was told there would be no issue and to make an appointment online.

However, when there were no appointments available she had to show up as a walk-in and that’s where the trouble started.

“Then they turn you away as a walk-in and they take, maybe, two to 15 a day but lately it’s been two to five and so I’ve been now four times in person, on the phone tons of times, trying to make appointments,” she said.

“When you have to show up as a walk-in and then you have to camp overnight.”

Read more:

Lineups, wait times for passport renewal soar as pandemic restrictions end

Richardt Scholz is trying to travel for a day trip to Washington state. He said he’s very disappointed in the way this has been run.

He said he knows his is not an emergency situation but many in line do have a reason for travelling and need a passport.

“There are people here who have children who camped out overnight,” Scholz said. “Which is a great, great inconvenience for them and I feel sorry for those people more than I do myself.”

He said he has now spent 17 hours lining up outside in order to obtain a passport renewal.

In a Tuesday news release, Service Canada said it is experiencing an “unprecedented volume of applications” whose processing has been delayed by in-person capacity limits set during the pandemic.

Federal passport service standards are 10 business days for processing if applying in person at a Service Canada Centre Passport Services office, and 20 days if applying at a Service Canada Centre or by mail.

While processing times are longer than before the pandemic, Service Canada said 98 per cent of Canadians who apply in person at a specialized passport office receive their passports in less than 10 business days.

But Kevin King, national president for the Union of National Employees, Public Service Alliance of Canada, which represents passport employees in the federal government, told Global News the government should have started planning to recruit more staff and initiate training last fall in anticipation of the borders opening again and restrictions easing.

“In March, April, over a four-, four-and-a-half-week period, there were 500,000 passports that were attempted to be applied for, either by mail or in-person services,” he said. “That type of number is typically unprecedented, even in (the) pre-pandemic era, in the springtime.

“But again, you have the expiration of passports, the release of pent-up energy, the release of travel restrictions all cumulating into a perfect storm of people all cumulating for information.”

—with files from John Hua

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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