A person wanting to renew their passport can expect to wait at least five hours, applicants were being told at the downtown Vancouver Service Canada office Jan. 23.
Security was diverting people from the previous office down the hall to a room where dozens of people sat waiting. Two officers triaged applications.
One official told several people that showing up after the office opened at 8:30 a.m. could mean a five-hour wait. However, if they show up at 7 a.m., they’ll have a 90-minute wait once the office opens, he told them.
When Glacier Media reached out to Employment and Social Development Canada in Ottawa by phone, the voicemail for media relations was full. As such, Glacier Media could not contact the department to ask what was being done to alleviate wait times.
The lines are a long way from the days when people waited in the original large room for 30 minutes to an hour with multiple officers serving people. That room is now roped off with security at the door.
For applicant Sandy Bains, it’s frustrating.
"I thought this was fixed,” he said. “I don’t see any improvement. People shouldn’t be force to come at six in the morning to the passport office.”
Bains suggested the federal government open passport offices on weekends to avoid disruptions to people’s lives.
“I’m lucky I just work down the street,” he said.
In June 2022, the federal government announced triage measures in an attempt to cut wait times. At the time, officials said triage methods would vary between locations but staff would focus on clear communication with clients based on their individual needs.
The government said priority would be given to clients travelling within the following 24 to 48 hours, while those with long-term travel plans would be directed to the most appropriate service channels.
No one was asking questions to identify such people as they entered the Vancouver office on Jan. 23.
Hundreds of passport office staff are represented by the Union of National Employees.
“Passport program workers at Service Canada have been stressed and stretched to their max,” the union said in a December website update.
It may be worth the wait in the end, though. A scan through social media indicates people are receiving their new passports very quickly.
The union could not be immediately contacted for comment.